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Leslie Kay

Key Stretches for Runners

When sitting for many hours at a time each day whether it is at a desk, in school or other sedentary activity, certain muscles are prone to tightness: inner calves, thighs, quads, upper chest, back, and groin. These are also the muscles we use for running. When they're tight and out of balance, this inhibits running performance and may lead to an injury, which can keep you from running your runDisney race altogether.


A lack of flexibility is a common cause for injuries. Whether you're new to running, sit for several hours a day or are just getting back to running after a long break, I want to help you have a memorable runDisney experience at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna, by empowering you with how to help you stay injury-free.


Understanding why stretching is important may help motivate you to incorporate it into your regular workout routine. Running with imbalanced muscles is like driving a car with a flat tire. Yes, you can move, but the car is not performing at its optimum and using energy inefficiently.


Begin by stretching these key muscle groups for runners to have good range of movement, a balanced body and greater efficiency, which may help you stay injury-free and reach your runDisney goal.


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Upper Body – Looking down at a computer or at a cell phone frequently can create tightness in the neck, chest, upper and lower part of your back. Your arms and legs move together in unison, so if you have tightness in your upper body, this will also restrict your running stride. Many people don't know how to run faster. Move your arms faster and your legs will follow. Not the other way around.


Groin Muscles – A pulled groin is not fun. You use those muscles for walking, going up steps and running. Working on flexibility keeps you mobile and injury-free.


Inner Calves – People who sit are more prone to have tightness in their calves. Tightness in your calves can lead to hamstring strains. If you are having hamstring issues, stretching your calves may help.


Thighs/Quads – You use these muscles to help lift your leg when running along with your hip flexors. Tightness here will decrease your running efficiency by making your body work extra hard to compensate, which could lead to slower running times and/or low back pain. Especially if you have a desk job, they are more prone to be tight.


I am a big supporter of preventive health habits like stretching to help stay injury-free, and for total health and wellness. If you haven't had your annual check-up with your doctor, schedule it today. This is a great opportunity to know your four health numbers: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, so you can stay healthy and empowered. Here's to your health!


Antonio Williams Jr. is a health coach at Cigna. Cigna is the presenting sponsor of Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend.


This content is for educational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Speak to your doctor if you have health concerns and prior to starting a new diet or exercise program. Sources: Škarabot, J, Beardsley, C, Štirn, I, Comparing the Effects of Self‐Myofascial Release with Static Stretching on Ankle Range‐of‐motion in Adolescent Athletes, Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Apr; 10(2): 203–212

Healey, K, Hatfield, D, Blanpied, P, Dorfman, L, Riebe D, The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance, J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jan; 28(1):61-8

Lieberman, D, Warrener, A, Wang, J, Castillo, E, Effects of Stride Frequency and Foot position at Landing on Braking Force, Hip Torque, Impact Peak Force and the Metabolic Cost of Running in Humans, Journal of Experimental Biology 2015 218

Dunne, J, Running: It's All in The Hips, Jan 8, 2013, http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/running-its-all-in-the-hips/