Monday, February 1, 2010

Shrinking and Stretching

     Allright, it's been a couple weeks since my last post. Did anyone start experimenting with running? I'd love to hear your stories. As for myself, I have been trying to run three times a week. When this blog began I weighed 139, after losing 13 pounds in marathon training. Now, that does happen to be in the normal BMI range for my height, but I have been wanting to get back to 135. I'm so close, yet sometimes it feels so far to lose those last few pounds! This week I am at 138. Woot! Woot! I have been adding a 30 minute Pilates workout twice a week to my efforts. I really like how I feel after Pilates... even though I sometimes really detest it during the workout. I just picked up a couple DVDs to follow from my local library. Also, I play volleyball twice a week. I feel like I'm shrinking down to a better size, but that weight number hasn't been moving much. I suppose I need to pay more attention to my food choices to lose the weight at this point. However, I'm not set on losing weight if it means losing the muscle I have built up. How does a person know where the line is?

     Enough about me. Now onto my running suggestions. I want to talk about stretching. There are a few schools of thought about stretching before running (or any physical activity). Some people believe stretching is a must in order to avoid injury. However, others believe that stretching can be the cause of certain injuries. I'm no expert, but I will share my opinions from experience. If your run is first thing in the morning, do some light stretches. This means pushing only until there is some tension, no further, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Do a few different stretches--which ones you choose doesn't matter. Just loosen things up in your legs. If you are running later in the day, you don't need a stretch because your muscles should be warmed up from walking around.

     Lots of people agree that stretches during a run can be beneficial. You are less likely to pull a muscle when you are warmed up. Still, be sure you don't push the stretch too far. Stop at the point of tension and just hold. Another tip I learned from a running partner (who learned this from ChiRunning) is to release tension in ankles and knees as soon as you feel it. Stop to gently roll one ankle at a time (if that is where you feel tightness) and/or put your knees together, bend your knees and hips to put your hands on your knees, and rotate in a circle parallel to the ground. I hope you can picture that. You may feel like you look silly doing it, but I promise it helps. As for those who have ankle and knees problems, use your own discretion on these. Unfortunately, I haven't had these issues and I'm not sure what the correct advice is. (Anybody with pain advice?? Please comment!) However, I believe that the benefits of running include lessening of chronic pain. Often a person's knees will ache (for about a day) after a run that is more than what the body is accustomed to. As you keep doing the same run, your body will adjust and your knees will feel better. They are likely to ache again when you increase your run, but that is why people increase their distances gradually. Go slowly enough for your joints to adjust to the effort. If it doesn't feel like they are adjusting to the strain, then find an activity that feels better. Running isn't for everybody. But if you really want to run yet have a serious pain, talk to a doctor. Seriously.

     After a run, I insist on cool-down stretches. I ran a few weeks without cool-down stretches and I could feel it wearing down my muscles; it made for a very difficult 10-mile run in preparation for the half-marathon. Stretching your muscles will keep your running an enjoyable experience (as much as possible, anyway). These stretches should be done while sitting or standing, but not bending. (You don't want to be bending over to touch your toes while your heart is still pounding from the exercise.) One stretch I really like to do, especially if I have run any hills, is to cross my legs in front of me while sitting. Then I bend forward and see how far I can reach my hands. I let my head hang down and just feel the stretch in my behind. I also like to lay on my back, pulling one knee up to my chest. Then I twist my knee across my body with the aid of my opposing hand to get a stretch in my back. Then I do it with the other knee. I finish it out by laying on the floor, breathing deeply and slowly, and letting my muscles appreciate the exercise they just did. It is sort of a yoga thing. I feel appreciation for my body and health and just take one last moment before moving on to the rest of the day.

     So you can see I've included pictures of a few stretches that I like. Any running website you check will have lots of other options too. For example, RunnersWorld has this whole section on stretching within the injury prevention category. If you take the time to run, you might as well take the time to stretch and keep those muscles happy.

     Do you have favorite running stretches you would like to share? Let us know what works for you!


Kathy Haynie said...

I have such a little-bitty running story to share. It's kind of lame. One day last week I went for a walk just because I felt like it - my muscles were screaming for more activity! (Yay!) Part of my walk included the nearby middle school track, and for the first time in MANY months, I jogged the curves and walked the straights. One lap. Ok, that is really lame, but I was excited that it felt good to my body. It gives me hope that I am going in the right direction!

Dorothy said...

Does running in place count? I like to do the "free run" on the Wii Fit program...but to add more of a workout I do 3 lb hand weights at the same time. I know I'm burning calories, but I don't know if this would translate into a real outdoor kind of run.

Katie said...

As far as running with knee pain I don't know a whole lot since I'm not a great (or even moderately acceptable) runner, but when I went in to the physical therapist a week or so ago he said that I needed to do my knee-strengthening exercises for about a month before I do any running. He also advised me to "stop doing something if it hurts." Pretty sound advice. :) Thanks for all the great stretching tips Em!

emmalou said...

Kathy, that is definitely NOT a lame story. I'm so happy to hear that you tried it out.

Dorothy, I've never tried the wii running, but I'm sure it's better than nothing!

Katie, I like the advice. :)

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