Stretching after a long Run

Training for the Vancouver New Year's Fat Ass 50 is going well. Yesterday we tackled 3h on the course. Starting at Kits Point we headed west passed the pool and the old tree trunk on the beach, followed Point Grey Road to Jericho Beach. This used to be my home turf and running along the groomed gravel path always felt decadent. The views are magnificent with the the waters of English Bay stretching to the North Shore Mountains. At Spanish Banks we left the beach and clambered uphill into the trails of Pacific Spirit Park.

Unlike the routes in my neighborhood, where the terrain tends to get very steep, this course is very runnable. The surface varies from paved side roads and bike paths, wide gravel paths and single track to stroller approved forest trails. There is no major altitude gain.

Because of the relatively easy terrain, there are no excuses for walking breaks. Where my gait changes on uphill and downhills allowing for different muscles to be used, I am finding these flat surfaces more taxing on my muscles.

I know folks who never stretch, others who do it religiously. Newest research apparently has found no benefit from stretching before or after a run... However, since being plagued with injuries, I figure proper stretching won't harm me. Besides it feels good. So, I always stretch, mostly about 10min into a run and again at the end. Yesterday, I definitely needed stretching. My routine consists of a series of straightforward exercises also called the runners stretches. I usually hold the stretches for 30sec and make sure that all joints are aligned properly.

1. Hip Stretch: Take a large step forward with your left leg. Bend your left knee and let your body "sink" down. Make sure your knee does not go beyond the level of your ankle. Feel the stretch in the right hip.

2. Calf Stretch: Stand about one meter from a tree, feet at shoulder width and flat on the ground. Put your hands on the tree. Lean your hips forward and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves. As a variation, place one foot about a step forward and bend at the knee.

3. Hamstring Stretch: Place your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward with your left leg, bend your knee, bend forward to lower your body. Lift your toes of the left foot and imagine being pulled up by a rope attached to your tail bone. Feel the stretch in your calf's and hamstring. Switch sides.

4. Quad Stretch: Stand on one foot. Hold the other foot with the opposite hand and raise the heel of the lifted foot to your bum, stretching your quads. Keep your body upright throughout. Change legs and repeat.

5. Iliotibial Band Stretch: Cross one leg in front of the other and gently bend you upper body towards the side of your front leg. Switch sides. This is a hard one to feel, but easy once you got it.

6. Groin Stretch: Place your feet more than shoulder width apart. Placing your hands on your left upper leg, bend your left knee and lean your upper body towards your left leg. Feel the stretch on the inside of your right leg. Switch sides.

7. Give your self a hug, stretching your arms and back ;-)

This list is by no means complete. If you want to learn more about stretches find one of the great books/websites or clinics that give you detailed instructions...read: don't blame me if you snap a cold muscle ;-)

So, do you stretch? Why, why not?