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Another conversation on stretching! Part 1

Updated: Nov 16, 2023


A runner in the streets in New York City.

The needs of a runner


Outside of the shoes, shorts, shirts, socks, GPS watch, and other nicnacs I’ll cover in future topics, I wanted to discuss the basics here. The grueling, disgusting, “I know I need this and don’t want to do it” basics.


Stretching!


I want to offer a different perspective on stretching. I know many runfluencers, coaches, and trainers will promote the long-winded needs of stretching before and after your runs but I wanted to share my point of view from the different chapters of my running career. Now don’t forget, I’m a certified running coach, mobility specialist, and advocate of staying as natural as possible for training, this all means nothing but information as I’m human and I do fall off the wagon before getting back on.


A young naive high school and college sprinter.

For 8 years of my life, I was a sprinter. I competed in the 100m, 200m, and 400m for 3 of those years (college) I started strength training and that’s when I realized how inflexible I was. Not the constant hamstring pulls in high school and being forced to take a month off to see a chiropractor because I had severe sciatic nerve syndrome but strength training. Seeing my teammates squat low to the ground, and seeing my teammates perform drills fluidly and efficiently is what made me curious. Of course, having a coach who knew what he was doing and studying wellness and fitness helped me realize my ignorant ways of not stretching.


Through High School, I had the goal of being the Varsity Captain. I wanted to be a leader so I could teach and reach something that I’ve never had before in my life. I wanted to support those around me and for me to feel comfortable doing that, I had to be good at what I did. If I were to teach drills, I had to be good at them so I practiced and made sure that I did my warm-up drills as well as I could. After practice, I did the same, the stretches that were taught, I did the best that I could do but I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing. I was just doing what I was told well. I constantly blew out my hamstrings and level 1 strains, and I assumed it was a part of the process. When I started to compete at a higher level, after races, I couldn’t stand for 5-10 minutes after hard workouts and races. My back was severely locked up due to lactic acid forcing and I'd force my way to the finish line. Once again, I thought it was a part of the process.


With college, the routine started with moving fast, feeling good early in the season then a strained hamstring, recovering, racing cautiously, making it to the end of the season, and racing hard for a PR. My coach told me how badly I needed to stretch so I did. Daily. Also being a Nutrition & Exercise Student, I learned what, why, and how I should be stretching. This supported me but there was a lot of work to be done. Eventually, I strained my hamstring badly enough for bruising to occur, of course, it was during my last year so I was sick about it. I learned that level 2 strains of this magnitude cannot and should not be stretched so I waited until I was cleared by the athletic trainers.


Post college, I studied flexibility through Animal Flow and Functional Anatomy Seminars which I will always credit for how flexible I am today. I stopped running and began lifting weights, I was missing something and eventually started running again. Sprinting wasn’t the same without my college team so eventually I started training for longer races such as the 5k. I was heavier due to muscle mass by the time I started running again but this time around, I was able to touch my toes, I was able to squat to the lowest depths I’ve achieved in my life but I started to suffer from a new type of injury. Knee pain, Runner’s knee to be exact. I didn’t understand why so I sought some support. I leaned on Physical Therapists from Perfect Stride Physical Therapy (NYC) to teach me how to move my body correctly.


I learned that I was passively flexible but not actively flexible. Over a few months of actively stretching through the FAS systems of FRC, I reduced my runner's knee. I learned to move my body and run pain-free. In Part 2, I'll share exactly what I did to achieve this.

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