Are you at that point in your season where your muscles are starting to ache more, your knees are becoming bothersome or that lower back remains tight? The last thing you want before your big race is an injury to come about. Typically at this point of the summer, many athletes are at full training load and their bodies are starting to feel the effects. Injuries are common with endurance athletes due to the repetitive nature of the sports and the enormous training load that most of you indure. Common causes for these injuries are overuse of muscles and joints, along with the lack of a proper warm up and stretching regime. Forgoing the stretching, and overworking “your sport” muscles can cause imbalances that lead you to become injured. The good news though, is that a lot of these injuries are avoidable, and treatable, with a little bit of time spent stretching! Read on to help prevent your next injury.
“You think I have time to warm up?”
None of us want to take the time to warm up before we do every workout. Instead of forging the warm up completely, just tack it on to the beginning of your workout. A great way to start off any workout is with some dynamic movements, which just means exercises with constant change. These include motions like high knees, leg swings and arm circles. Dynamic movements are more beneficial than traditional static (holding) stretches and will loosen, and ready, your body for your workout. Below is an example of a typical dynamic warmup for runners. This can be easily implemented into the first couple minutes of your run; just alternate between a jog and a warm up exercise. If your rather, you can take just a few minutes to go through these before any other work out, such as biking. Something as simple as adding these warm up movements into your workout can make a large impact on injury prevention.
The Dreaded Stretching
Another area that we athletes tend to neglect, but is helpful in preventing issues, is stretching. With a lack of stretching, our muscles remain tight from our workouts and this can create imbalances in our body. When imbalanced, our bodies can not perform at peak performance and this is also when we tend to get injured. A key factor is to make sure we stay on top of stretching and not just do it when we start feeling something injured or tight. Adding in just 5-10 minutes of stretching, several times a week, can make a drastic impact. If possible, it is a great idea to add in yoga or a long stretch session once a week as well. Here are some stretches that are great for runners and I would encourage you to try some after your next workout.
Stretches for Runners
- Downward Dog (pedal your feet out to stretch your calves)
- Butterfly stretch
- Adductor stretch
- Calf stretch gastrocnemius
- Calf stretch soleus
- Hip flexor stretch
- Standing Quad stretch (can be done sidelying or on stomach)
- Hip figure 4 stretch (can be done seated or standing)
- Standing hamstring stretch (can be done seated, lying on back, on a chair, etc)
- Foam roll -IT bands
- Feet up the wall relaxation pose
- Chest opening stretch on foam roll (good for arm swing and posture)
I challenge you to try out these tips this next week of training and see if you notice a difference in how you are feeling. Please know that some injuries are serious and should be taken care of by a professional. The above exercises are merely a way to make you feel better going into your workouts and to prevent further injuries. Train smarter, not harder and happy stretching!