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Stretching

Effective Static and Dynamic Stretches

Overview Introduction and Safety Considerations
Exercises and Activities Dynamic Stretches, Static Stretches
Printable PDF of this session

Overview

Organization

Have students form a large circle around you. While you lead the stretching exercises, it is also a great opportunity to build team leaders. This will allow you the freedom to observe if runners are stretching correctly and provide instruction and encouragement as necessary. Encourage the students to count as they do the stretch. Each stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds.

Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches prepare the body to run by using continuous, smooth, and repetitive motions that increase core temperature and muscle temperature, elongate the muscles, send oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, and stimulate the nervous system. Recent research shows they are a better alternative to static stretches for pre-workout routines. We focus on dynamic stretches for pre-workout routines, but they are appropriate for post-workout routines as well. 

Static Stretches

Static stretches are extensions in which a pose is struck and held in order to loosen up a specific muscle or tendon. Static stretches temporarily decrease muscle strength and are not effective warm up exercises. We recommend you perform them after a workout, as they are great for releasing tension. 

Drills

Drills are form activities which emphasize proper arm movement, leg movement. and posture when running. 

Stretching Guidelines

  • Do not force exercises.
  • Focus on the area being stretched.
  • Always allow the body to warm up before stretching (light two- to three-minute jog).
  • Breathe while stretching--do not hold your breath.
  • Do not stretch injured or sore muscles. Give them time to recover.
  • Stretch all major joint areas and all parts of the body.

Dynamic Stretches

Arm Scissors 

Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the arms straight out to the sides and parallel to the ground. Swing the arms in front of and behind the body in a wide crisscrossing, or scissoring, motion. With every swing, alternate the top arm. Watch the video

Ankle Roll 

Sit cross-legged on the ground. Grasp your right foot with both hands and rotate the ankle with slight resistance from your hands for 10 seconds, then reverse directions. Repeat on the left side.

Dynamic Calf Stretch

Starting on all fours, raise your hips up in the air so the body forms an upside- down “V.” The knees and elbows should be straight. Lift one foot off the ground and rest it on the opposite ankle. Very gently, lower the heel of the planted foot as close to the ground as possible. Pointing your grounded foot straight ahead, keep the leg straight. Lift your heel, rising back up onto the ball of your foot at a fluid, controlled pace. Lower your heel as close to the ground as possible without over-stretching, and repeat. Watch the video.

Neck and Shoulder Warmup

For the Neck Warmup, stand tall and relaxed, drop the chin toward the chest, and gently roll your head toward one shoulder in a semicircular motion. Roll it back to the front and around to the other shoulder. Don’t let your head fall too far backward, as this can strain the neck and spinal cord. For the Shoulder Warmup, stand tall and relaxed, then rotate the shoulders in a big, smooth, circular motion. Bring the shoulders back, then up toward the ears, and then forward and down. Watch the video.

Leg Swings

Brace the body against a wall or the other support by holding one arm out to the side at shoulder height. Keep the body stable and balanced, keeping the back straight. Start with both feet directly under the hips and then swing the inside leg forward and backward. Gradually increase the range of motion until the leg swings as high as it will comfortably go

Toe Walks

Stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back. Raise both heels and balance on the balls of your feet. Step forward with your left leg and push into the ground with the ball of your left foot, trying to extend up onto your toes. This movement will activate the contraction of the calf muscles. Step forward with your right leg and repeat the process. Continue alternating legs.

Heel Walks

Stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back. Raise your toes off the ground. Step forward with your left leg and push your body-weight into your heel, pointing your toes to the sky. This movement will activate the anterior tibialis (the muscle that runs down the front of your leg from your knee to the ankle area). Step forward with your right leg and repeat the process. Continue alternating legs.

Static Stretches

Crossover Arm Stretch

Bring your right arm across your body. Use your left hand or forearm to hold your right arm against the chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other arm.

Hamstring Stretches

For the Standing Hamstring Stretch, cross one foot over the other and reach up toward the sky with both arms. Counting down from 10, slowly bend forward at the hips until your upper body is as low as it can comfortably go, with your arms reaching toward your toes. Breathe fluidly and try reaching a little farther on each exhale. Slowly return to an upright stance. Repeat on the other leg. 

For the Inverted Hamstring Stretch, stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back. Step forward with your right leg, maintaining a slight bend in your knee while extending your left leg straight behind you and out to the side. Keeping a neutral spine and a forward gaze (as opposed to looking down at the ground), slowly bend at the waist and move your left hand forward to touch your right toe. Hold for approximately two seconds. You should feel a stretch through your glute and hamstring muscles. Slowly reverse the movement back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating legs. Watch the video

Quadriceps Stretch 

Stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back. Bend your left knee and grab your left foot behind you with your left hand. At the same time, rise up onto the toes of your right foot. Hold this position for approximately two seconds. Release your left foot, let the left leg step back, and repeat the process with your right leg. Continue alternating legs. Watch the video

Plantar Fascia Stretch 

Sit on the ground with left leg extended. The right knee should be bent with the right heel on the ground. Flex the right ankle by pulling the toes toward the ankle with your hands. This will also stretch the Achilles tendon. Repeat on the left side.

Cobra & Child's Pose

For Cobra, lie face-down and lift the upper body by pressing the elbows and palms into the ground with the elbows positioned under the shoulders. For a more advanced version of Cobra, continue the stretch by straightening the arms so the elbows no longer touch the floor. To transition to Child's Pose from either version of Cobra, lift the hips off the ground, keeping the knees and palms on the floor and sit backward until the butt rests on the heels. Watch the video

Butterfly Stretch

While sitting on the ground, bring the soles of the shoes together, allowing the knees to point out to both sides. Grasping the ankles, draw both heels in as close to the body as is comfortable. Lean forward slightly and hold the position. For an even deeper stretch, press the thighs down with the elbows to bring the knees closer to the ground. Watch the video

Glute Stretch

Start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Rest one ankle on top of the opposite knee. Reaching through the legs, gently pull the bottom thigh toward your chest, raising the bottom foot off the ground. Hold the stretch and then repeat on the other side. Watch the video.

Calf and Achilles Stretch

For the Calf Stretch, brace yourself with arms outstretched at shoulder height against a wall or other support. Take a large step back with one leg. Bend your front knee while keeping your back leg straight and your back heel planted on the ground. Lean forward slightly while actively pushing your back heel into the ground to feel a stretch in the calf of your back leg. To intensify the stretch, step farther back with your trailing leg. For the Achilles Stretch, move your back foot forward a little and bend your back leg lightly while keeping your heels on the ground. Watch the video

Seated Trunk Twist

While seated and with your legs straight out in front, bend your right leg and cross it over your left. Place your right foot flat on the ground next to your left knee. Place your left elbow on the outside of your bent knee, gently pushing your leg inward. Put your right hand on the ground behind your body for stability and gently twist your torso to the right. Watch the video

Drills

High Knees

Keeping your arms at your sides, slowly lift your knees so the thighs are parallel to the ground. Add arm swing while maintaining a slow pace. Pick up the pace and lift your knees as quickly as possible while maintaining good overall form. Focus on lifting your knees up and down rapidly. Watch the video

Butt Kicks

Keeping your arms at your sides, slowly kick one foot and then the other toward your buttocks. While still kicking at a slow pace, add arm swings to the leg movements. Pick up the pace, moving as quickly as possible while remaining in the same place. Add forward motion and do Butt Kicks quickly down a straightaway. Watch the video.

Cariocas

Start moving sideways by crossing one foot in front of the other. Then, return to a neutral standing position by stepping out with the hind foot. Next, cross the foot behind and then again return to a neutral standing position. Repeat this sequence in one direction. Then do Cariocas in the opposite direction, now crossing over with the other foot. Watch the video

High Skips

Jump powerfully off one leg while lifting the opposite thigh to a position parallel to the ground. Drive your arms up powerfully in opposition to the legs.
Alternating arms and legs, continue the exaggerated skipping motion down a straightaway. Watch the video

Straight Leg March

Stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back. Extend your left arm out in front of you at shoulder height. Extend your right leg straight out in front of you to touch your fingers. Try not to bend your knee. Focus on maintaining a tall posture, squeezing your belly button to your spine and keeping your shoulders back. Lower your right leg to the ground and repeat on the left. Continue alternating legs. 

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