For our NYRR RUNCENTER series, NYRR’s Katie Manzi is going to a different class each month to see what’s on offer for runners and non-runners alike. Check out the last post here and learn more about strength training for runners!
Whether they are doing it too much or too little, stretching is a huge part of every runner’s life. Keeping our muscles loose and limber is key to staying fit and avoiding injuries during training.
Runners are always on the hunt for new ways to stretch and to pinpoint those key muscles that their usual arsenal of stretches just can’t seem to reach. It was this quest that drove me to the RUNCENTER on a Saturday to attend a stretching class.
A mix of exercise class and interactive educational session, the stretching class offered attendees the chance to learn new stretches that are beneficial for many different muscle groups while working on those muscles that needed a good stretch.
Front row and center, I thought these types of simple stretches were all I was going to be doing in this class. I was wrong!
The session I attended was taught by NYRR Coach Shawn Young, who brought her years of experience into play to teach a wide variety of stretches that could be used before or after races and runs, or just because you’re feeling sore. Going in, I was not expecting to learn very much I didn’t already know. My years as a track athlete had taught me quite a lot about stretching and the different ways you can do it.
Or so I thought.
It turns out I knew very little! Some of the stretches I knew from having done them before, or something similar, but most were completely new to me. Young did not just focus on the traditional areas—calves, quads, etc.—she also had us stretching out our hip flexors, lower and upper back, chests, knees, and more. And when we were working on “normal” muscles, she showed us how to approach those areas in a new way.
Before this class, I had no idea how much using a simple rope could help with stretching!
For example, as someone who’s struggled with shin splints, I thought I knew my way around the calf muscles. However, I learned a new calf stretch from Young that I will be using for the rest of my life. Standing up, you place one foot back and pigeon toe it inward. Then, you simply squat down, putting pressure on the back leg. This produces a stretch that goes deep into the calf muscle, into that under layer in the thick part of the muscle that often feels impossible to reach. It was so simple, but extremely effective!
Another area I found very helpful was the foot stretches that Young taught us. I have flat feet and often experience foot pain while running. The stretches that Young showed us were, again, very simple, but also very helpful. They were meant, she said, to mimic the benefits of barefoot running without actually having to run barefoot.
Integrating sports-minded stretching with yoga poses, Young made sure that no part of the body was neglected and that we were paying attention to what was happening in our muscles during each move.
“Feel the difference between the first breath and the fifth,” Young recommended during a stretch that was particularly intense. And that is the core of it, listening to your body and breathing, allowing the move you are performing to work its magic and bring some much-needed relief to your tight muscles.
If you have ever struggled with working stretches into your routine, are looking to learn some new stretches, or if you just want a good stretching session after a run in the city, then sign up to attend a stretching class at the RUNCENTER. I learned so much, far more than I expected, and had the added benefit of having an instructor right there to correct me if I was doing it wrong and to answer my questions.
This one is a game changer and can affect the way you take care of your body for years to come. Check out the NYRR events calendar to sign up for the next available stretch class.