4 Post-Run Stretches to Improve Flexibility

4 Post-Run Stretches to Improve Flexibility

As a runner, you run, you strength train, and you stretch, right? Well, most of the runners I know rarely, if ever, stretch after a run or even after a workout. Stretching is essential to prevent injuries, increase the range of motion, and improve flexibility. If you want your body to be more efficient in everyday life and your training (running or walking), then perform a few stretches daily.

To perform a static stretch, isolate and lengthen the muscle group by holding the muscle under tension. Hold each stretch for 10 – 30 seconds until sensation (but not pain) is felt. Breathing fully and slowly will deepen each stretch. Repeat stretching the same muscle or groups of muscles 1-2 times as necessary.

Perform these stretches once you are warmed up; after running or after your strength workout.

Man stretching calf

Rik Akey / Cynthia Akey

Calf Stretch

On the back of the lower leg are two muscles, the gastrocnemius, and the soleus. Both these muscles taper and connect to the Achilles tendon. The calf muscles create the pushing action that flexes the ankle joint (point the toes or lifts the foot) and flexes the knee joint.

  • Find support from either a wall or another surface.
  • Step back with one foot feel the stretching sensation in the calf or lower leg.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Hip Rotator Stretch

There are six external rotator muscles that rotate the hip. This muscle group allows you to move your leg back and out and rotate your leg outward. This muscle can become tight due to repetitive movements like lots of running or walking OR from sitting at a desk for more than 8 hours.

  • Find support from either a wall or a chair.
  • Cross your right ankle across your left thigh.
  • Sit back into this stretch like you are about to sit in a chair. You should feel a stretch across the back of the pelvis.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
    Man stretching hamstrings and quadriceps

Hamstring Stretch

Made up of 3 muscles, the function of the hamstring group is to bend your knees and move your hips backward. These are the muscles on the back of the thigh. So by walking and running, those muscles are getting shorter and tighter.

  • Raise leg to a low surface – the seat of a chair or rest heel on the ground. Flex at the ankle bringing the toes closer toward your knee.
  • Straighten the leg and engage or activate the front of the thigh (quads).
  • Hinge at the hip slightly to deepen the stretch.
  • Feel the stretch in the middle of the back of the thigh.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Quadriceps or Quad Stretch

These four powerful muscles are located on the front of the thigh. Their function is to extend the knee joint (straighten the leg) and also flex the hip (lift the leg). So this muscle group swings the leg forward into the next step for walking or running.

  • Find support from either a wall or a chair.
  • Securely stand on your right leg.
  • Bend the left knee so it is pointing straight down and hold the ankle.
  • To increase the sensation, stand taller, engage your abs, and activate your left glutes.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

NOTE: All of these stretches may be performed from a seated position as well.

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Celebrating My Tribe

Celebrating My Tribe

Here at From Fat To Finish Line, we know a thing or two about being part of a health and fitness community. In fact, our very own FFTFL Community Group on Facebook has nearly 4,000 members who actively engage, support, and motivate each other. Formed in 2013, the group has turned strangers into teammates, newcomers into friends, and everyone into a passionate and dedicated tribe. Logging in and interacting with these people offers everything from delicious food ideas to daily physical challenges to weekly accountability events.

All of our interactions within the group got me thinking about my own personal tribe. Sure, I spend a lot of time on my own working out, running, and sorting out my daily nutrition, but that doesn’t mean I’m alone. My friends are such an important part of my health and fitness journey, and I owe so much of my success to their strength and support. And, I think it’s time to give them a little shout-out as a thank you.

male runners near lake
The most obvious members of my tribe are my Fitness Buddies. These are the friends who are right by my side when I am running the miles or pushing around weights. They keep me company in the dark hours of the morning and keep me sane in the heat of the last miles of a long, long run. They help calm my nerves while we wait for the starting gun to go off and they help me stay focused as we push through the last mile to the finish line. To my Fitness Buddies, I say a hearty and sincere “thank you!” for being there day in and day out. Quite often, and more than you know, it is my commitment to you that gets me out of bed and off to train. You make that happen and I’m so grateful.

two men showing support for each otherOf course, not everyone in my tribe wants to join me on my training runs, during my gym workouts, or even in my race events. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. They are. Because no tribe would be complete without its Cheerleaders. Like an audience supporting an actor on stage, cheerleaders are those friends and family who make it possible for athletes to get out there day after day, mile after mile. They are the troopers who stand shivering on a street corner for hours just to scream “You can do it! Go, John, go!” as I run by mid-race. They are the faces that stand out in a crowd, beautiful smiles that turn I can’t go on into I can run forever! They are the sign holders and the finish line wavers and the holders of all things post-race, like my gear bag and my medal and my banana and my water and my towel and my t-shirt and my swag bag and… Well, you get the idea. Cheerleaders make all the sweat and pain and effort worth it. A finish line just wouldn’t be the same without a hug and an, “I’m so proud of you.”

As nice as it is to see a friendly face on the side of the road during an event, it’s just as great to know that there are friends all over the world who are just as excited and happy for me. These Long-Distance Teammates use perfectly-timed text messages, emails, and phone calls to let me know that they are with me in spirit. The power of the internet means that people literally around the globe can track my progress during a marathon or use video calls to keep me company during a rough patch on the course. They follow me on Facebook, checking in to see if my failure to post an update means that I skipped my planned training. They are as invested in my training as I am, and they feel the same sense of accomplishment and success when I reach a goal. Across town or around the world, Long-Distance Teammates are as much a part of my tribe as my local gym buddies.

There is another group of people who are part of my tribe, and their influence and impact on my success is immeasurable. It may be easy and fun to cheer me on when I am doing well, but the dark days can be much harder to handle. That’s where this group comes in. I call them the Attitude Adjusters, and they always know just what to say and when to say it to help me pull myself back up when I stumble. Maybe I’ve had a terrible run. Perhaps I’ve had a disappointing weigh-in. Or, I might just be having one of those days when everything I touch seems to fall apart. Whatever the situation, these Attitude Adjusters are willing to listen to me grumble and complain… but only for a little while. After that, they become like some therapist/coach/Jiminy Cricket-hybrid who reminds me of all that I have done so far and makes me believe that I still have so much greatness ahead of me. These folks may be the most important people of all, because they catch me at my worst and send me off feeling my best.

ragnar running friendsLast but not least, a little group of crazy people I like to think of as the Wild Cards. These are the folks that are always finding new ways to play in the world… and they insist I join them. These are the friends who say things like, “hey, did you hear about the new obstacle race up a mountain?!” or “I wonder what that Broadway Hip Hop Dance Class would be like.” And, not only do they find these activities and actually try them out, they insist that I join them. “Come on, it will be a hoot!” As crazy as it sounds, it almost always is. My Wild Cards have talked me into running an overnight relay race, trekking up and down a rain-drenched hill, dancing myself silly in a Zumba class, and throwing myself off a high platform and landing in an icy lake below. I have said “YES” to so many unbelievable, funny, exciting, scary, and thrilling adventures, and all because someone I know thought it would be worth trying. And, they are always right.

I think I am a pretty lucky man to be surrounded by this tribe of mine. They are my people, each of them bringing something special and all of them helping me on my health and fitness journey. And, of course, I try to be a little of each of these things to other people, too.

Fitness Buddies.
Long-Distance Teammates.
Attitude Adjusters.
Wild Cards.

I can’t imagine my life without them.

So what about you? Do you have a tribe?

Do you have the right people to help you as you chase your next goal in life?

Share this article and tag your buddies to honor and thank them.

Dear New Runner

Dear New Runner

Early in 2012 I wrote a version of this post for my personal blog. It’s ironic that I reference Katie Foster’s blog and a special post she did about Carly York. This was before the From Fat to Finish Line Ragnar team was formed and the film made. I had no idea then that we would eventually become close friends and cross an epic finish line together.

Congratulations on your decision to go on this new running journey. Lace up your sneakers and create your playlist because you’re in for an exciting and challenging road ahead.

As a former running-hating newbie I feel your excitement, apprehension and maybe even your pain. No matter what you are feeling right now let’s just start by saying, you got this.

It’s hard at first. You start your run and you’re out of breath, your heart might be pounding harder than it ever has, your face might flush bright red and you’re questioning your sanity for starting this journey but that’s why you rock. It is hard but you’re doing it anyway. Others talk about it but you’re doing it. This already makes you a winner. You might have to walk/run, keep your distance short or take it slow. You might have to experiment with running on a treadmill, track or outside. Please concentrate on not over-doing it in the early days. The worst thing you can do is injure yourself or burn yourself out. When in doubt, it couldn’t hurt to ‘under-do’ it even. It’s better you come back from a five minute run feeling energized, accomplished and excited to do it again than do a 25 minute run feeling miserable and defeated. Also, SLOW DOWN! You shouldn’t be worried about any kind of speed right now. If you are huffing and puffing, slow down as much as you can and walk when you have to.

Go sign up for a race. Seriously. Don’t let it freak you out. Pick a 5K for 3 months from now (sooner or later based on your fitness level) plunk down your money and sign up. Right now. Go. I will still be here. Don’t think about it – just do it. Or sign up for a year-long challenge like this one from Run the Edge. You don’t have to go the challenge alone, you can do it in teams of 3, 4 or 5. You can find others to sign up with in our community group.

As a beginner, you might feel a little soreness. I did. A little soreness (especially if you’re carrying excess weight) isn’t unusual. Follow the R.I.C.E method to soothe tired muscles, but when in doubt, have a doctor check you out. In fact, before starting your running journey you should be consulting your physician.

You should go to a running store like Road Runner Sports as soon as you can and get proper running shoes. Please believe me that this is not the place to cheap out. I tried to run in inexpensive sneakers bought off the rack at a shoe place and learned very quickly that this was a BAD IDEA. If you don’t live near a running store – you can learn how to figure out a good running sneaker for you.

Please don’t compare yourself to other runners. I started by running at a 4.0 on the treadmill and would be surrounded by others flying at unfathomable speeds. This is your training. It will be your race and it’s your journey. You’ll always be slower than someone else and right now you are faster than the guy on the couch on his second bag of Doritos!

Running can support your weight loss journey but running does not give you a license to eat. Focus on fueling yourself with healthy foods, don’t over-do extra calories or you won’t see a loss if that’s what you are looking for.

The running community is AWESOME. Support is EVERYWHERE. Go online and look for running bloggers, follow runners on twitter and join our running group on our website. Connect, ask questions and join the club. My favorite place is our From Fat to Finish Line facebook group.

You are a real runner! Whether it takes you 15 minutes or 6 minutes to run a mile you are a runner. Don’t weight to get out there! You don’t have to weigh less to get going. Do it now. Runs For Cookies ran a very inspirational guest post from Carly York a From Fat to Finish Line teammate who started at 349 pounds. Derek Mitchell also started running 5Ks at 570 pounds and went on to run more than 22 races in 2015! The only limits that people have are the ones they put on themselves. You are a rockstar. Believe it.

Finally, you might not love it today. You might not love it tomorrow but someday you’re going to wake up and crave running. Your life will be changed. You will find fitness, confidence and passion. You will understand what ‘runners high’ is all about, You will find out that you can go further than you thought. You will learn that you’re tougher than you ever gave yourself credit for. Your world of “I cant’s” will change to “I cans.” You will think to yourself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.”

You will find the indescribable joy of setting goals and accomplishing them and the absolute life-changing moments of crossing finish lines. From Fat to Finish Line coach and our FFTFL Ragnar team captain Rik Akey says,

“Some people divide their lives into before they got married or after they got married; before their child was born or after their child was born. I divide my life into before I crossed that finish line and after I crossed that finish line.”

“Everyone is an athlete. But some of us are training, and some of us are not.” -Dr. George Sheehan

Tell us about your running journey.

Why I Win From the Back of The Pack: Run Your Race No Matter the Pace

Why I Win From the Back of The Pack: Run Your Race No Matter the Pace

I recently had the opportunity to run the NYC Marathon and it was a thrilling experience. Covering 26.2 challenging miles of bridges and inclines is tough for even the most seasoned runner. Whether running a marathon or a 5K, inevitably someone will ask, “So, what was your time?” For some “back of the packers” the question often brings up uncomfortable feelings, even feelings of failure. But why is this?

I started my running journey at the back of the pack, I then moved to the middle of the pack and sometimes even hit the upper tier of the middle of the pack. Through the years I’ve found myself returning to the back of the pack and with all those miles logged I’ve learned some truths about the back of the pack. We rule. Even though we often don’t think so, we do. I’ve met lots of back of the packers, many of us are buddies in the From Fat to Finish Line group and there is a LOT of heart in our tribe. Running is hard and we don’t give up, we keep going.

There are many reasons why we’re at the back of the pack. Some of us are managing injury, some of us have slowed because of age or weight, some of us enjoy a more leisurely pace, and for many of us, this is just as good as it gets. I’ve come to the decision that I’d rather run my pace and enjoy my runs rather than push myself so hard that it’s no longer fun.

During the NYC Marathon, I had the opportunity to run with my training partner. We had lofty goals of finishing between 5:30 and 5:45. But it was a tough race, we started too fast and we had to considerably slow our roll the last 6 miles of the race. We finished in 6:55:59. I was fine with this. I just wanted to take a bite out of the big apple and savor every moment.

My running partner? Not so fine with it. She lamented about “how slow we were.” She fretted about what her friends who were tracking her via the NYC Marathon app would think. I thought, “you mean the friends sitting on the couch watching you run via an app? The friends NOT conquering 26.2 miles – you’re worried about what these people might think?” Come on! The truth is non-running friends are pretty impressed that you can run a marathon and fellow running friends are too busy worrying about their own times to worry about yours. By the way, if they are judging your speed, they are not good friends. You are no less badass because it takes a little extra time to get there!

But my training partner wasn’t the only one upset about her marathon time. Another friend of mine, who also ran the NYC Marathon, finished a little after us and she told me she was ashamed to tell people her time. She was ruining the epic-ness of running NYC and discounting the months and months of training she endured simply because she didn’t like what the clock said.

This really upsets me. How do you get into the greatest marathon in the world, cover 26.2 miles on foot, keep chugging away even when the water stops are down, the race has moved to the sidewalk, the cheering masses have long left and feel ashamed of that heroic and amazing effort? I know of many “fast” 3 hour marathoners who admit that they are in AWE of anyone who can be out there for 5, 6 or 7+ hours. They would not have the MENTAL stamina to do it. But we do. What us back of the packers lack in speed we make up for in heart and mental fortitude. In From Fat to Finish Line the documentary film, David Willey, Editor-in-Chief of Runner’s World says, “It’s fantastic that there are people comfortable at the back of the pack… and it’s amazing how much self-confidence comes from just putting one foot in front of another.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I get it. I used to beat myself up because of time. But after much soul searching about it I realize that this is undermining. Why should I allow a arbitrary measurement shake the confidence I’ve worked so hard to earn be stolen! All of those years of changing my diet, getting off the couch and putting in hours of training; I’m not going to just let the fact that I’m a little slower chuck that in the garbage like none of it mattered. My efforts matter! Your efforts matter! Someone will always be faster and someone will always be slower. We back of the packers are blessed because we have the legs to move and the bodies that are getting us there.

I had a debate with a ‘fast’ runner once. He’s the kind of guy who obsesses about his time and obsesses about getting on the podium. He has his own struggles with speed. He couldn’t understand why I would even bother to enter a race that I couldn’t possibly win.

His words made me think and it occurred to me that I win every single time I run. I am not a born athlete. I would rather watch TV or lay on the couch than log hours of miles. Every time I put on my sneakers instead of slippers, I win. I have made countless friends from all over the world thanks to my running. I win. I have lost weight and my health is in excellent shape courtesy of running. I win. I have learned that I’m capable of achieving big dreams and doing great things thanks to running. I win. Every time I silence the negative voices in my head that try to tell me I’m a loser, I win. I win because the only person I have to compete with is the old me who would have never dared to do this running thing. I beat her every single day.

Please stop putting your running down because of speed. Please stop discounting your efforts, please stop feeling embarrassed or “second rate” because you don’t think you’re “fast enough.” Start celebrating, boasting, pumping your fists in the air in victory, you are doing it! We are winning from the back of the pack every single day and the only person who has to know that is YOU.

One of my all-time favorite running quotes comes from John Bingham, he says, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” Keep moving, keep checking off the miles and keep going for finish lines. I’ll see you at the back of the pack.

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Tell us about your running journey