Tag Archives: stretching

Running technique–the stride

Another run today, thinking a bit more about running technique.

Before this recent bout of running hit me, if someone had talked to me about running “technique” I’d have been somewhat cynical. One foot in front of the other, and all that.

When the ITB injury hit me last year I learnt how much I was doing wrong from Sudhir, and it became apparent that I needed to put much more thought into the way my feet rolled off the ground, the length of my stride, etc.

On Friday, Amanda was watching the One Show (before Eastenders rather than through deliberate choice) and they were doing a feature about rabbits – and how they run quicker than people. A big part of this, they said, was because the proportional stride of a rabbit was equivalent to a full grown man striding three meters with each footfall as they run. My running stride probably varies between 60cm and a metre, at a guess, due to rubbish hamstrings, poor fitness and disciplines. So on the run today, I gave it more thought and was amazed at the difference in pace I achieved when making a conscious effort to lengthen the stride. (Incidentally, the One Show tried to extend the stride of a man by extending his legs with those running stilt things – silly, but fun)

It makes sense, after all. 1000m is 1000 steps with a metre stride, and 600 odd more with 60cm strides. Effort wise, it stands to reason that the smaller effort in lengthening the stride is proportionately less than the effort needed to take the extra 600 steps. So I plan to spend a bit more time focussing on my hamstrings and my stride in the runs to come.

As an aside, another bit of random telly we had on whilst Emily was feeding was some athletics. During a 3000m race, people were finishing in 8 minutes, with a 2m 30 odd second split per kilometre. Given my best time for 3 km is about 17 minutes, this was pretty awe-inspiring. Their stride was immense. No idea how big but a damn sight bigger than my meter / 1.2m at best running stride.

More effort / training needed. Need to give that running coach thing a bit more thought…

Should I stretch before I run? No.

I’ve talked about this before – the wisdom of Sensei Paul and others is validated by a new US study, which shows that pre-running ‘hold and release’ stretching not only has no positive impact on injury prevention but can actually cause injury. The study did say that if you did currently stretch before running, you should ease your way out of it rather than stop ‘cold turkey’ to minimise injury risk.

via LifeHacker – check their site out for the précis here.

ITBS: cured!

Well, as cured as any ongoing condition can be!

I went to see Sudhir this morning to alleviate the concerns I mentioned following the litmus run – i.e. tightness in calves, shins and hamstrings – but it turns out these are mostly normal. After running a number of assessments on me, Sudhir declared my ITB much recovered and my legs in good shape. My ongoing weak point – my obliques, for which I have a number of new exercises. Specifically, lying in a neutral position and leaning my knees one way, then the other, with one leg in mid air. It’s apparently such a basic exercise that there’s not even a video of it on YouTube… but I’ll no doubt graduate to more sophisticated training in the not-too-distant future.

I’m back to running training and will try to get up to 4 runs a week if I can over the next couple of weeks – gradually building up distance. Tomorrow will start with an attempted 5k, I hope!

My ongoing remedial therapy involves:

  • Post run stretching – achilles, calf, quads, hamstrings
  • Daily rolling – both ITBs
  • Oblique exercises

And I might throw in more glute / single leg balance work to carry on building strength there. Sudhir also recommended a Pilates or Yoga class – and that I try to hold the inverted V pose for a bit. I tried Yoga classes a few times a few years ago and could never get into it. Wonder if its one of those things, like marmite, that despite polarising people you can get into at a different phase in your life? I’ll have to discuss with my wife, she’s been doing Yoga for years…

Anyway, back we go to half-marathon training!!!

Keeping up diligence with my ITBS physio exercises

This isn’t easy.  It’s never been easy to maintain a fixed regimen of daily, tedious, repetitive, and in this case distinctly painful exercises. My routine involves:

  1. Morning rolls on the foam roller – 3x sets of 10 with pauses on the particular pain points for as long as I can bear. I started just on the injured side but am extended to both legs as my left side seems pretty tight too.
  2. Knee bends – 3x set of 10, one legged, slow, pointing my kneecap between my second and third toes (working against my tendency to roll in). Just the right leg at the moment.
  3. Standing on one leg for 2 minutes (more uncomfortable than it sounds)
  4. Hamstring stretches

I’m probably worst at forcing discipline with (4), as is always the issue with stretching.

However, between my newfound passion for running and determination to get on the road again, and my primary external motivating factor (wanting to be in shape and impress my beautiful, increasingly pregnant wife who is understandably scornful about my determinations on quantifying pain) – I’m managing something of a routine. As I head to the village this weekend, I take with me a foam roller and all the willpower I can muster.

Wish me luck – hopefully next week I hop, which is the last recovery stage before being allowed out on the roads again – but it might be a couple of weeks yet!

Postscript: Sorry this is turning into an injury blog at the moment. normal running service will resume soon as I can manage it!

The lingering gaze of a semi-wild goose

I have a lot of time on my runs to think up subjects for these posts.

This morning saw me on my normal 5k canal route, having wrestled myself through a hayfeverish, semi-insomaniacal night’s sleep, at pitiful pace (34 mins for the circuit). I went GPS free, which was liberating in some small way, as at least Runkeeper wasn’t telling me that I was “behind my target pace”. I need to carry on with stretching even on “rest” days from running or this’ll keep happening – it was like a two day “runover” from Saturday’s 10 miler, knees click-clacking and quite stiff and sore well into the run (still low on actual pain, though).

Either that, or I need to seriously consider cutting back the mileage for the remainder of the month as the daily runs might ruin me otherwise… Thoughts? Halfway through Juneathon now…

For the curious, the geese in question live by the canal. They’re always lingering on the towpath and occasionally hiss viciously at me. Today they merely eyed me up, suspicious of my intent as I ran through a group of them lazing luxuriantly in the early morning sunshine.

Building stretching time into my running routine

I’ve started thinking differently in terms of timing my runs – basically estimating run time+10% for stretching. So where I allocate 30-ish minutes for a 5k, I now allow about 33-35 (allotting for variances in my pace etc) to give me a minimum of three minutes to get through my stretching routine. I give myself about 5-6 minutes on a 10k, and probably not long enough on the longer runs…

…but its already made a huge difference. The tightness in my shins is not a problem at all any more (although I’m still a bit worried about sore knees) and stiffness post-run is rarely a problem.  I’m feeling much more flexible in general… and, even amidst all the other Juneathon madness, I’ve run two pre-work 10ks this week (the second this morning as my Juneathon day 11 activity, another 60 minute 10k! w00t!) and am barely hobbling about at all.

I’m raring to go for longer runs tomorrow and/or Sunday, so will see if the “10%” rule applies – although I’m not sure I’ll have the patience to stretch for 12 minutes after a 2 hour run!

How do you plan your stretching?

Warming up for Juneathon

After this weekend’s disappointing running, I needed a gentle day to deal with the consequences of running whilst feeling ill, most of which manifested in stiff muscles – the extended run yesterday resulted in an aborting stretching session. So this morning’s wake-up call saw me 15 minutes of gentle stretching. I’ve blogged before about how tough I find it to embrace a stretching routine of any kind, so hoping people don’t see this as a cop-out… I know, it’s not the most impressive start to a month of daily exercise but – it was necessary, and I wanted to give myself another day to recover from the weekends stresses. More running / cycling excitement will kick off over the next few days, I promise.

I have a personal target to beat (as tracked by Runkeeper) – which is to exceed the 98 miles I ran and cycled in May – a substantial challenge given that last month saw me run the half-marathon distance twice (for the first time in my life), as well as a 10-miler and *many* 10k training runs.

16 or so weeks to the New Forest Half-Marathon. And a lot of work to do…

Update: As the day wore on the morning session of stretching as my first day of Juneathon action seemed inadequate, so I’ve reinstated the push-ups and sit-ups (at least today), with 30 and 60 of each respectively. Nowhere near the giddy heights I was achieving last year when I attempted (and failed) the 100 push-up challenge, but hey, it’s exercise. We’ll see how it goes as the month progresses.

Knee injuries and running

I’m not injured. I don’t think. It’s hard to know. A few of my friends, including Matt the Inept and JKB tell me of injuries or injury-proneness, but since I sorted out my flat-footedness with orthotics (sorted out for me by this guy) and lost the weight that was triggering shin-splints, I have largely been injury free. I think.

The strange thing has been, between the India trip (it was 40 degrees C in Delhi) and coming back to an uncharacteristically hot London (28 degrees here, crazy I know!), I’ve been uncertain as to weather the heat has caused some swelling in my knees, they’re still recovering from the 21k I ran last Thursday, or… nothing, and this is how 30-year-old-run-on-a-lot-knees are supposed to feel. Not hurting, exactly, but popping a bit and feeling a little tender (this discussion suggests minor patellar tendonitis, damn self-diagnosis…)

Needless to say, the Internets holds a variety of “wisdom” – stretching, improving hydration and knee braces are things I should consider according to this dude, this discussion on MapMyRun suggests running on grass to reduce impact, icing the knees, reducing mileage, taking painkillers (surely that’s mental)… and dietary supplements. But that said, most of the people with these “problems” experience real pain rather than minor aches. I’m on a 0 or 1 out of 10 on the pain scale (where ten is agony and 1 is nothing at all…)

I’ve always believed (though not always acted) on the guidance that you should “listen to your body” and I’m just not sure what my body is telling me… “work harder, keep building strength”, or “be careful, injury’s not far away.” I’m hoping it’s the former as tomorrow morning I try my first Runkeeper guided interval training session. Wish me luck.

Any thoughts from other runners out there?

Also: still looking for recommendations of additional (UK?) running blogs to follow, guidance appreciated – and links will follow in the blogroll!


There are a lot of things I want to write about on this blog – as with everything I do, I have added a layer of geekery and obsession to my new running habit. Expect posts on running technology, clothing, New Balance trainers, iPhone apps, music choices, route planning, fitness development, muscle tone, core stability and more… but the one that’s really getting me at the moment is the simple stretch.

I really suck at stretching. I lack the patience and the self-awareness to feel the stretch in the relevant muscles, and so I tend to spend a couple of minutes making what could only be called a token gesture towards stretching before jogging off, and another minute or two at the end dealing with whatever cramps or tightness I’ve acquired.

This week, it went a bit wrong after a 5-mile pre-work jog a couple of days ago, and so now I find myself, cramp-calfed and in search of a stretching routine.

This chap maintains that pre-run stretching is pointless (true?) but does have a number of tips for cool-down stretches that I will try tomorrow after a 10k run (I’m going to shoot for 15k on Sunday, my longest distance yet). I’m hoping that introducing a ‘routine’ to it will give me something to work through…

Anyone else got any good tips? It feels like my muscle tightness, not my overall aerobic fitness, is the biggest barrier to my speed at the moment, and if I have any hope of completing the half marathon in under two hours I’m going to need to sort this out…