By: Crystal Salaz
Fitness on Fire
Have you ever ran a race and felt like the first mile is the hardest? It feels like your legs are sluggish, breathing is short, and your stride is short from the lack of range of motion. Or after a race, once you have driven home, trying to get your legs out of the car makes you contemplate just sleeping in the driveway. Chances are your Pre Race and Post Race stretching needs a little work. Now, I will admit that some muscle soreness is unavoidable depending on your fitness level, but understanding how to prepare your body and allow it to cool down are very important, for future recovery and increased performance.
Now, how you stretch during these times is also important. Pre race stretching is quite different from Post race stretching. Pre race is more about improving blood flow, increasing muscle tissue temperature, and helping the muscles work more efficiently. Post Race Stretching is about returning muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships, preventing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), reducing heart and breathing rates, and preventing blood pooling in lower extremities.
If you are someone who shows up 20 minutes before your start time, drops your stuff, and running to the start line, you are preparing for a rough race. Make sure you have 10-15 min to actively warm up your body. Increased Heart rate leads to more blood flow which helps increase muscle temperature. This is good because the hemoglobin in your blood releases oxygen more readily at a higher temperature. More blood going to the muscles, along with more oxygen available to the working muscles, means better performance.
Here is what I like to do as a routine before a race:
X10 each side
20 sec on / 10 sec off
This is just as, if not more important to proper recovery. Focus on more static stretching and lowering the heart rate. Be mindful that with stretching and the lowering of your HR with also lower body temperature. In addition, it helps with DOMS and blood pooling. DOMS can occur 24-48 hours after your race, while blood pooling happens during prolonged, vigorous exercise, the blood vessels in your legs expand, meaning that more blood moves through them. Stop exercising abruptly, and that blood pools in your lower body. This can cause painful swelling, dizziness and sometimes fainting.
Here is a simple routine I like to do post race: (can be performed on a bench or tail bed of vehicle)
20-30 sec per side/ per stretch
There is a saying, “ Train hard, Recover Harder.” What you do Pre and Post Race, sets the tone for your abilities on the course and future workouts after. If you need more convincing, watch the pros. Football players and basketball players arrive hours before the game to warm up. That is an extreme level yes, but the principle is the same. Take care of your body off the course to perform at your best on the course.