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Published February 11, 2014, 11:00 PM

Getting In Gear: Stretching and Cooldown

One of the most overlooked but essential elements of training for a race is what you do before and after your run. Stretching and cooling down properly help you resist injury and increase your fitness level.

By: Tracy Briggs, INFORUM

One of the most overlooked but essential elements of training for a race is what you do before and after your run. Stretching and cooling down properly help you resist injury and increase your fitness level.

As we head into week #7 of Getting in Gear with Josh and Erin, Fargo Marathon Director Mark Knutson tells Erin Mayer and Josh Thomas effective stretches for lengthening and strengthening their muscles. Here are Knutson’s tips for stretching and cooldown:

1. Say “no” to the pre-race hurdler

How many of us, before we run, plop ourselves on the ground and assume the hurdler stretch? Maybe it harkens back to high school gym class. But Knutson says hitting a stretch like that while your muscles are cold invites injury. It’s one of the biggest mistakes runners make.

2. Think “active” and “isolated”

Knutson suggests what he calls “active and isolated” stretches. Take a rope or band and wrap it around your foot. Work your foot through the stretch and engage your quadriceps and hamstrings. Eventually work into some slow leg raises. Stand up and lean to one side and the other slowly stretching your inner thighs. Knutson says the key is not to “crank” on your muscles but slowly warm them up.

3. Start slowly

Once you hit that treadmill or track, start slowly. Consider walking or jogging the first few yards.Knutson says your first mile can and should be slower than subsequent ones.

4. After-run stretches are key

Knutson says it’s even more important to stretch after a run than before the run because your muscles are warm and more flexible. Do calf stretches immediately following the run and even hours after your workout. Stretch hip flexors by placing one leg behind you and moving your pelvis forward. Knutson says hip flexor problems are common as we age.

5. Good nutrition is key to cooldown

Your nutrition is revving after a run. You must feed that engine. Eat or drink something 30-45 minutes after running. It will keep your metabolism running high and nourish your body. Make it something with both protein and carbohydrates. Even if you’re not hungry, Knutson says try to eat a little something.

Next week: What should you be eating?

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