Tight Ass, Not Tight Gluts: Top Five Areas to Stretch to Keep Run Fit for Summer

Who doesn’t want a nice, firm bum? Not only does having a toned tush look aesthetically pleasing, it functions to keep us moving in a fluid manner. We’ve all read about the top exercises to do to build our buns, lunges, squats. And back in the olden days when I was hitting that nautilus equipment, there was the even good old butt-blaster machine that promised to be all we needed to sculpt the perfect butt! Of course, having symmetrically strong muscles in and around the glut area is part of the picture, as is what we’re eating (which, in my opinion, makes up about 80% of the equation which determines whether or not those strong gluts are actually visible… or hidden beneath subcutaneous fat), the third and often overlooked component of keeping those buns healthy is stretching. How long to stretch, when to stretch and which stretches to do can vary vastly from one person to another as well as from one expert to another. Some studies suggest we don’t need to stretch at all, while others recommend allocating a long time window to stretch on a daily, or even twice daily basis. Admittedly, I refrained from making stretching a part of my own routine for a long time, too long, actually. And for no good reason. Somehow I could always find time to do a second run or extend my bike ride just a tad, yet when it came to setting aside even 5 – 10 minutes to stretch, I never deemed it important enough. Even after tearing a hamstring several years ago, then rehabbing it back to better than it was before the injury, I still relied solely on my massage therapist to ‘fix everything’ and keep me in check. Well, not anymore. Last fall, that same old tight hamstring began speaking to me again, leading to a disappointing run performance at my last Ironman of the year. When I decided, once and for all, to address this by means of going to a reputable physical therapist, it finally set in that I must, without fail, incorporate stretching into my routine. Period. While the stretches I do may not be the exact stretches every other runner or triathlete needs to do, there’s no harm in adding these in. It’s not as though there’s a risk; we’re not talking ballistic stretching here, rather, just 30 second holds, or 3 x 10 second holds, alternating from left side to right side and by the way, it actually feels great! Try these on for size and see if they don’t help you tackle that nagging tight hamstring, that weak glut or the tight calf on the opposite side of that tight glut! Hamstring Stretch Stand with shoulder and hips squared, facing a low bench, about a foot off the ground. Flex your foot and place the heel on the bench. With hands on the hips, lean slightly forward until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Hold 30 seconds and pivot on the standing foot so that you’re now feeling the stretch in the adductor of the leg with the foot on the bench. Repeat on the other side. Adductor Stretch Lying on a mat on your back, bring your knees to your chest. Using your arms to support your legs, allow your legs to fall open to stretch the adductors and groin, stopping prior to feeling it’s ‘too much’. After 30seconds, use your hands to bring your legs back together again. Low Back Twist Sitting upright, with the right leg straight out in front of you, place the left foot outside the right knee, then twist to left, using your right arm against your knee as a lever. Gently continue to twist as you exhale and hold for 30s. Repeat on the other side. Psoas Stretch Lying on one side, bend your knee and reach around with your hand to grab your ankle (or use a towel if flexiblity is an issue). Gently guide the foot back, allowing the psoas to stretch. Pigeon Stretch My favorite, shown above! From all fours, bend the right knee and place it towards the right corner of the top of the mat. Gently guide the right foot to the left corner of the top of the mat, lowering your bodyweight down supported by forearms, eventually placing chest on mat if flexible. You should feel a great opening in the right hip. Hold 30 seconds, gently come back up to all fours and repeat on the other side. Try it before a run. Try it after a run. Try it when your kids are watching TV and you’ve got a few minutes to spare. No risk, lots of benefit. Remember- nothing wrong, and everything right about wanting to leave a lasting impression on the way out of room, but not at the cost of creating an imbalance in your skeletal muscles , which over time can lead to injiury.