Flexibility for Cross Country From the Ground Up [ARTICLE]

Flexibility for Cross Country From the Ground Up


By: Justin Robinson

Provided by - Stack

 


Cross country athletes and runners in general typically have two goals: run faster and avoid injuries. Achieving both requires balance—between conditioning and recovery, joint stability and mobility, and the left and right sides of the body.

That's why, unless you're the rare cross country runner who suffers from hypermobility, flexibility is important. You'll want to include dynamic stretching in your routine before and after workouts—and possibly at additional times throughout the day and on recovery days.

Cross country athletes typically benefit more from controlled, dynamic stretching than from static stretching, especially during warm-ups. Dynamic stretching involves movement while you stretch. Typically, you hold each position for just a second or two. Static stretching involves holding each position for 10 to 30 seconds.

To achieve balance, runners need full-body flexibility and strength training. An often overlooked area is the thoracic portion of the spine (a.k.a. the T-spine, the upper-middle part of your back), which is notoriously tight in many runners. Immobility of the thoracic spine can lead to pain in surrounding areas, including the neck, shoulders and low back.

To combat this, runners should complete exercises from the toes to the nose. Running is a ground-up exercise, meaning your entire body goes through a series of actions and reactions as soon as your foot hits the ground. As with all athletic movements, running also involves dynamic movement of your joints in all three planes of motion (front-to-back, side-to-side and rotational).

An ideal warm-up for cross country runners includes flexibility exercises that take the joints through a greater-than-normal range of motion using a "ground-up" approach. For example, start with the calves, then the hamstrings, then hips, and then upper body. An ideal cool-down should mimic the warm-up.

The essential cross country flexibility exercises below can improve mobility without sacrificing stability and may lead to better running performance and fewer injuries.

Flexibility routine

Guidelines

Perform these exercises before and after your runs. Do 5-10 reps of each exercise and hold each position for 1-2 seconds.

On rest and recovery days, do a combination of dynamic and static movements. Hold each position for 1-2 seconds, repeat 5 times, then hold each position for an additional 10-15 seconds.

Exercises

Calves

• Start in a plank position.
• Cross your right foot over your left ankle and walk your hands toward your feet until your left heel is flat on the ground. Make sure your left toes do not rotate out; they should point directly forward toward your head.
• With your hips in the air (knees and arms locked out), slowly rock your hips from side-to-side while keeping your heel completely on the ground.

Do 10 Hip Rocks to each side, then repeat on the other leg. If you have trouble keeping your heel flat or toes forward, place your hands on a bench (about 2 inches off the ground) instead of on flat ground.

Hamstrings

• Start in a kneeling position.
• With your right knee down, extend your left leg back, left toes flexed, chest tall.
• Reach your right hand across your left leg and downward.
• Reach your left hand across your right leg and downward.
• Repeat the same series of reaches with your left knee down and your right leg extended.
• Repeat each reach 5 times, returning to the starting position between reps.

Hip Flexor/T-Spine Stretch Series

• Start in a kneeling position (right knee down, left leg up) and chest tall.
• Slowly push your hips forward as you raise your hands overhead (you should feel a stretch in the right hip/thigh area).
• While slowly pushing your hips forward, reach your right hand up and diagonally to the right.
• While slowly pushing your hips forward, reach your left hand up and diagonally to the left.
• While slowly pushing your hips forward, reach your right hand overhead and to the left.
• While slowly pushing your hips forward, reach your left hand overhead and to the right.
• Repeat the same series of reaches with your left knee down.
• Repeat each reach 5 times, returning to the starting position between reps.

During these flexibility exercises, you may notice a muscle on one side is tighter than the other side (e.g., the right calf is tighter than the left calf). If that is the case, complete this routine only on the tighter side each night before bed.

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14 Sep 2016


By Stack.com
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