2012 Renewal — Improve your running/walking by adding stretching and floor strength exercises

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Tale of the Tape Through Week Six

Weight:  January 1 = 189, February 12 = 180.5  6 weeks,  loss of 8.5 lbs. Ahead of 1 lb per week pace.

Mileage: Week 6 run/walk miles: 32.0.  Average weekly mileage: 37.4. Above target min of 35 mi/wk.

Reserve time for stretching and floor strength exercises

The two things I weave around my running / walking schedule is a stretching routine and some time spent strengthening key parts of my body other than my legs.  These can be done at home or on the run, and they require no equipment or extra cost if you stay super low-tech.  As with anything, the more equipment and gear you rely on, costs go up, and flexibility goes down, so choose an approach that works for you.

Stretching routine for running muscles

Two to three times a week either during or after a run / walk, I will take 10-15 minutes to do a basic static stretching routine.  I never do it right before a run  – you want these muscles warmed up.  (If you want to loosen up before you start running/walking, stick with dynamic range-of-motion stretching.)  One thing I especially enjoy is routing my run/walk to pass by a playground or park – that’s a great place to stop to stretch, since you have hand-holds, ledges, and a place to sit without getting wet or dirty.  For those stretching after: if your run was extra strenuous, don’t do the stretching right after you stop – let the muscles calm down a bit.  After 30 minutes is a good interval – a perfect time to grab a post-exercise snack.   My basic stretches focus on my legs.  Everyone has their favorite styles and techniques for stretching, and some do upper body, too.  Spend some time researching books, magazine articles, and websites to choose your favorite stretches so they can be part of a routine that sticks with you for years.  Some fitness professional don’t recommend static stretching, but it works for me.  At a minimum, hit these areas (I do them in this order):

Glutes (butt muscle)

Hamstring (changing the angle hits the inside and outside portions)

Lower Back

Groin/inner thigh

Quads (front of thigh)

Iliotibial Band (ITB)



I do each stretch for 30 seconds, release, 30 seconds more, release, and a final 30 seconds.  That gets the stretch nice and deep.  It feels great doing it, and my legs feel much fresher the next time I am out.

Floor exercises to  help your running/walking through strengthened core and upper body muscles

I’m a bit of a wimp on these.  Check out my blog partner, Richard, and his posts for some really good stuff.  Anyway, there are two areas that I feel must be in better shape to make your running / walking all they can be.  Tend to them twice a week for 15  minutes, and you will be amazed at the difference in your form and endurance.  Sure, more areas and more time is better, but choose something that works and is sustainable.  You can always notch it up a level if you are training for a performance goal.  My key areas are:

Torso/core – including abs, sides and lower back.  Planking, squats, and crunch-type exercises are the bread and butter here.

Shoulders and surrounding areas like upper back, upper arms, pecs, and neck.  I hope you like pushups – use stairs to reduce the angle and make them easier.  Resistance bands can be great here, too.

Pick 10-20 repetitions (reps) for a given exercise,  then repeat that set at least once more either right after a small pause, or later as part of a repeated routine.  I tend to favor more reps and more sets of less strenuous exercises – I think that is better for running endurance.

Stretching and floor strength exercises should be an integrated part of your weekly running routine.  Try it for a month – you’ll see the difference it can make.

Next week I’ll share some thoughts about how to stay motivated and keep forward momentum during the ebbs and flows of training.

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