october 17, 2015
By Coach Eladio Valdez
The high repetitious nature of running tightens muscles. While things loosen up a little even if you do nothing, over time, muscles will get tighter and become more susceptible to injury. However, if you invest some time for loosening up, a little bit will go a long way! Mobility exercises are something to seriously consider if you’d like to lower the risk of getting injured (besides, injured runners are grumpy people due to not getting their endorphins!) while also improving your running.
Foam rolling is vastly underrated in terms of how much it can help you loosen up. Getting into the habit of rolling a few minutes before each run will dramatically lower your risk of injury as you increase blood flow to the running muscles while also loosening things up. Doing so, after each run, will loosen muscles that naturally tighten after a run.
Dynamic stretches have been found to safely loosen up your muscles while not weakening them unlike static stretching. Basically, keep moving through a comfortable range of motion while you stretch and you won’t stretch too much. Holding a stretch longer than 2 seconds activates the stretch reflex which causes the muscle to tighten. This is why you must hold a static stretch for at least 30 seconds (although 2-4 minutes is more effective) before the muscle starts to relax. Gently stretching and relaxing the muscle 5-10 times is safer for loosening purposes. You can dynamically stretch before, during (as needed), and after each run. A few minutes before and after each run is all you need as is a minute or less a few times during a run.
Muscle flossing is a fancy word for self-massage in which you press on a tight spot while stretching and relaxing the muscle to break things apart. You can use your hands or better yet, during a run, press against the edge of a park bench, picnic table, playground bars, bleachers, guard rails, fence, etc. while stretching and relaxing the muscle 5-10 times.