Ever since I can remember I had an identity-I was a dancer and the daughter of a dancer. Growing up, my parents owned a dance studio in our community and throughout my childhood, teens and young adult years all things related to dance permeated my life. Training, competitions, teaching, you name it-I did it all. Eventually I decided to make it my career and have now spent the past 16 years of my life fully dedicated to taking our studio into a successful 2nd generation family business.
Along the way I have learned a thing or two about stretching. Stretching is the backbone of a dancer’s training. Some dancers need a lot of stretching, others very little but everyone needs to do it. In the past year since I have made the transition into running, I have realized that most of my stretching comes from my dance background. Right from the beginning, I naturally stretched before and after each run (with the exception of one particular day when I was too eager to get out and run-oups!) That day I certainly paid for it with some nasty shin splint issues! See my previous post about this–Too much of a good thing
Dancer’s often focus on warming up the bottom half of the body such as hips, hamstrings, ankles and feet when preparing to dance styles such as ballet, jazz, contemporary or modern dance. Many of these stretches are also great for runners. Keep in mind before doing any pre-run stretching 10 min of light cardio warm up is recommended to get the blood flowing to your muscles. If not, then stretching “cold” can actually do more harm than good.
Here are my favorite pre and post run dance stretches 🙂
Pre-run warm up and dynamic stretching-This is basically a warm up and should be treated as such. Save the deep muscle intense stretching for post run when muscles are at their warmest. Dynamic stretching involves low intensity and includes a range of movement.
5-10min light cardio warm up–suggestions include: brisk walking, jumping jacks or light aerobic movements. This could even be something as easy and fun as blasting a few of your favorite tunes and dancing around your living room, which I have been known to do….just ask my neighbors 😉
Upper body – reaching arm over head as you lean to the side, hold for 2 counts and switch to opposite side.
Hips – lunging forward slowly to stretch hip flexors. Moving forward and back slowly and then releasing to change legs.
Hamstrings- holding this position gently while alternating between flexing and pointing your foot.
Ankles and Feet -ankle circles first on each side and then use a Theraband to stretch feet by flexing and pointing slowly. Use the Theraband for gentle resistance.
Now you are ready to RUN!! 🙂
Post run static stretching-this is really important stretching and should be used in conjunction with other recovery and injury prevention techniques. Holding the positions longer than during pre run stretching enables you to get a deeper stretch that will enhance future flexibility.
Upper Body and Legs – this is just like the side reaches from your pre run but now includes sitting in a wide straddle position which encourages turnout from the hips and stretching of the hamstrings. Alternate side to side slowly, holding the position in between for 5 counts. Can also include reaching forward in center with both arms and flattening the body towards the floor.
Hips – using the wall is a variation on the above hip flexor stretch but offers a deeper range of motion for post run when your muscles are at their warmest.
Hamstrings- using the Theraband gives added resistance and helps to maintain the correct position without twisting to reach your foot. Make sure to keep the knee stretched.
Ankles and Feet -same as pre run but now with greater resistance and holding for longer.
So my running friends, these are the stretches that I always do both pre and post run. I hope that you find them useful as well. If you have any favorite stretching routines, please share! I would love to hear them 🙂