The Final Stretch

Whether you’re a novice runner or a multi-marathon veteranyou’ve heard the importance of a post-run stretch, but do you know what to lengthen and what needs to stay strong?  Pilates is a specialized regimen that properly stretches the muscles of the body with the strength and control necessary to help joints maintain a proper range of motion. Without specialized stretching and the opposing strength to hold the newly found range of motions, muscles can become tight and leave you susceptible to pain or injury. 

So, what muscles need stretching? Any physical activity utilizes a whole range of different muscles, but targeting the ones that are being used the most during your runs will be most effective and help you improve in the long run

1. The Quadriceps

Quadriceps_3D

Your Quadriceps, or “Quads” are comprised of four separate muscles on the front of your thigh. This area can be overused during running and may be one of the first areas you feel soreness in, especially in a marathon like Boston that starts off downhill!   If not lengthened out properly, tight quads can cause a misalignment in the leg joints.

2. The Calves

Calf Muscle

Courtesy of lumen learning

Made up of two separate muscles on the back of your lower leg, the calves are an often overlooked, but essential piece of your running anatomy. If weakened or tightened, the calves can affect the movement at both the knee and the ankle joint.

3. The Hamstrings 

Hamstrings

You might not know exactly what or where your hamstrings are, but chances are you’ve felt them. The hamstring is a grouping of three muscles that run the length of the back of your upper leg. Although the hamstring is important for knee and hip movements, runners often forget or neglect to stretch them out. The hamstrings are important hip mobilizers and they also help to stabilize the pelvis.  Maintaining the right flexibility for a runner can help with muscle fatigue, overuse, and even lower back pain!

4. The Iliotibial (IT) Band

Tensor fasciae latae

While the Iliotibial band is not a muscle it plays a vital role in your body’s mechanics for running. The IT Band is a fascial band that spans the outer knee and thigh. It is part of a system that contributes to hip movement and knee stabilization and is used constantly during a run. The IT band is meant to be tight in order to control the position of the leg, yet becomes overly tight and overused when the glutes and inner thighs are weak.

5. The Gluteal MusclesGluteus_all.gif

Did you know that your Gluteus Maximus (aka your backside) is the largest and heaviest muscle in your body? It is also one of the laziest!  Your glutes are made up of three main muscles and several smaller ones that make many of your lower body movements possible. Sitting all day and general inactivity leads to these muscles becoming underutilized and weak, so it’s important to give them the attention they deserve. On the flip side, overuse of the Gluteal muscles can affect hip flexibility and overall pelvic stability.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of which muscles need stretching, you still need to know HOW to stretch them! Endurance is excited to announce two FREE upcoming seminars for runners of all skill levels: 

Runners Relax and Renew

Tuesday, April 16th at 10 AM: 

For our friends running the Boston Marathon, we are hosting a 45-minute post-run stretch and meditation session to help rejuvenate the muscles and embrace your amazing accomplishment!

Sign up HERE.

Saturday, April 20th at 1 PM: 

Inspired by your friends running the marathon? If you’re interested in running next year or just looking to jump head first into the sport, join us for an Intro to Running class where we’ll cover injury prevention, scheduling, nutrition, and cross-training. Learn how to run with the Endurance Method, the safest way to run with your butt and gut! 

Sign up HERE.

Why is Pilates Beneficial for Marathon Runners?

pexels-photo-221210

All runners focus on strengthening their legs and their aerobic threshold but, too often, runners make the mistake of neglecting everything else. Running uses so much more than just your legs and your heart. Your core, which Pilates helps build in a uniform manner, is a huge part of running.

Your abdominal muscles include more than just the superficial “6 pack” muscles (rectus abdominis). As you can see from the diagram below, the abdominal muscles consists of the transverse abdominis, rectus abdomens and oblique (internal/external). This is distinctive from your core muscles. The core, on the other hand is your transverse abdominis, the pelvic floor, diaphragm and multifindi (diagram 2). All of these muscles work together when you think of “using your core.” In Pilates, we often refer to working and building the strength in our powerhouse, which is comprised of the “central” muscles – the abdomen and core muscles (described above), lower backs, hips and buttocks.

abdominal-muscles-anatomy-1024x585

core-diagram

Here are a few examples of how a strong core can help improve your running times and keep you injury free.

A strong core will help hold stabilize the pelvis. If your pelvis is out of alignment or unstable, you can become prone to injury. It can cause other imbalances further down the leg and may result in any leg issues (knee/hip) or low back pain. As you build your core, your abs will help you stabilize every time you make impact with the ground. This will reduce the need to overcompensate for imbalances and instability with other muscles.

Pilates will also help to increase flexibility, improve running posture and increase your power (as we focus on using the glutes and hamstrings in conjunction with the core).

While Pilates tones and strengthens, it simultaneously stretches. In every exercise you should feel a stretch and lengthening, which over time will help to increase flexibility in muscles. Pilates is well known for improving posture or helping to alleviate back pain. Every Pilates class or private helps to open up the front of the shoulders and to build the muscles towards the back of the body to hold the shoulders back. Lastly, we as mentioned above, the Pilates powerhouse incorporates the glutes and hamstrings. In every class, we work to build the strength in the glutes. Often students enter our studio not knowing how to “find their glutes.” We help students learn to activate them during Pilates classes, which translates to increased power outside the studio.

“I believe that a lack of core-strength and flexibility can create long term motor skills problems as the body continually adapts to find the path of least resistance and turns away from proper running mechanics.” -Terrence Mahon (Mammoth Lake Track Club)

Did we convince you? Take the guess work out of “am I doing it right?” and try incorporating one of our group Pilates mat class a week into your running routine. We offer a special “Pilates for Runners” class led by Christie, a marathoner and Pilates instructor at Endurance. This mat class focuses on building the core and is geared specifically for runners. Plus, it’s winter – the perfect time to gain strength for the next running season!

Boston Marathon Bound!

On Monday April 18, I will be running my 22nd marathon, my 3rd Boston!  I am absolutely thrilled to have this privilege.  My training is done, I’m tapering, carbo loading and going a little nuts cutting down on my mileage!  But, I will be so happy when Monday is here!

Here are a couple little tips that I have learned over the past few years of marathoning! Enjoy!

MARATHON TIPS!
  1. MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE- you MUST overuse BodyGlide…everywhere….any place you think there could be friction, under arms (for women all around sports bras where they connect with skin), inner thighs, around waist, on feet- all over, toes, heels.  If you are wearing an arm band or fuel belt at any connections with the skin.  At the waistband.  Just everywhere.  Use half the stick- you will never ever regret it and you will know around mile 20 where you missed!  Any place where fabric meets skin that is snug, yet can move just a little!  The warmer the weather, smaller the clothing choices, greater the need for BodyGlide!
  2. TEST YOUR FUELING CHOICES- do not take Gatorade or Powerade/Gu/ShotBlocks/oranges/candy from strangers- anything that you have not tested again and again- over and over in training.  There are some additives and preservatives in the drinks and gels that act as laxatives on the digestive system and affect many runners.  Have a plan for fueling whether you carry your drinks and energy eats in your belt or you have friends and family meet you with your favorites along the course.
  3. BE VERY CONSERVATIVE EATING YOUR “LAST SUPPER” PRE-MARATHON.  Fuel up in the days leading up to the marathon.  The night before does not mean you have a license to eat anything and everything.  Be a little more conservative- light on the heavies- sauces, fats, too much of anything.  You are better off with a bigger meal 2 nights prior to the marathon.
  4. HAVE YOUR CLOTHES, EXTRA CLOTHES, NUMBER, BELTS, FUEL, SNEAKERS, HATS, SECOND OPTION IN CASE THE WEATHER CHANGE- IT IS NEW ENGLAND, WE CAN GO FROM SNOW TO 80 IN 7 HOURS – EVERYTHING IS LAID OUT AND READY, YOUR WATCH IS CHARGED the night before.  And ready to go.  And tested no extra tags, chafing.  No fancy last minute additions – if you wear a tutu, you have tested it!  I have waited to debut a new watch the day of a marathon… when I couldn’t get a signal – just no, don’t do it!!
  5. KNOW WHERE YOUR FANS/FAMILY WILL BE!  Boston’s second half is (to say it nicely) BRUTAL!  I always position one my family viewing points for Boston right around Newton Wellesley Hospital with an Elmo balloon and some candy for me and I always end up crying my eyes out because I know they will be there, I’ve just finished a physically challenging portion of the race and am getting ready for the most physically and mentally demanding part of the course – this is a place where we have just crossed over a hill that nobody talks about- getting folks over the 128 bridge and to the fire station where they will start the ascent up the Newton Hills.  Some years, I have felt amazing here, smiling- high-fiving. But, I have also been in tears and completely distraught at this point, depending on the year, knowing what I had coming up in front of me.   I have always used a mantra in races where I know I would see friends and family, “Six miles until Chrissy and the kids” and then “Four more miles to Jack and Alex” and then “Ten miles until my dad and Nicole” on and on.  You will be emotional, so very happy to see them and they will keep you going long after the signs and hugs and high fives.  The feeling that I get seeing friends and family along a marathon course is unmatched and I certainly hope that they know this- it inspires me, heals me, pushes me, makes me feel loved and appreciated and gets me through the next group of miles, however long they might be!  I have also run marathons without cheering sections and have relied on those out on the course to help me keep going.  Write your name somewhere on you in BIG LETTERS so folks will yell it out to you on the course.  You have no idea how much this will mean to you until a BU student screams your name on Commonwealth at the exact moment you were going to start walking and feeling bad for yourself!
  6. TRUST YOUR TRAINING.  No need to do 100m repeats the week prior to the marathon.  This is an injury waiting to happen.  No speedwork- this can wait until after the race!  Trust what you have worked through all winter.  And, if you skipped a couple workouts, who cares- our friends that ran in 2015 endured that winter and all of those icy runs/cancelled runs/treadmill delegated 20 milers!  You put in the miles that you could.  Be sure that you are comfortable with your pace!  There are plenty of websites to consult on pace based on your last 20-22 miler or an earlier race.  Try this Mcmillan running pace calculator and be honest with your training and pacing!
  7. BRING TOILET PAPER OR PAPER TOWELS, JUST A FEW to Boston especially if you are in the 4th WAVE.  Just do it.  Trust me.  The toilet paper in the porta-potties will be LONG GONE!  And, DEFINITELY sneak into that last group of potties right before you get into the corrals- I promise you, that last little pee is worth the 25 seconds before getting into the coral!  Otherwise, you will spend your first 5 miles in Hopkinton looking for a wooded area to jump out on- and the guys will totally do this- the gals, we ALL stress!  I’ve suffered, ran onto beaches, into Dunkin’ Donuts, Miami gas stations- JUST TAKE THE LAST PORTA POTTY stop with the paper towel you brought from home- best investment in the next four hours you have EVER made!
  8. ENJOY – Boston is a privilege, a celebration, an honor – give the high fives, the hugs and ENJOY EVERY MINUTE!