Muscles To Stretch For Runners

Basic Stretching Guidelines

It is important to understand that when improperly done, running can cause rather than prevent injury. However, correct stretching technique can increase range of motion and help decrease the likelihood of getting injured. Here are some guidelines that will help you stretch more effectively:

Don’t bounce. Although most people don’t do this anymore, some people still feel the need to bounce when stretching. This is improper form and can lead to injury. Instead, hold your position.

It shouldn’t hurt. Stretching shouldn’t be painful. A good stretch should feel good, not hurt. Hold the stretch at a comfortable level for your body. Listen to what your body is trying to say. Pain is not a good thing.

Hold for a while. Most people do not hold their stretches for long enough. If you break the stretch too soon, you will not reap the benefits of a good stretch. Instead, hold each stretch for at least twenty seconds.

Remember to breathe. It may sound like silly advice, but a lot of people hold their breath when they stretch. Breathe slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. Breathing properly with slow, deep breaths will help you relax and cause you to get deeper into the stretch.

Stretching for Runners

It is a good idea to have someone show you how to stretch properly. Sometimes, good stretching technique cannot be described or obtained from a book or magazine. Remember that stretching can boost performance and increase your range of motion, but only if you do it properly.

Here is a list of the muscle groups you should stretch.

  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Abs
  • Calf muscles
  • Quadriceps
  • Hips
  • Hamstrings

Everyone has their own preference as to which stretches work the best. Here is a list of the basics. It is best to seek out someone who can show you these stretches if you do not already know how to do them. Each runner has their own favorite stretches. Try several out until you discover the stretches that work best for you. It is also helpful to perform some basic stretches throughout the day to help increase flexibility.

Climatic Nutrition for Runners

We realise that to run a marathon in 3 hours (or 2 or 4 for that matter) will cost us a certain amount of carbohydrate stored in glycogen and a certain amount stored in fats. We top this up with carbohydrates during the run and we have more or less success (in a nutritional sense)depending on how good we are at getting the right quantity into our system at the right time. But the complicating factor is that we sweat. On a hot day we sweat a lot, on a cool day we sweat a little and on a cold day we only sweat icecubes. But our carbohydrate intake is often linked directly to our re-hydration schedule. This is because for many of us we rely on carbohydrate drinks of various forms to provide our water, salts and carbohydrates in fixed quantities. We use the same formulas for a deadly hot day when our highest priority (and most impossible task) is to replace our salts and water, as we do for a freezing cold day ,when all we really need is carbohydrates (because we’ve lost little due to sweating).

So here is a marketing angle for any aspiring sports nutrition producer. How about supplying a pre-mixed drink that comes in various temperature formulas. Ranging from highly concentrated carbohydrates for cold running to highly diluted (but still high in salts) formulas for hot runs. Maybe call one “High Sweat”, another “Medium Sweat” and the most concentrated carbohydrate model “No Sweat”.

Maybe we should just be more creative with the products we have at our disposal already, by using combinations of gels, drinks, solid fuel, and dare I say it WATER to make up the perfect solution. Of course this is just one more complication that we can probably do without, but it may be that for optimal performance we can’t stick to one fueling strategy for all conditions.

We have to remember:

The hotter it gets the more we sweat, but our carbohydrate demand doesn’t change so drastically

The colder it gets the less hydration we need but again our carbohydrate demand doesn’t change drastically.

So really all we have to do is work out a formula which tells us how many calories we need to top up per klm at a given speed and we can keep that level constant regardless of the environment. Then work out our sweat co-efficient (how much we expect to loose in attempting to cool ourselves) for a variety of temperatures and then drink accordingly throughout the race or session.

Immortal Runners

DeCastella’s victories in the marathon include the first ever World Championships gold medal in 1983, two Commonwealth Games gold medals in ’82 and ’86, one World Record of 2:08:18 in Fukuoka, Japan in 1981, and big city marathon wins in Boston, Fukuoka and Rotterdam. Despite of never winning an Olympic medal – a fate too often suffered by the world’s greatest runners – he finished in the top ten in three consecutive Olympic marathons, a feat not repeated until this day.

DeCastella quickly earned a reputation for his unbelievable grit and toughness during races, especially in the last six miles of the marathon when worse gets to worst. Olympic champion Frank Shorter commented in 1983, “DeCastella is stronger over the last stages of a marathon than any marathoner ever before.” The comment was made right after Deek had surged away from the field in the last kilometres of the World Championships marathon in Helsinki and made his claim to world’s best marathoner official. Two other epic races stand out in his long career.

One year earlier in 1982 DeCastella ran his first Commonwealth Games marathon, which was to become one of the most unforgettable and gruelling finales in marathon racing. Being over a minute behind on the leaders DeCastella made his move at mile 18 and finally caught up with the lead runner, Tanzanian Juma Ikangaa, at mile 24. A fierce battle of surges and resurges ensued, which DeCastella eventually won to run into Brisbane’s stadium victorious.

In the spring of 1983 DeCastella and Alberto Salazar – at the time considered the two best marathoners in the world – raced each other in a world class field in Rotterdam, including the later Olympic gold medallist Carlos Lopes. At 35 kilometres Salazar dropped away from the lead pack and two kilometres before the end only Lopes and DeCastella were left. It seemed that Deek was fated for second place as the Portuguese, who had greater speed over short distances, surged away from him. Yet again DeCastella proved both his legs and his will were made of steel when he gave an all-out effort and outsprinted Lopes in the last 400 metres of the race. It was a show of sheer strength and will-power in a race that will be remembered and treasured for years to come.

DeCastella’s training methods were somewhat unorthodox for their consistency and simplicity. Throughout his entire career he did the same workouts on the same weekdays, week in and week out. People dubbed his method ‘complex training’ but really it was as simple as your ABC and as transparent as water. His week consisted of a hill workout, a speed workout and a long run. Just because of his unfaltering discipline and perseverance – he hardly ever missed a workout – DeCastella slowly and steadily grew out to become a world champion.

Muscle Cramps in Runners

Muscle cramps or cramping is a condition that most runners have experienced. It is usually defined as a spontaneous and painful contraction or spasm of a muscle or a muscle group such as the calf muscles or hamstrings.

Yes, and also a number of different causes of muscle cramps. Muscle cramps occur in the well-trained athlete, the elderly and is also more common in women during pregnancy. Severe electrolyte or chemical deficiencies or imbalances may also cause muscle cramping, in addition to underlying neuromuscular disorders. The wide variety of people whom experience muscle cramps suggest that there are multiple or different factors or triggers for cramps.

The most common type of muscle cramp seen in athletes is exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC). Surveys of marathon runners and Ironman triathletes have reported a prevalence of muscle cramps of 30-50% and 67% respectively (Schewellnus).

Schwellnus and others have suggested that EAMC is actually a result of muscle fatigue and not due to other causes such as dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Their current concept for the source or etiology of EAMC is that an altered or abnormal spinal reflex activity produces muscle cramping. As the muscle fatigues, the amount of relaxation time in between muscle contractions lengthens. If the relaxation time is too long, or a high rate of muscle contraction is required, such as during running, then muscle cramping may result. Cramping may also be a protective mechanism to prevent further injury to fatiguing or damaged muscle tissue.

Sodium and other electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium have been mentioned in the past as possibly causing exercise-induced muscle cramps, although there is little evidence to support electrolyte imbalance as a cause. The original work looked at miners and other workers exposed to high-heat environment. Two more recent studies by Nicol and Maughan have looked specifically at endurance athletes and were not able to identify an association between muscle cramps and changes in the blood levels of specific electrolytes. However, in some cases, runners and other athletes that have an excessively high sodium sweat rate combined with a low-sodium intake may suffer from cramps due to low sodium levels.

Which athletes are more at risk for EAMC? Manjra studied over 1300 marathon runners and found the following risk factors for EAMC among the runners:

  • Older age of the athlete
  • Longer running history
  • Higher Body-Mass Index (BMI)
  • Less time spent stretching, or irregular stretching habits
  • Family history of muscle cramps

Manjra also found that the marathon runners were able to identify certain conditions that either appeared to aggravate or precipitate EAMC. These conditions included:

  • Duration (or distance) of running
  • Increased intensity of running
  • Running hills
  • Subjective feelings of muscle fatigue or poor race performance.

Treatment for exercise-induced muscle cramps primarily focuses upon passive stretching of the affected muscle groups, as well as correcting any identifiable muscle imbalances and weaknesses. Proper nutrition and hydration during competition and training are also important by preventing early fatigue and susceptibility to muscle cramping.