As runners get older, they typically begin to better understand the value of stretching to enhance flexibility and recover from training or racing. From calf stretches to quad stretches, it’s important to work on all muscle groups.
While the big muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes tend to get attention, smart runners also perform calf stretches, hip stretches, shin stretches, back stretches and more. These muscle groups are equally as important.
Flexibility is the range of motion around a joint, and it improves mobility and can help counter the muscle shortening and tightness that occur as a result of running over time. Dynamic stretching can help increase blood flow to tight muscles and work out scar tissue adhesions. And stretching generally feels good.
Runners should access resources online, in books, at a running store or in health clubs to create a personal stretching routine. It’s important to understand which muscles you are stretching and to work opposing muscle groups for overall balance.
Take calf stretches, for instance. The calf is made up of the bulky gastrocnemius on top and the smaller soleus beneath it. Both end in connective tissue that attaches to the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius is stretched when the toes are pulled back toward the shin (or the heels dropped lower than the toes) and the leg is straight. To stretch the soleus, the toes must be pulled back toward the shin (or the heels dropped lower than the toes) while the knee is bent.
Calf stretches can be performed in several ways, using a step or curb, sitting on the floor, employing a strap or band or with manual pressure. One easy way to take the guesswork out of stretching is to take advantage of Octane Fitness’ free SmartLink app and CROSS CiRCUIT routines, which incorporate a variety of stretches for major muscle groups.
Used with an Octane elliptical or Zero Runner, CROSS CiRCUIT is comprised of multiple workouts that integrate cardio, strength and flexibility exercises for greater overall fitness. Furthermore, SmartLink and CROSS CiRCUIT on the Zero Runner are specifically designed for runners to help improve performance.
Runners, and all exercisers, generally know that they should stretch – but they don’t always take the time to do so. Proper attention to flexibility can lead to less risk of injury, better fitness and greater longevity with exercise and/or running. With calf stretches or any other stretches, a little investment can lead to a valuable return.