4 Secrets to Successful Stretching

susan g komen 3-day breast cancer 60 miles walk blog secrets to successful stretchingJon L. is the Crew/Volunteer Coordinator for the Seattle 3-Day, but when he’s not working to support Seattle crew members, he’s also a long-distance runner with years of experience hitting the pavement. Jon agreed to be our guest blogger this week, to talk about the importance of stretching.

susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog training stretching

Coach Jon

You can safely assume that walking for three days, let alone three days that carry you 60 miles, will take a toll on one’s body. While it may seem like “just walking” to some, those who have done the 3-Day can certainly tell you it’s much more. There is a lot of time spent on your feet, which the majority of the general population is not used to. The pounding you get from walking on mostly hard surfaces, like sidewalks, can be tough on your muscles and joints. Throw in a couple of hills, and it could be a recipe for leg soreness. One of the most elegant and efficient ways to combat this stress on your body is by stretching.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog training stretching

Here are some basic tips to help you get the most out of your next batch of stretching:

  • Ease into your stretching routine – One of the biggest mistakes in developing a stretching routine for yourself, especially early on, is stretching too much, too soon. Your muscles have a baseline level of flexibility, which is determined based on how much the muscles are used and how much they have been cared for. If you overstretch—by stretching for too long or by pulling your muscles beyond their capacity—you can end up doing more harm than good.
  • No BOUNCING! – When stretching any muscle, you want to make sure you make unrushed, smooth and deliberate transitions. This allows your muscles to adapt slowly to the new sensation of being stretched. If you bounce, it adds quick and intense stress to your muscles, which could lead to pulls and strains. Remember, we’re trying to help your muscles, not add to their misery.
  • Find your breath – An important but often overlooked aspect of stretching is breathing. One of the best ways to help your muscles recover is by getting them nice clean oxygen. So make sure you remember to breathe, slowly and deeply, while you stretch to keep the fresh oxygen flowing.
  • Focus – Pay attention to the muscle that you are trying to stretch. This will help prevent overstretching, while allowing you to focus on helping that specific muscle to feel a little less sore. It also gives you time to remember that all-important breathing.susan g. komen 3-day breast cancer 60 mile walk blog training stretching

Remember, stretching is not a cure-all for muscle soreness. It is just one stepping stone in injury prevention. It does not replace consistent training and recovery, it simply allows you to get back to training with muscles that are looser and more responsive. If you feel like you are injured, or that you are developing an injury, please see you doctor right away.

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PLEASE NOTE: THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND TRAINING INFORMATION PROVIDED TO YOU IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE SUSAN G. KOMEN 3-DAY IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE OR BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICAL ADVICE AND ANY SUCH INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR SEEKING MEDICAL ADVICE OR TREATMENT FROM YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER. BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM OR FOLLOWING ANY RECOMMENDATIONS, ADVICE OR OTHER INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING TRAINING FOR THE KOMEN 3-DAY OR ANY ATHLETIC EVENT, YOU SHOULD FIRST CONSULT A PHYSICIAN AND HAVE A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION.

Ouch! – Some Common Muscle Aches on the 3-Day

I don’t think anyone would disagree that walking 60 miles in three days is tough. It is harder on some than others, but that amount of physical exertion is going to take its toll on just about everyone.

In my experience, here are a few of the problem areas, in terms of muscle soreness, that you’re likely to experience on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®.

Glutes – While you’re out there kicking cancer’s booty, the strain of walking 60 miles may be kicking yours. You gluteal muscles are among the strongest and hardest working muscles in your body, and they work especially hard going up and down hills. The best stretches for your butt muscles involve squatting, so go ahead and strike your strongest “sumo” pose, or hold onto a friend while sitting back into an imaginary chair.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk training stretching

Shins – The muscles in your lower legs get quite a lot of action with all the walking you’ll be doing on the 3-Day, but you may have particular trouble with the muscles on the lower front part of your legs. Because of the way your feet flex, the shin muscles are generally harder to stretch than the calf muscles on the back of your leg, so it’s easy to neglect your shins when you stop to stretch. A good stretch for the shin muscles is to find a step or curb, point your toes down and gently push the tops of your toes against the curb. (*Note: if you are experiencing sharp pain along the shin bones in your legs, you may have shin splints, which are small, stressed-based tissue/bone injuries. Shin splints require more than just diligent stretching to manage and heal, so if you suspect you’re suffering from shin splints, talk to your doctor.)

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk training stretching

Back – If you experience pain directly in the center of your back when you walk, down your spine, you should think about seeing a doctor or a chiropractor. However, even with tip-top vertebrae, you probably will still experience some muscle soreness in your back. Your legs may be getting most of the action, in terms of movement, but your back is working hard to keep the rest of you upright and balanced while you walk. The good thing is, you don’t have to stop walking to stretch your back muscles. You can twist side to side, reach your arms over your head, or squeeze your shoulder blades together while you’re moving to give those back muscles some relief.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk training stretching

Hip Flexors – This is the general term that collectively describes the group of muscles in your upper thigh and hip area, which allow you to bend at the hip. These muscles can become tight when exerted, and may feel especially sore when you begin moving again after sitting down for a time. The good news is, hip flexors are easy to stretch. There are many variations on hip flexor stretches, but in general, think about straightening the front of your thigh/hip area, pushing your hips forward and squeezing your butt muscles.

susan g. komen 3-Day breast cancer walk training stretching

Bonus Body Part! – Long distance walking may lead to problems with your iliotibial band (also known as the IT band), which is the long band of fibrous tissue than runs down the outside of your thigh, connecting your hip to your knee; it’s not technically a muscle, but still can become tight and sore when exercised. Tightness in the IT band can lead to knee pain (among other things), so work some “supermodel” stretches (hands on waist, legs together, hip pushed out to one side) into your routine.

 

The best way for you to prepare for the physical demands of the Komen 3-Day is by training in the months leading up to your event. By gradually increasing your mileage week by week, you build up your body’s endurance. Training early and often also allows you to identify any potential problems before you get to the 3-Day®.

If you’re prone to blisters, have specific joint issues (like knee or hip trouble) or foot problems, like plantar fasciitis, you may need focused medical attention (always check with your doctor when issues like these arise), but if you’re just dealing with good ol’ sore muscles, you can keep the aching at bay by stretching consistently throughout the day.

*Obligatory Training Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a trainer, just a walker who’s been through the ringer many times, in terms of muscle soreness. The 3-Day advises all participants to consult with a physician before undertaking any new fitness routine, and if you experience pain or discomfort during training, seek medical attention.

A 3-Day Insider’s Take on Stretching

I’m here to talk a little bit about stretching on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, but first things first: I am not a doctor, a physical therapist or an athletic trainer. There are important health benefits related to stretching, which you should discuss with your practitioner before taking on the Komen 3-Day. But for today, one walker to another, I’d like to offer my take on the importance and benefits of stretching on the 3-Day®.

Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk stretching

It’s Simple

Atlanta 3-Day Day 1

The first benefit is the simplest: when your muscles are aching and working to the max, stretching feels good. Why wouldn’t you want to do something that makes you feel better?

This Isn’t a Race, People!Susan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk stretch

I’ve never run a marathon, but I know that for most long distance runners, the objective is to finish with a good time, without stopping. For athletes striving toward that goal, stretching is something they will focus on before and after their event, but probably not during. The 3-Day® is different. It’s not a race, no one is being timed, and not only is it okay to stop in the middle, the route is designed in a way that encourages stopping. Those pit stops are there for a reason—well, lots of reasons—and one of them is stretching.

Savor the Stops

Komen_3Day_breast_cancer_blog_stretching_walking_team

Stretch break and photo op. Boom. Two birds.

Taking good, thorough stretches at pit stops and the lunch stop is a no-brainer. But you can work stretching in throughout your walk, even if you’re not at an official route stop. For starters, you can stop any old time you want, as long as it’s done safely, and in a way that doesn’t inconvenience or endanger other walkers. Stoplights are awesome for this. You can even stretch while you walk, by changing up the length of your stride (think long, lunging steps), putting some emphasized swagger in your hips, or stretching your arms, shoulders and neck as your feet and legs do their thing.

Seriously. Stretch Because You CANAtlanta 3-Day Day 2

I’m a fast walker. It’s just the pace I’m comfortable with, and I like to crank through the miles quickly. I’ll be honest: I have been guilty of neglecting those stretching breaks in favor of keeping my pace up. But trust me when I say that I pay the price for skipping the stretches. The 3-Day’s recommendation is that you stretch at least 5 minutes for every hour you walk. Take the time to do that, even if you don’t feel sore while you’re walking. Your body will thank you for it in the morning.

Be Kind to Your Hard-Working BodySusan G. Komen 3-Day breast cancer walk stretch

Walking 20 miles a day is something that most Americans in 2014 are not accustomed to doing. Hopefully, by the time you get to the 3-Day, you’ve trained well to build up your body’s stamina and strength, but regardless of how much training you’ve done, 60 miles in three days will take a toll on you. Stretching is a simple measure you can take to reduce the strain and pain of such a long stroll, and speed your recovery when the walk is over.

 

3-Day walkers, you can find an extensive stretching guide on page 11 of your Training Handbook, found in your Participant Center. What are your favorite go-to stretches? Tell us in comments!

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: THE HEALTH, SAFETY AND TRAINING INFORMATION PROVIDED TO YOU IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE SUSAN G. KOMEN 3-DAY IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE OR BE CONSTRUED AS MEDICAL ADVICE AND ANY SUCH INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR SEEKING MEDICAL ADVICE OR TREATMENT FROM YOUR MEDICAL PROVIDER. BEFORE STARTING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM OR FOLLOWING ANY RECOMMENDATIONS, ADVICE OR OTHER INSTRUCTIONS REGARDING TRAINING FOR THE KOMEN 3-DAY OR ANY ATHLETIC EVENT, YOU SHOULD FIRST CONSULT A PHYSICIAN AND HAVE A PHYSICAL EXAMINATION.