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Sticking to a New Stretching Routine

For the flexibility challenged like myself, this rope stretch proved impossible at first. (Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson)

Prior to training, I was beginning to feel a bit achy after my runs, no matter what distance they were. That paired with some serious back pain from sitting at a desk all day landed me in Dr. Shure's chair at Madison Square Wellness. I wanted to get a consult on my alignment and what was going with my muscles in general so that once I started training my issues wouldn't worsen. Below, Dr. Shure's evaluation and course of action as I start to train in the upcoming weeks:

Interesting Findings:

  • My alignment is really out of whack! Dr. Shure had me lie down and reach my arms up over my head. The left side of my body did as it was told, elbow snug against the side of my head. The right side, however, was a little out of line (literally). Because I use my right hand to handle my mouse at work all day I had serious tension on the right side of my body, especially in my shoulder and upper back.
  • You might think alignment issues aren't important to training, but Dr. Shure told me that by not stretching and planting myself in front of my desk without taking any breaks during the day, this would quickly affect my posture while running, which could then lead to other aches and pains down the road.

Stretches: To help maintain vertical alignment, Dr. Shure gave me a series of stretches to incorporate into my workouts. Here are some you can do at home:

  • Pec Stretch: Start by standing in a doorway or next to a fixed object with arm lifted to the side at 90 degrees. Put full forearm on the door frame or object and step through, creating a stretch in the pec region. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with other arm.
  • Rope Stretch: Start by standing, holding rope with the right hand over and the left hand under. Actively reach right hand down back and give gentle assistance with left hand, exhaling and holding stretch for two seconds. Actively reach left hand up back as high as possible and give gentle assistance with right hand, exhaling and holding stretch for two second. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch hands and repeat.

Read more to see Dr. Shure's stretching recommendations for my legs.

For my legs, Dr. Shure told me in addition to regular stretches that focus on your hamstrings, calves, and quads, a foam roller would be vital to my training success. Foam rollers help break up scar tissue after a run and also aid in helping your muscles recover quicker (think of it as a mini DIY massage for your legs). The muscles in your legs, especially your glutes are directly connected to maintaining your posture. No sense in doing all those back stretches if you then neglect to give your legs some TLC! Here are some of the stretches Dr. Shure recommended for me:

  • IT Band Foam Roll: Start on the ground with foam roll under outside of thigh. Roll over the foam on the outside of your thigh from your hip to just above your knee. This should feel a little bit uncomfortable; it means your muscles need to be massaged.
  • Gluteus Medius Foam Roll: Start on the ground, lying with foam roll under your hip. Lie on your side and roll over the small lump of muscle between your hip and pelvis. Hold roller on sore spots for an extended time to release them.

I'll admit, I am not a fan of stretching, but after seeing the connection between my posture and running I'm ready to suck it up and make time for it. Oh yea, and buy a foam roller too!

Tell me: Do you stick with stretching after a workout or skip it? What stretches do you love lately?

More from FITNESS: A Stretching Guide to Loose and Limber Muscles