Favorite Lower Body Stretches for Runners and Crossfitters

Stretching is probably one of the most important, but most overlooked areas when it comes to working out. I am definitely guilty of not stretching enough, however have been forcing myself to become better at it. As runners, we are doing thousands of repetitive foot strikes each time we run, which can cause muscles to tighten up and lead to injury if we aren’t careful. In Crossfit, it is not only important to stretch for injury prevention as well, but also if we aren’t flexible enough, it is going to be very difficult to do a lot of movements (squat, snatch, clean, etc…). Below I listed my favorite lower body stretches that I try and do every day or every other day. In each stretch, I like to do the PNF technique, which stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and has been studied to be the most effective type of stretching. During PNF stretching, there is a contract phase where the opposing muscle to being stretched is being contracted to allow the target muscle to relax. Then in the second phase of the stretch, the muscles relax and can be stretched into a new range of motion. A muscle usually takes around 2 minutes to relax so try and contract for 5 seconds as hard as possible and relax into the new range of motion for 10 seconds (never coming out of that new end range of motion) for a series of 8 times, which will roughly come out to be 2 minutes. Hope that this helps!

Couch Stretch:

As runners (and Crossfitters) we tend to get super tight hips.. especially for those of you that tend to over stride like I do. The couch stretch has two parts, the first part of the stretch is meant to help loosen up the hip flexors. As shown in my picture, get into a kneeling lunge position against a wall with your back knee as close to the wall as you can handle, while keeping hips square to the floor and hands flat. You can do PNF style stretching by contracting or tightening your back quad and glute and driving your knee to the floor as hard as you can for 5 seconds. Then exhale and relax and let your hips sink closer to the floor for 10 seconds. Try this for a series of 8 times or about 2 minutes. Remember, once you find that new range of motion in the stretch during the relax phase, never come out of it and do the next contraction from that spot.

In the second part of the couch stretch, the hips are opened to then stretch the quads. Make sure to keep the rips pulled down and have the stomach tight to prevent the back from arching. Then, contract the quad and glute for 5 seconds as hard as possible and relax into the new range of motion for 10 seconds by letting the hips sink forward and drawing the torso more upright. for a series of 2 minutes each side.

Banded Hamstring Stretch:

Hamstrings are another area that are very tight on most runners. When hamstrings are tight, they can not only lead to an easier pulled hamstring muscle, which unfortunately has happened to some of our CF athletes during shorter sprints, but also can be a big contributor to low back pain as well. This hamstring stretch can also be done with the help of a friend, but if you don’t have a friend, then a band works great. It is done by lying on your back and looping the arch of the foot through the band. With your leg as straight as possible, use the band to pull the leg up until you feel a stretch through the hamstring. Incorporate PNF stretching by taking a deep breath, contracting the quad and trying to drive the leg forward, however at the same time resisting the leg from moving by pulling on the band. Then, exhale and relax and let the leg draw in closer to you. Repeat for 2 minutes.

You can also get more medial hamstring by letting the leg drop off to the side.

Ankles/Calves:

Tight ankles and calves can also lead to some bad injuries if left untreated, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, which can be really stubborn injuries and take a while to go away. For Crossfitters, having tight ankles can make it really hard to get down low in squats. I like to start off by loosening the surrounding muscle with a lacrosse ball by sitting with one leg bent and a lacrosse ball underneath my shin and just rolling around on it for a few minutes, starting down towards my ankle and working my way up towards my knee. Then I will switch and loosen up the opposite side by just smashing the ball on the other part of my shin with my hand. If that doesn’t get in deep enough you can also put 2.5 or 5# plates at each end of a barbell, so it is just slightly lifted off the floor, and roll your calves and anterior/posterior tibialis (muscles that make up your shins) around on that… but it is pretty gnarly.

Once the muscles are a bit loosened up, then do your static stretching. I also have 2 variations that I like to do for the ankles/calves as well. In this first stretch, which will target more of the calf, I prop my foot as straight up against a wall as possible and keep my leg straight. I then contract by pressing my foot as hard as I can against the wall, and then relax by leaning in further towards the wall.

In the second stretch, I slightly bend my front knee, which will target more of my ankle, achilles and heel cord. When I contract in this stretch I still drive my foot in against the wall, but when I relax, I lean in further towards the wall as well as drive me knee outward.

Adductors (Inner Thighs):

This stretch looks kind of funny, but is a great one for the inner thighs, which tend to get overworked when running and squatting. This stretch can be done by laying with a band under your hips and your butt up as close to the wall as you can. Then loop each end of the band around the knee. During the contract phase of the stretch, try and squeeze legs together, but without letting them buckle in. Then in the relax phase, let the knees fall out to the sides more. This stretch is also really good too without the band. The set up is the same, however the legs can be straight and allow them to fall out to the sides.

Glute/IT Band:

The IT band is a really difficult area to stretch. However, if it gets too tight it can cause hip pain as well as knee pain and can definitely take you out of a race if it gets bad. Start out by rolling out the area with a foam roller or lacrosse ball or better yet get a friend to kneel on it. This can help get any knots or trigger points out of it or help unglue it from the quad. Then after its loosened up a bit, I like to do this stretch. To do it, get both legs to make a 90 degree angle and then while keeping your ribs down and back flat, reach your stomach down over your leg. Contract by driving the knee that is out in front into the ground for 5 seconds, then relax by exhaling and then sinking your stomach/chest in further towards the leg.

This week has been a busy one. But I like staying busy, so its all good. I got in a good 14 mile run on Monday and learned a new 13 mile loop near our house with Mark on Wednesday. I also did CF a whole 3x! My foot was kind of feeling weird this week though, so I took today off to let it rest and actually got in to see the podiatrist. Turns out I have a stress reaction in my cuboid bone in my left foot. Basically a stress reaction is what happens before a stress fracture. The bone gets inflamed and soft and eventually if not taken care of properly, it can lead to a crack in the bone, aka a stress fracture. It was a good thing that I went in and got it checked out today! I’ve had a stress fracture before in my foot and it sucked. So I know what most people are gonna say… you run too much and are overtraining, but I really don’t think that is what happened. A couple weeks ago, when I did a 20 mile night run, I rolled my ankle really bad. Since I was up in the mountains, I had to shake it off and keep running on it for 10 more miles and I think that was what did it. Boo. From now until Chimera I will just take it easy with running and ride my bike a little more and try and stay off it as much as possible and I think I’ll be A-ok.

Tuesday was a fun day though. A couple weeks ago I was asked by one of our members at my crossfit, Chirs, who is a professional photographer, if he could get some running shots of me for a project that he was working on. Of course I agreed and so Tuesday we went out and shot some photos on the Shady Canyon trails.

Chris takes really awesome pictures. The last two are my absolute favorites! To check out more of his pictures check out http://www.photobishow.com.

Tomorrow will be my last long workout before Chimera. Last night, my friend Lauren, asked me if I wanted to do a 6 hour time trial cycling race with her out in Palm Springs. Since Im taking it easy with running, its perfect.. minus the fact that I have been on my bike once since I decided to stop training for the 508 because I suck at cycling. I will get my ass kicked, butI’m excited. My first real bike race! Ill let you all know how that goes later.

Peace out girl scouts.

Epic Training Weekend… Fail

This weekend was about a month out from out from Chimera 100 and so my goal was to try and get in a high mileage weekend in with long runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Things started off good on Friday, but then dwindled off on Saturday and Sunday, which I was actually more than fine with. I had a really fun weekend which totally made up for it.

So Friday started off with an 8.5 mile morning run in Aliso/Woods Canyon with Pam and Keira. We ran almost all single track trail and talked the whole time and it was so fun. After the run I had to drive out to LA to apply for Brazil visas for Mark and I at the Brazilian Consulate. Ok, so first of all, Mark thought that this was going to be the most complicated process ever. He told me he had friends who had applied for Visas in the past who had to apply like 3 times and got rejected. Mark always exaggerates stuff so I was determined to prove him that it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal. Unfortunately it did turn out to be kind of a crazy process, but it really should have been super simple. So to get a visa you have to pay with a postal money order. The day before I told Mark I was going to go to the post office to get our money orders. He laughed at me and said that the post office would laugh at me too if I asked them for a money order. I really hate when I’m wrong about something and he’s right and I get the “I told you so…”(and this happens about 80% of the time) so I just went to the bank and got a money order. So then on Friday when it was my turn to apply for the Visas, I went up to the window and had all of my needed items (paperwork, proof if residence, passport, money order) and assumed the process was going to be a cakewalk. Of course the lady told me that she couldn’t accept my money order and that she needed a postal money order. ARG! My heart sank. I really did not want to have to reschedule the appointment and have to drive all the way back up to LA and most importantly, have to admit to Mark that he was right and the process was super complicated. Fortunately though, the lady said that on the 7th floor of the building, I could get a postal money order. I was also lucky because there was a bank literally right across the street so I could cash the non-usable money orders to pay for the new ones. So I walked to the bank, got my cash and then went up to the 7th floor. No big deal. So then I go to pay for the new money orders and it turned out that I was $15 short, since they charge an extra $5 for each money order (I had to get 3 of them). Then I tried to pay the extra with my debit card, but of course they only accepted cash. So I had to walk back to the bank, take out more money, walk back up to the 7th floor and get my new money orders. Then go back to the Brazilian consulate and reapply for our Visas lol. So much back and forth stuff. Moral of the story… I’m not listening to Mark anymore.

On the way back home I got a call from my sister from another mister, Traci, who had just gotten off the phone with KARA GOUCHER (olympic marathoner!!!) who she got to interview for our blog, Grit, Guts and Glory. So freaking cool! Then when I got home I went on another 10 mile run, then went to the crossfit with Mark to do some core work, then taught a couple CF classes then finished up the evening with a sushi dinner with Mark. It was a long day!!

Saturday the goal was to get in another 20 or so miles. I had to teach one of our morning classes at CF though and by the time I got home and Mark and I headed out to the trails it was almost 11am. Mark had a ton of work to get done and was a bit stressed and so we ended up cutting the run way short and just went to the top of the silverado motor way and back down. I was totally fine with that and figured I could still get in a decent long run on Sunday. Then I spent the rest of the day putting together Mark and I’s costume for a party that we were going to later that night and I made a paleo pumpkin bread and cooked us dinner.

Later that night, Mark and I headed out to the Halloween party at my boss’s house. I dressed as a cheerleader and he dressed as the old creepy teacher/coach. We had a really fun time at the party, actually a little too much fun. I ended up drinking a bit too much and got sick. Blah. Literally…

Which then lead me to skipping my Sunday long run. I slept in until 9:30 and Mark and I had a lazy day around the house. We took the dog on a nice walk and watched Prometheus and that was pretty much it, but I completely enjoyed it. Sometimes its actually nice to be lazy and just relax together.

This evening we finished up our weekend by attending the R&D Team and Ambassador meeting at our local Lululemon store. I even got to see my friend, Amanda at the meeting, which was awesome because we have been trying to squeeze a workout in together lately but schedules keep on conflicting! The main focus of the meeting was goal setting and they had us break off into pairs and discuss goals with each other. Mark said his goal was to be a hip hop super star(doesn’t take this stuff too seriously). One of my goals is to start run coaching. I am actually super excited to start coaching my first runner, Virginia, for her first 50 mile race! As you know, I LOVE to run and so I am stoked to be able to help others achieve their running goals as well. If anyone else is interested in getting help with training for a race, shoot me an email at cdickrun520@hotmail.com.

So not exactly an epic running weekend, but I don’t care at all because I had so much fun doing other stuff. I think its good to have weekends like this though so running doesn’t always take over everything. Oh and to top off weekend, I even won a free haircut at the Aveda salon in a raffle at the Lululemon store.  Score!!