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  • Faith Joy Solum

Don't Be So Stiff: 8 Stretches to Keep You Going Strong

In the pursuit of fitness and wellness, running and rucking are two of the most accessible and rewarding forms of exercise. Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a casual jogger, or a hard-core rucker, incorporating stretching into your routine can make a world of difference in your performance, recovery, and overall well-being. In this article, I'll explore the vital importance of stretching before and after your run or ruck and introduce some simple stretches that really pack a punch, to help keep you going strong for years to come.

The Importance of Stretching Before Your Run/Ruck

Before lacing up and heading out, taking the time to stretch properly will help prepare your body for the physical demands you're about to put it through. Dynamic stretching, which involves moving through a range of motion, helps increase blood flow to your muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance muscle activation. Doing in dynamic stretches targets major muscle groups such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and hip flexors, reducing the risk of injury and optimizing your performance. Incorporating dynamic lunges, leg swings, high knees, and hip circles into your pre-run routine can help loosen tight muscles and prime your body for action.

Before Your Run/Ruck:

  1. Leg Swings: Stand facing a wall or a sturdy object and swing one leg forward and backward, keeping it straight. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg to loosen up the hamstrings and hip flexors.

  2. Dynamic Lunges: Take a step forward with one foot and lower your body into a lunge position, keeping your front knee aligned with your ankle. Push back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Perform 10-12 lunges on each leg to warm up the quadriceps and hip flexors.

  3. High Knees: While standing in place, alternate lifting your knees up towards your chest as high as you can. Pump your arms to mimic running motion. Aim for 20-30 repetitions to activate your leg muscles and improve circulation.

  4. Hip Circles: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Slowly rotate your hips in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Perform 10 circles in each direction to loosen up the hip joints and improve mobility.

The Importance of Stretching After Your Run/Ruck

After your run or ruck, it's just as important to stretch again to aid in recovery and prevent muscle stiffness. Static stretching, which involves holding a stretch in a stationary position, helps promote muscle relaxation, alleviate muscle tension, and improve flexibility. Focusing on key areas that may have tightened during your run or ruck, such as the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, back and core, can help release built-up tension and promote muscle recovery. Incorporating static stretches like calf stretches, hamstring stretches, quad stretches, and hip flexor stretches into your post-run cool-down routine can enhance circulation, reduce muscle soreness, and facilitate muscle recovery, allowing you to bounce back quicker for your next run or ruck.

After Your Run/Ruck:

  1. Calf Stretch: Stand facing a wall with one foot forward and the other foot back, keeping both heels on the ground. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides to stretch the other calf.

  2. Hamstring Stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg extended straight in front of you and the other leg bent. Reach towards your toes of the extended leg, keeping your back straight. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.

  3. Quadriceps Stretch: Stand tall and bend one knee, bringing your heel towards your buttocks. Grab your ankle with your hand and gently pull your heel closer to your body until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch legs.

  4. Hip Flexor Stretch: Kneel on one knee with the other foot flat on the ground in front of you. Lean forward, pushing your hips towards the ground until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.

These stretches will help improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote faster recovery after your run or ruck. Remember to perform each stretch gently and hold it for 20-30 seconds without bouncing. Listen to your body and adjust the intensity of the stretch as needed.

Tying It All Together

I hope I've convinced you about the importance of incorporating stretching into your running or rucking routine. It's not only essential for injury prevention and muscle recovery but also for optimizing your overall performance. A safe runner/rucker is a happy runner/rucker. Take the time to stretch before and after your run or ruck. You can improve your flexibility, enhance your range of motion, and promote better muscle function.

With consistency and dedication, stretching can become an integral part of your running or rucking routine, helping you unlock your full potential and achieve your fitness goals. So lace up your shoes, hit the pavement or trails, and don't forget to stretch—it's the key to unlocking your best run/ruck yet!

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