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Monday, March 18, 2013

Team Athena Challenge Blog: Sweet Potatoes~ Are you eating them?

Team Athena Challenge Blog: Sweet Potatoes~ Are you eating them?: Hi everyone, it's Pam again and I want to talk Sweet Potatoes! As many of you who follow me, know that I have chosen to eat Vegan ( n...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Stretching, Do You Do It?



We all are supposed to stretch after we exercise, but how many times do we skip it?  I have to admit, I tend to skip this most important part of a routine.  I am getting better at it as I train more and understand how important it is and how it can help prevent injuries.  I ran across this article and thought I would share it to help fellow runners remember to get their "stretch on."  



Contributor: Luke Gullberg, REI Tukwila, Wash., sales specialist and adventure racer.

A Stretching Overview

No matter if you're a beginner or a veteran runner, it is important to warm-up and cool down with a brisk walk or light jog and/or stretching. Warming up helps your running performance and cooling down helps you recover from the workout.
Injuries can come from overtraining, doing too much too soon, being too intense and even over-stretching. But warm-up stretching can both help prevent and rehab injuries. If you do feel any aches or pains, don't ignore them. Listen to your body. Rest, ice and consult your physician.
Stretching is believed to:
  • Reduce muscle tension and increase flexibility.
  • Improve muscular coordination.
  • Increased joint range of movement.
  • Boost blood circulation and energy levels.
There are 2 basic types of stretching—dynamic and static.
Dynamic stretching is active stretching. It loosens tendons, muscles and joints and warms the body up with sport-specific movements that use more than just one muscle when doing the stretch. A dynamic stretch is usually repeated 8 to 12 times.
Static stretching is stretching with no movement. It is stretching individual muscles to the farthest point of resistance you can without pain, holding it for 15 to 30 seconds and repeating 10 to 15 times. These are the stretches you probably learned as a kid or ones a physical therapist prescribed to rehab an injury.

What Type of Stretching Is Best?

The primary purpose of stretching and warming up is to increase the body temperature. This increases blood flow so muscles can endure more force.
Several news articles in recent years have suggested that static stretching might be a waste of time and bad for you before an activity, and dynamic stretching is the right way to warm up. They cite studies that have shown dynamic stretching increases power, flexibility and range of motion, while static exercises did not give a performance boost.
Dr. Bob Adams, chair of the USA Track & Field Sports Medicine & Sports Committee and a member of the International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) Sports Medicine & Anti-Doping Committee, states that most professional athletes use dynamic stretching, but he adds that none of the studies show that static stretching is counterproductive for athletes.
"If it feels better to do that (static stretching)," Adams says, "do that." He notes, however, "It is best to do a dynamic stretch for a warm-up".
Adams says the average athlete may warm up for 3 to 12 minutes while a professional athlete may warm up from 3 to 30 minutes with dynamic stretches. Post-workout stretching could be a walk, light jog or dynamic stretching for 5 to 20 minutes. It just depends on the athlete and the intensity of the workout.

Dynamic Stretching Techniques

Here are basic instructions for some of the most popular dynamic stretches.
Hand walks (for shoulders and hamstrings):
  1. Stand straight and keep your legs together.
  2. Bend forward and put both hands on the ground.
  3. Keep your legs straight and walk your hands forward until your back is nearly extended.
  4. Walk your feet to your hands.
  5. Repeat.
Backward running (glutes, calves and ankles):
  1. Jog backwards.
  2. Land on your toes.
  3. Keep the knee slightly bent, and don't lock your knee.
Side-to-side shuttle (groin, hamstring, glutes and ankles):
  1. Stand with a slight bend in the knee.
  2. Keep the hip, knee and ankle in a straight line.
  3. Move one foot and leg to the side while pushing off with the other.
  4. Repeat to the opposite side.
Leg kicks (glutes, calves, lower back and hamstrings):
  1. Stand straight and flex your hips upward.
  2. Kick one leg out, fully extended.
  3. Toes should be flexed upward.
  4. Lift the opposite arm to the extended toes.
  5. Alternate sides.
High knee lunges (glutes, hamstring, hip flexor and calves):
  1. Stand straight.
  2. Grasp one knee and pull it upward.
  3. Release it while moving it in an exaggerated step down and forward.
  4. Keep the front leg down and forward while the back leg is extended and down.
  5. Alternate sides.
Heel lifts:
  1. Stand straight with feet together.
  2. Extend leg and foot so that the foot hits the ground heel first.
  3. Next let the toes contact the ground.
  4. Keep repeating.
Scorpion (hip flexors, abdominals, quads, lower back and glutes):
  1. Lay on your stomach.
  2. Keep your chest on the ground and spread your arms out to the side.
  3. Kick your right foot toward your left arm.
  4. Kick your left foot toward the right arm.
Power skip (glutes and shoulders):
  1. Stand tall and straight.
  2. Start skipping using a high and exaggerated skip and knee lift.
  3. Do big arm swings.
Leg swing (quad, hip and glutes):
  1. Stand straight and place your hand on a wall for balance.
  2. Swing one leg forward, then swing it backwards.
  3. Continue swinging back and forth.
  4. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Backward kicks (quads and hip flexors):
  1. Get on the ground in the push-up position.
  2. Do not arch your back.
  3. Kick your foot toward your buttocks.
  4. Lift your knee as high as possible.
  5. Alternate legs.
Not pictured: Medicine ball twist (core and upper body):
  1. Use either a medicine ball or kettle bell.
  2. Start with the ball/bell at either your left or right hip.
  3. Using one fluid motion, swing the ball/bell up and angled to the opposite shoulder.
  4. Stop when the ball/bell is even with the opposite shoulder.
  5. Lower and repeat.
  6. Do each side 10 to 15 times.

Static Stretching Techniques

As noted earlier, dynamic stretching is considered more beneficial than static stretching, but either can be used depending on the runner. General tips on static stretching:
  • Do it properly—improper stretching can do more damage than not stretching at all. Move smoothly and gently, remembering to breathe throughout.
  • You should never bounce during a stretch or move past the point of pain. Both of these can make muscles tighter and tear muscle tissues.
  • Move to the point of mild tension and relax as you hold the stretch.
  • The tension should diminish as you hold it. If not, ease off a bit until you're more comfortable.
  • Remember, "no pain, no gain" is simply not true.
  • Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and do each 1 to 3 times.
  • Do each stretch on both sides of your body.
Here are basic instructions for some of the most popular static stretches.
Calf stretches:
  1. Stand straight next to a wall, fence or back of a chair.
  2. Place both palms on a wall.
  3. Slide your right foot about 2 feet behind you.
  4. With your left leg bent in front of you, lean forward, pressing your right hip toward the wall.
  5. The right leg should be straight, but the knee should be just slightly bent so it is not hyperextended.
  6. Push down with your right heel, making sure the toes are pointed straight ahead. You should feel a gentle stretch in the upper portion of your right calf.
Calf stretch for soleus muscle:
  1. For the lower calf and Achilles tendon, take the same position as above:a. Stand straight next to a wall, fence or back of a chair.
    b. Place both palms on a wall.
    c. With your left leg bent in front of you, lean forward, pressing your right hip toward the wall.
  2. In this stretch, bend both legs and keep your weight over your feet instead of leaning forward. (For more of an Achilles stretch, stand on a curb or stair and place the ball of one foot on the edge.)
  3. Press the rear heel down and keep your toes pointing forward.
  4. Let gravity and your weight pull the heel downward until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower calf.
Runner's lunge:
  1. First stand with your feet and legs a shoulder's width apart.
  2. Then extend your right leg forward and left leg backwards.
  3. Put your hands on the thigh just above the knee.
  4. Lean forward on the right leg and keep the back leg straight, but with the knee just slightly bent so it is not hyperextended.
  5. Keep your back straight and don't extend the right knee past the toes.
  6. You should feel the stretch in front of the thigh.
  7. When you finish this side, switch leg positions and do it on the other side.
Hip flexor stretch:
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder's width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and place your hands on the floor beside each foot.
  3. Keep the forward leg bent at a 90° angle. (You may want to push up onto your fingertips to raise your torso above the knee and open your chest muscles.)
  4. Press through the heel of the extended leg to stretch the back of the knee.
  5. Press the hip of the extended leg toward the floor to stretch the hip flexor.
Quadriceps stretch:
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. With one hand on a wall, fence or other object for support, bring one leg up behind you so you can grasp the ankle with the other hand.
  3. Keep your standing leg's quads taut and gently pull the heel of the raised foot in toward your buttocks.
  4. Try to keep the bent knee pointed straight down rather than out to the side. Pushing your hips forward slightly will help do this and increase the stretch in the quadriceps, the muscle group on the front of the thigh.
Knee/illiotibial band stretch #1:
This stretches the muscle that runs from the outside of your pelvic bone (the ilium) to the outside of your knee at the tibia.
  1. Cross one foot over the other and tighten your quadriceps.
  2. With hands on your hips lift your torso and inhale.
  3. As you exhale, bend from the hips and reach downward as far as you can.
  4. While in this position, try to push your feet closer together without actually moving them.
  5. You should feel the stretch along the outside of the leg.
  6. Come up at the hips, uncross your legs and repeat with the opposite leg crossed in front.
Knee/illiotibial band stretch #2:
  1. With rubber tubing or a band, tie a loop on each end. Attach one end to a sturdy object such as a chair leg, tree or post.
  2. Put your ankle that is closest to the object through the other loop end.
  3. Stand far enough away so that there is some tension, but not too much.
  4. Use the stationary object to steady yourself.
  5. The leg that has the tubing or band on it should be just slightly in front of the other leg.
  6. Extend that leg out past the other to create a pull and tension on the band. Movement should be slow and precise to gain strength.
  7. Do 3 sets of 10 and repeat on the opposite leg.
As an alternative to the above, do kicks instead of keeping the leg level.
Knee/illiotibial band stretch #3:
Once again use the tubing or bands as described above.
  1. This time put the band on your foot that is opposite of the stationary object.
  2. This time with the band on the outside leg, pull the leg away from the object.
  3. Do 3 sets of 10 and repeat on the opposite leg.
Hamstring stretch:
  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Next, bring one leg to your chest.
  3. Clasp your hands around the back of the knee (or use a strap or towel if this is too much of a stretch) and slowly raise your leg to vertical.
  4. Keep the leg extended on the floor, keep both thighs taut and feet flexed.
  5. Push up through the heel of the vertical leg to feel the stretch on the back of the thigh.
Hip/lower-back stretch:
  1. Sit cross-legged on the ground.
  2. Cross your left leg even farther over your right leg so that the left foot is flat on the ground.
  3. Grasp the left knee with the right arm and twist your torso toward the bent left knee.
  4. Reach back behind with the left arm and support your body as you look over your left shoulder.
  5. Move just far enough to feel a gentle stretch in your hip and back.
  6. Come back to the front and repeat to the other side.
Groin stretch:
  1. Sit with the soles of your feet flat against one another, knees out to the sides.
  2. Grasp your feet with both hands and try to push your knees into the floor.
  3. Keep your back straight and bend slightly at the hips. You'll feel a stretch in the insides of the upper thighs.
Shoulder/triceps stretch:
  1. Raise one arm and bend it at the elbow.
  2. Grasp the elbow with the opposite hand and pull toward the center of your head. Let the bent arm fall down your back as if you're reaching to scratch it.
  3. Keep your hand relaxed.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
Shin splints:
  1. Sit on the ground.
  2. Place one left foot over the right foot.
  3. Pull up with the right foot while pushing down with the left foot.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Rotate feet and repeat.