Welcome to Running Injury Free



Around Cape Ann (MA) 25K
Labor Day 1983




New Running Forum

http://oldmanrunningforum.blogspot.com/

This site gives tips and suggestions to the thousands of recreational runners, joggers, and walkers who want to run without injury and enjoy it. I've enjoyed running for over 40 years, and I've created this site to give running tips and lessons that I've learned from my experiences, from my reading of the running literature, and from talking with other runners, so that you too can run injury-free and enjoy it!

There are four ways to navigate the site.
  • Use the navigational bar at the top of the page to go to the category that contains the page you want to read. Then scroll through the pages in that category.

  • Use the links in the Site Map to go directly to the page. All of the links are for the year 2008.

  • Use the links under the Site Pages heading in the sidebar to go directly to the page. All of the links are for the year 2008,

  • Scroll down the page and use the Older Posts and Newer Posts links to bring in older or newer pages.

Use the What's New page to learn of changes and additions to the site.

All posts have a 2008 date, because controlling the date and time is the only way I've found to manage the position of the posts in the archive.

This site is now available in book form (pdf is free).

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------




What's New in Running Injury Free

Here are new pages and significant changes that have been made to the site. The most recent changes are at the top.

Site Map of Running Injury Free

This page is a site map of the Running Injury Free web site. It gives the search engines a page that has all internal links, and it contributes to easy navigation of the site by serving as an index to the site.

 Home
 Welcome to Running Injury Free!

What's New
What's New in Running Injury Free


Clothes
Running Clothes 
Running Shoes 
Should You Run in Minimalist Shoes
Sun Glasses

Health
Monitoring Your Wakeup Heart Rate
The Health Effects of Marathons and Ultras on our Bodies
Health to Allow Running
Handling Stress from Running
The Stress of a Marathon
The Effects of Marathons and Ultras on our Bodies
Losing Weight from Running
Cross Training
Total Body Strength

Injuries
Improve Your Running With Yoga
Using Strength Training to Avoid Injuries
Injuries From Running
Preventing Injuries While Running
Common Foot Problems
Achilles Tendinitis
Bursitis From Running
Buttock Injuries From Running
Groin Pull From Running
Heel Spurs From Running
ITB Injury From Running
Plantar Fasciitis From Running
Runner's Knee From Running
Shin Splints From Running
Short Leg and Running
The Effects of Marathons and Ultras On Our Bodies

List Your Site
List Your Site

Planning
Running Training Plans
A Plan for Beginning Running
Intermediate Plan for Runners
Low Stress Training Plan for First Half-Marathon
Low Stress Training Plan for First Marathon

Reviews
LOCO Shoes
Pearl iZUMUi Syncrofloat IV
Saucony ProGrid Triumph 8
Somno Nada
Pearl iZUMi Long Sleeved Shirt
50/50
Running On Faith
Long May You Run
Running On Empty
Cross Country 101
My Best Race
You Know You Are A Runner
The Official Register of London Marathon Runners 2001 - 2010
Triumphant
Hood to Coast Video
Garmin Forerunner 110
Jeff Galloway's RunWalkRun Timer
Men's Lightweight Windbreaker 
Orbana Energy Drink
FlashBrite Stick-on Patches
Go-ID 

Running Injury Free
My Personal Blog
Your Achievements In Running
A Tribute to Dr. George Sheehan
Running Addiction
Running Jargon
Running Myths

Training
Coaching Running on the Internet
The Real Meaning of the 10% Rule
The Basics of Jogging
Training Diaries for Running
Stretching for Runners
Pictures of Stretch Exercises
The Warm-Up Phase of Running
Beginning Running
Training to Run Your First Half or Full Marathon
Keeping Motivated to Run
Long Slow Distance
Speed Training for Runners
Running Hills
Running for Distance or for Time?
The Long and Medium Runs
Peaking in Running Performance
Training Paces While Running
A Paradox in Running Paces
Stride Rate and Length While Running
Negative Splits While Running
Foot Strike While Running
Tapering Before a Race
Lactate Threshold in Running
Maximum Oxygen Intake (VO2max)
Run the Tangents
Staying Conditioned for Running Doesn't Stop
Weekly Distance
Increasing the Number of Days
The Cool-Down Phase of Running
Monitoring Your Wakeup Heartrate
Overtraining in your Running
Running Form
Age Grading
Weather and Running
Hydration
Age and Running

My Personal Blog

If you're interested in seeing how an old guy trains and runs, take a look at my Old Man Running blog. I hope eventually to run marathons again, but for now I'm focusing on running for enjoyment as I slowly increase my distance towards 26.2 I'm also hoping to run one half-marathon and one or two 5Ks each year.

Free Book

Here is a message from Joe Ellis.

My name is Joe Ellis. I'm a longtime distance runner and novelist. My work has been featured in Runner's World and reviewed in the Washington Post. I wanted to get the word out that I'm offering my latest novel, The Old Man and the Marathon, for free to distance runners and walkers. It can be downloaded for free at www.smashwords.com for Kindle, Nook, iPad, computer, etc. or at Amazon.com or BN.com for 99 cents. I consider this novel a labor of love and my gift to distance running community. It is modeled after Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. It's about an old man who takes on the challenge of a marathon despite a history of sciatica.

Your Achievements In Running

Recently completed your first race? Won 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in your age group? You've lost weight from running? You've done something you never thought you'd do -- run? Let us all celebrate with you! Tell us about your successes.


Coaching Running on the Internet

Striding Along, February/March 1996
A Publication of the Gate City Striders, Nashua, NH

A few weeks ago, a runner asked for running advice on the internet. The message below is a response from Allen Leigh who's comments I found very to the point. I believe that Allen's advice to this runner can serve many of us as a reminder of "the basics". Peter [Editor]

Allen's response to the runner:

Hi,

I'm not qualified to be your coach, but here are a few ideas from the running literature.

1. Run pain-free. Pain is a sign from your body that you're exceeding its capacity in some way. I've been running for about 23 years, including four marathons when I was your age, with no injuries, because I run pain-free. If I experience pain, I back off my training a bit until the pain is gone and then give my body more time to get used to what I'm doing. By doing this, I keep injuries away.

2. Follow the 10% rule. When you increase the stress on your body by increasing your distance or speed (try to not increase both at the same time), keep your increases at 10% or less and stay at each new level until you feel comfortable with it. I've found that my body likes at least a week at each level, and sometimes longer.

3. When you complete a run, you should feel great and should want to keep going. If you feel tired at the end of a run, you've gone too far or too fast. Back off until you feel great when you finish each run.

4. While you are running, you should be able to carry on a conversation with a partner. If you're huffing & puffing and can't talk, you're going too fast. Back it off.

5. If you get a raw throat or side stitches [cramps] while running, you're going too fast. Back it off.

6. Run heavy/light. After you've run a "heavy" day, follow it with a "light" day of about half the distance. It takes your body 48 hours to recover from the heavy day. If you run heavy day after day, your body never fully recovers and gets into "stress-debt", then injuries come after a few months.

7. Don't run more than five days per week. Give yourself some rest days. Your overall performance will go up because you'll be more rested when you do run.

8. Throw in a light week each month. During the light week, you're still alternating heavy/light days, but you reduce the distance/speed of the heavy days.

9. If you leave home for a run and after a mile or two you feel tired and not particularly enthused about continuing the run, stop, pack it in, and go home. Your body is telling you that you need some rest. If your body is doing great, you should feel great after the first couple of miles of warming up. If your body is feeling tired, however, so will you.

10. Remember that it isn't the stress you apply to your body that builds strength; it is the rest. You apply stress by running some distance at some speed. Then you give your body rest. Your body reacts to the stress by becoming stronger. If you don't give your body enough rest, then all you're doing is tearing your body down.

11. The more you run, the more important it is that you get enough sleep.

12. Measure your rest pulse each morning. The best time to do this is when you first wake up, since that is the one time during the day when you body is at the same activity level each day. After doing this for a few weeks, you'll begin to see patterns in your pulse. My resting pulse when I'm active in my running and when I'm getting proper sleep is about 45. If it goes up more than 10%, I know that I'm tired and need more rest. If it goes up 20% or more, I abort all running for a day or two because I really need rest. I've found that my resting pulse is a great indicator of my body condition. In your case, your resting pulse will be a different number, but I would expect that the percentage increase would mean about the same thing for you.

13. If you run out & back on the same road, run on the same side of the street if the traffic flow will allow you to do that safely. By doing this, both your left and right feet will be on the edge of the road, and this evens the stress on your knees due to the crown of the road. I found that Massachusetts back-roads have a lot of curvature, say 3-4" from the center to the edge, and that means that the leg on the edge has to reach that much farther.

I started running when I was 37 (I'm 60 now). I didn't have a coach, but I did a lot of reading, and I listened to my body to know when to push myself and when not to. When I was in my late 40s I did some racing. My mile PR at that time was 5' 57". My 10K PR was 40' 29". My marathon PR was 3 hr 59'. My five-mile was some where around 33'. These were all set during my late 40s. Not great times compared to other runners but great for me because I'm built for endurance more than for speed. As I mentioned before, I've never had an injury, and I think that is a pretty good PR. I mention this, because I think that listening to your body and using moderation and common sense in pushing yourself are the best coaches you'll find.

Good luck in your running. Keep us informed from time to time!

/Allen

A final note from Peter: I asked Allen whether I could use his message in our newsletter. In his response he said. "I lived in MA for 17 years. We did all of our shopping in Nashua, and I have fond memories of NH/MA. I moved to Utah about three years ago, and I really miss New England." Quite a coincidence, don't you think?

The Real Meaning of the 10% Rule

I wrote this article as a guest post on the Marathon Nation blog. It is reprinted here by permission.

People realized years ago that runners might try to do more in their training than their bodies could handle, that is, they might do too much too soon. Over time, suggestions about increasing distance and speed were formalized into the 10% rule. This rule became one of the foundation-stones of recreational running. However, some people have misunderstood the rule and have tried to follow it in ways that were probably not intended.

Let’s take a look at the 10% rule to determine if it is (or isn’t) a good rule for us to follow. The versions of the rule that I have read state that increases in distance or speed shouldn’t exceed 10% of the weekly amount. Nothing is said about gender, age, or goals in running. The rule lumps everyone together and gives an upper cap on the amount of increases in ones training. Running puts stress on our bodies, so when we talk about increases in distance or speed, we’re talking about increases in stress.

Many runners have believed they are exceptions to the 10% rule, and they have ignored the rule with no apparent harm to their bodies.  Other runners have considered the rule as an absolute pillar of their training, and they believe that 10% should be the size of the increases, not just a cap on the increases. Some runners have done this with success. Other runners, though, have learned that 10% increases are more than their body can handle, while still others have learned that 10% increases are too small for their needs.  So, it seems that increases of 10%  are not a cardinal rule of running without injury.

The 10% rule was discussed in an article in The New York Times. The Times reported on a scientific test to determine if 10% increases did decrease injuries. The runners were novice runners. Half of them followed an 11-week training program that specified 10% increases, and half of them followed an 8-week program with a more rigorous schedule having larger increases. The runners in both groups ran three times per week, and they reached their goal of doing approximately 90 minutes per run. Did the runners making 10% increases have fewer injuries? Nope! Those runners took three weeks longer to reach their goal, and they had as many injuries as the runners in the other group.

It seems we need to replace the 10% rule with more realistic suggestions.
  • Listen to your body to learn how much increase in stress your body can handle.
  • Keep your training within the bounds of stress that your body can handle.
  • Realize that the limits on stress that apply to your body are likely different than the limits needed by others.
  • After each increase in distance or speed, stay at the new level as long as it takes for your body to adjust to the new stress.
  • Understand that as you get older, your body may be injured by stress that would have been compatible with your body when you were younger.
  • Realize that if your body encounters too much stress, injury may occur, but it may take weeks or months for your body to become injured.
These suggestions put the responsibility on each runner to determine how much increase in distance or speed should be made and how often such increases should occur. They are general suggestions that can be used by men and women of any age.

A Tribute to Dr. George Sheehan

Dr. George Sheehan was medical columnist for Runner's World for several years and was an active runner and writer about running. One of his essays was called "The Basics of Jogging: How Fast, How Far, How Often?". That essay was the first article I read in the running literature, and I received it at the first meeting of the Digital Running Club in Maynard, Massachusetts in 1976. The essay was pure common sense, and I've followed his advice for over 38 years and have enjoyed running with only one injury. I'll be eternally grateful to "Doc" Sheehan for his guidance.

As a tribute to George Sheehan, I've posted that essay in this site for all to read and enjoy (additional essays by "Doc" Sheehan are at georgesheehan.com).
Click on any thumbnail to read the article.

The Basics of Jogging

Dr. George Sheehan
Copyright The George Sheehan Trust
Permission to post has been requested




Dr. Joan Ullyot and boys sample the joys of a jog.
Joan graduated from jogging to marathoning.


Our fancy often turns to dreams of past glories, to those years when our bodies did our will. The morning air, the bright sun, the green trees recall days when only darkness could end our play. We were giants -- if not in strength at least in endurance. We knew what it was like to be a good animal. And we wonder if we could ever be that way again.
The answer, of course, is yes. We can walk or jog or run our way back to those days, those joys, that level of fitness we used to know. To do this we have to know the fitness equation, the answers to the questions, How fast? How far? How often?

HOW FAST?

Few people know how fast to train. Most assume they must punish themselves to become fit. They think that becoming an athlete is hard work. That just is not so. Fitness must be fun. The rule is "train, don't strain." So the race for fitness should be comfortable and enjoyable. Effort should be the measure, not speed, and your body should tell you your proper pace, not the stopwatch.

I use the word "pace" deliberately. It is a better word than speed. Speed has to do with numbers, statistics, minutes-per-mile. Pace has to do with feelings and is not a matter of precise mathematics. It has to do with adjectives like "easy" and "rash" and "breathless" and headlong." But the adjective we are looking for is "comfortable," and we find it by asking our bodies.

This seemingly unscientific idea has a solid scientific basis in the theory of perceived exertion. Proposed by Gunnar Borg in 1960, it states that the effort perceived by the body is almost identical to that recorded by a machine. Borg discovered that body perception is, in fact, superior to any single physiological determination.


The Borg Scale ("Perceived Exertion")
Rating
Pulse
6-7 very, very light 60-70
8-9 very light 80-90
10-11 fairly light 100-110
12-13 somewhat hard 120-130
14-15 hard 140-150
16-17 very hard 160-170
18-20 very, very hard 180-200

The Borg scale starts at six (very, very light) and ends at 20 (very, very hard). Adding a zero to the rating gives the usual pulse rate at that level of activity. The walker, jogger or runner therefore aims at the mid-range between light and hard, the area we perceive as comfortable. This is a pace at which we could hold a conversation with a companion -- Bill Bowerman's "talk test." Now, you might say that you couldn't run across the room without being short of breath. Then don't. Begin by walking and then work up to scout pace (alternating 50 steps walking and 50 running). Finally, you will be able to jog continually, in comfort. You will be able to put yourself on "automatic pilot" and enjoy your thoughts and the countryside.

Listen to your body. Do not be a blind and deaf tenant. Hear what your muscles and heart and lungs are telling you. Above all, get in union with your body. Ride yourself as a jockey does a horse, finally becoming one with it. There will come times when the sheer joy of this mysterious fusion, this wholeness will drive you to see just what you can do. But this is unnecessary, for you now have the pace. Do not push. You have found the groove. Stay in it.

Even when you have become proficient and the comfortable pace becomes faster and faster, you must still do the first 6 -10 minutes very slowly. You must allow the juices to flow, the temperature to rise, the circulation to adapt. You must give the body time to make all those marvelous, intricate adjustments that happen when you finally set yourself in motion. When you do, you will experience that warm sweat that goes with the onset of the second wind and get the feeling that you just might spend the rest of the day running. Find a comfortable pace and enjoy it. Fitness is bound to follow.

When I get into that second wind, I settle down to my comfortable pace and let the body do the thinking. My ground speed varies with the time of day (early morning runs take one minute a mile longer) or with heat and humidity, but effort will not. The identical thing happens when I run against a head wind or up hills, or on those days when I am upset psychologically. But whether the stopwatch says eight minutes a mile or 10, the pace is the same. It is comfortable, and because my perceived exertion is always the same, the effort is identical and the physiological benefits are identical as well.

Once you have begun this way, success is assured. There is no need to rush, no need to hurry. ("Only the sick and the ambitious," said Ortega, "are in a hurry.") Nor is there any need to worry. When you run at a comfortable pace, you are well within your physical limits. ("I have never been harmed," said Montaigne, "by anything that was a real pleasure.") Find the comfortable pace and enjoy it. Fitness is bound to follow.

HOW FAR?

Again, we must consult the body. The jogger-runner, be it his first day or the 20th year, is concerned with minutes, not miles, time not distance. The goal is to work up to 30 minutes at a comfortable pace. The rule is to run at that comfortable pace to a point this side of fatigue. Do not bother with distance. It is effort and time that do those good things to our bodies. This equation frees us from the tyranny of speed and distance. There is no need then, to count laps or measure miles; no need for the stopwatch and the agonized groans that go with it. Simply dial the body to comfortable and go on automatic pilot. Then continue to fatigue or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. It is even better not to reach fatigue, but instead to come to the kitchen door or the gym still eager to do more, ready to resume on that note the next time out.

Our aim, I said, is 30 minutes. In the beginning, five minutes may be all you can handle. But quite soon - sooner, in fact, than you expect - you will be able to run continuously for 30 minutes. I have seen a 30-year-old housewife get up to 30-minute runs with one month of training and run a five-mile race within 10 weeks of buying her running shoes. That 30 minutes is as far as we need go. It is the endpoint for fitness. That 30 minutes will get us fit and put us in the 95 percentile for cardiopulmonary endurance. At 12 calories per minute, it will eventually bring our weight down to desired levels. It also will slow the pulse and drop the blood pressure. It will make us good animals.

That first 30 minutes is for my body. During that half-hour, I take joy in my physical ability, the endurance and power of my running. I find it a time when I feel myself competent and in control of my body, when I can think about my problems and plan my day-to-day world. . In many ways, those 30 minutes is all egos, all the self. It has to do with me, the individual. What lies beyond this fitness or muscle? I can only answer for myself. The next 30 minutes is for my soul. If I come upon the third wind, which is psychological (unlike the second wind which is physiological). And then see myself not as an individual but a part of the universe. In it, I can happen upon anything I ever read or saw or experienced. Every fact and instinct and emotion is unlocked and made available to me through some mysterious operation in my brain.

Recently, I came upon that feeling about 35 minutes out. I had just attacked a long hill on the river road and had been reduced to a slow trot. Then it happened. The feeling of wholeness and peace and contentment came over me. I loved myself and the world and everyone in it. I had no longer to will what I was doing. The road seemed to be running me. I was in a place and time I never wanted to leave.

To achieve fitness, there is no need to do more than 30 minutes at a comfortable pace. Past that, you must proceed with caution. Fitness can change your body. But the third wind can change your life.

HOW OFTEN?

How often must we run this minutes at a comfortable pace? To answer the exercise physiologists give is four times a week, a figure they arrived at by testing innumerable individuals of both sexes at all ages. A four times a week schedule, they assure us, will make us fit and keep us that way.

Looked at another way, this is just two hours of exercise a week. Need it be done not more than one day apart, as it is usually prescribed? Could we do all our exercise on one day and then rest the other six? Or would it be OK to run an hour every third day and thereby satisfy the requirement?



The experts, as expected, are divided on this division. They have not adequately explored the subject of de-training. They do not know how soon we lose the benefits of a prolonged bout of exertion. There is some reason to suspect that weekend running may be enough. I have a colleague who for personal reasons has limited his running to two hours or more on Saturday and a race on Sunday. On this unscientific regimen, he has broken three hours in the marathon and more often than not beats me at lesser distances.

His is just one other way to train. Training is after all simply a matter of applying stress, allowing the body to recover, and then applying stress again. For each of us, the appropriate stress and the appropriate time to recover is different.

This is not a real problem in the minimum program for fitness. Almost everyone can handle an easy 30 minutes four times a week, or one hour twice a week, or even two hours once a week. But we are not minimizers, we are maximizers, and our difficulties are with doing too much rather than too little. The runner frequently gets caught up. He finds that running must be done daily, and longer and longer. The question then becomes not how much is enough but how much is too much. The problem becomes not fitness but exhaustion.

All this occurs, it seems to me, because we seek not only physical fitness but psychological fitness as well. I need the minimum program for fitness because, like 95% of Americans, I have an occupation that isn't physical enough to make me fit. The 30 minutes four times a week is enough positive input to balance my negative physical output. It is not enough, however, to counteract the minuses in my day-to-day psychological life. To achieve a psychological balance, I need much more.

How many minutes of running do I need, then, to keep in a happy frame of mind? How many times a week must I run to have a capacity for work and the ability to enjoy life?

All to often, there comes days when I don't feel like running. Then I am not sure whether I am tired or just lazy, whether I am physically exhausted or merely bored and lacking the will-power to do what I should do.

On those days when I lack zest and enthusiasm, I use the second wind to tell me whether what I'm experiencing is physical or psychological. When the second wind comes, as it does for me at the six-minute mark, I know. If the usual good feelings are there, the warm sweat and that feeling of strength and energy, I know my aversion was largely mental. I need a new route or pace or companion on the run. If, however, I feel a cold, clammy sweat and weakness, I pack it in and go home. I have even at such times had to walk or accept a ride home having gone less than a mile, even though a few weeks before I may have run a very good marathon. Such physical exhaustion, however, is usually preceded by an elevated pulse in the morning. When mine is 10 beats above my usual basal pulse of 48, I know that I have once more over trained. I need a nap instead of a workout.

So you see, it is your body that is the ultimate arbiter in your fitness program. The body tells you how fast. Dial to "comfortable" and run at a pace which would permit you to talk to a companion. The body tells you how long. Run just this side of fatigue. And the body tells you how often. Feel zest. Respond to the second wind. Note any changes in your morning pulse.

Follow these rules. Then somewhere between the minimum suggested and the maximum you can handle, you will find the fitness beyond muscle we all need to live the good life.

Training Diaries for Running

Unless you have an awfully good memory, it is a good idea to keep written records of your training. We all have ups and downs in our training, and it is helpful to identify the causes of our peaks and valleys. Did you have insufficient sleep during the past few days? Are you eating nutritious food or junk food? Was it raining or snowing during your run? Was the ground icy? Did your wakeup heart rate give hints that a slump was coming? Is it time to get a new pair of shoes? The list of things you should remember about your runs goes on and on. As I said, unless you have a good memory, you need to record the conditions during each of your runs.


There are two ways that most runners keep records about their runs. 
  • Special software to keep a diary or log of their runs
  • A blog of their runs

Diaries

The use of software that creates and maintains a log of your runs has one big advantage: you are less likely to forget to record particular data about your runs. There is one disadvantage, though, of using diary-software: you have to have the discipline to enter data about each run; it is easy to neglect the diary for a few days, and you may not remember some of the data that should be preserved. I've been told by friends that their diaries have data displayed in charts that make the data easy to understand and easy to compare from day to day and week to week. Some diaries allow you to import data from a GPS and/or a heart-rate monitor.

I haven't looked into this, but I expect there are programs that you install on your computer to provide a diary of your runs. However, most of the runners I know who keep a diary use online services provided by web sites.
Some of the online diaries are free. A little searching of the Internet will give you links to online running diaries.

Blogs

The use of a blog has one advantage: simplification. If you want to keep a simple diary and just record a few significant things about your runs, blogs are a nice way to go. As with the diary-software, you have to have the discipline to keep the blog current. I use a blog for my diary. I try to remember to comment on my wakeup heart rate, the weather, the temperature, and how I felt during and after the run. If I felt tired during a run, I usually remark on possible reasons why I felt that way. One of the categories in my blog is for recording the miles on my shoes.

Stretching for Runners



One of the key things to do to avoid injury as you run, jog, or walk is to stretch and strengthen your muscles after you exercise. Light stretching will loosen your muscles and help you cool down. Stretching after you run will help remove the lactate from your muscles that was generated during your run. In addition, stretching will help strengthen your muscles, enabling you to run better and helping you avoid injury.

Static stretches were popular in the 1970s and 1980s when I was a beginner runner. Today, dynamic stretches are in vogue. I've stuck with static stretches for over 39 years because they work for me. If you're interested in dynamic stretches, a search of the Internet will give you links to many such stretches.

Current thinking among coaches and sports doctors is that stretching shouldn't be done before running, because your muscles are stiff, and there is risk that you may injure a muscle. However, I've always stretched before and after I run and have not had injuries due to stretching. A word of caution is in order, however. Any activity that causes muscle movement causes stress in your body, and too much stress is the cause of injury. Thus, if you aren't careful, doing stretches before you run (and after, too) can contribute to injury. I've found that the keys to safe stretching are (a) experience no pain while you stretch, (b) do gentle, slow muscle movements when you stretch, and (c) don't do heavy rocking of your body back and forth or jumping up and down. If you feel pain, back off and don't pull your muscles as much.

Use Anti-Injury Exercises

Dr. Weisenfeld in The Runners' Repair Manual (Amazon) has a chapter on "The Best Anti-Injury Exercises I've Ever Found". Let's take a look at what he says:
I'm going to let you in on a secret that could cut my practice by a third. If you do the right exercises and do them regularly, you can avoid most injuries. On the other hand, if you run and don't exercise, you're almost sure to be injured. It's that simple. Every run you take causes microscopic tears in the muscles, and when these tiny tears repair themselves, they form scar tissue. This scar tissue cannot be flexed or stretched. So every time you run, your muscles are getting tighter and tighter -- and less able to stretch. A tight, inflexible muscle is a setup for injury. It can't take the shocks and jolts of running or the constant pulling of a long runner's stride. A tight muscle is one that's ready to be injured. And, along with these tight muscles, other muscles in your body are very tight while nearby muscles are relatively very soft. That's another setup for injury. So save yourself yourself some pain and money. Learn a basic group of exercises like the warm-up I'll give you here, or any good, well-balanced set of exercises.-- The Runners' Repair Manual, copyright 1980, chapter 3, pp. 33-34
He describes (with pictures) a set of static stretches that will help keep your muscles strong, and injury-free. I heartily recommend that you get his book and follow it in your running! We all have our own way of stretching, and this is what I do (most are from Weisenfeld). I've posted pictures illustrating most of these stretches.
  • Three variations of wall pushups for calf and soleus
  • Foot on stair knee up for hamstring
  • Bent leg for quads
  • Knee press for hamstring and lower back
  • Knee lifts for lower back and abdominal
  • A variation of knee lifts in which one knee is bent and my head is raised up to touch the knee with my nose, the other leg is on the ground with knee bent
  • ITB stretch
  • Furniture lift for shins
  • Leg raised in air for quads
  • A variation of flying in which my arms trace a horizontal figure-8 to get both sides of my brain working
  • Situps from a Runners' World article (see below)
  • Push ups (crosstraining)
After finishing my run, I walk a few hundred feet to cool down, and then I do the wall pushups, foot on stair, bent leg, ITB, leg lift, flying, and the variation of flying.


Situps Can Kill Your Back

Lower back pain is one of the common ailments that afflict runners. After I had been running for several years, I started having mild lower back pain. Coincidentally, Runners' World published an article on lower back pain about a month after I started having pains. That article suggested doing situps to strengthen ones stomach and thus strengthen ones back muscles; you can't have a strong back if you have a flabby stomach. To me, doing situps meant doing them the "army" way, but the method suggested by Runners' World was different. If you do situps the "army" way, you keep your arms behind your head and place your head and shoulders on the ground each cycle. Your back muscles have to exert great effort to raise your head and shoulders off the ground, and unless your back is in good condition, that effort can injure your back.In contrast, the Runners' World method for situps keeps your head and shoulders off the ground and to keep your arms stretched out in front of you, parallel to the floor, as if you were reaching for your toes. You rock your body back and forth. Your knees are bent in both positions. How far you bend depends on your condition, but keep your head and shoulders off the ground). When I tried this method, I found that could raise my body up and down with no noticeable strain on my back muscles. After about a month of doing sit ups this way, my lower back pain was gone!
Arms parallel to ground, knees bent

Head & shoulders off the ground,
knees bent
I do 30 situps before I run, and after years of running, my back is in fine shape. I've also gained a beneficial side effect from doing the situps. Most of the time when I finish the situps, I feel great and am anxious to hit the roads. Sometimes, however, I feel tired after completing the situps, and I know that my body is tired and that I'd better take a slower and perhaps shorter run. My situps are a good indicator of my body condition.

For a stronger back, do the following lower-back stretches

Lie prone to relax back muscles Keep head flat, pull knees toward chest


Touch knee
Touch other knee to nose if possible


Your Knees are for Running not for Hurting

Knee pain is another common problem with runners. Runners doing hills are especially susceptible to knee problems.Before each run, I do several repetitions of the foot press and inner thighs stretches that are described by Dr. Weisenfeld in The Runners' Repair Manual, and I've never had knee injuries, even after 17 years of running in hilly New England. Here is Dr. Weise Foot Press. Strengthens quadriceps (thigh) muscles, for treatment/prevention of runner's knee. Strengthens anterior leg muscles, for treatment of shin splints. Can be done lying down or sitting in a chair. Put your right foot on top of your left foot. Your lower foot tries to pull toward your body as your upper foot pushes it away from the body. Hold for ten seconds. Now switch feet -- put the left foot on top of the right foot, and push/pull for ten seconds. This equals one set. Do five sets.-- The Runners' Repair Manual, copyright 1980, chapter 4, pp. 38

Foot Press: Isometrics with toes
Inner and Outer Thighs. The turned-out position strengthens the outer thigh muscles -- for treatment/prevention of runner's knee. The turned-in position strengthens the inner thigh muscles--for treatment/prevention of groin pull. Can be done lying down or sitting in a chair. Stretch both legs out -- knees straight, feet flexed (Toes pointed toward knees.) Tighten your thigh muscles. Now, turn your feet out as far as you can and hold ten seconds. Then turn your feet in as far as you can and hold ten seconds. Keep thigh muscles tight throughout exercise. -- The Runners' Repair Manual, copyright 1980, chapter 4, pp. 38 - 39
Outer Thigh Stretch: Runner's Knee
Inner Thigh Stretch; Groin Pull
Here is a good link about stretching and another one.

Pictures of Stretch Exercises

For a discussion of stretching, read my stretching page. Remember the cardinal rule of stretching: You should feel no pain, that is, don't stretch so hard that you injure yourself! It's OK to feel stiffness while you stretch, but not pain as in "injury". When you stretch, hold each position for 10 - 15 seconds and then relax. Repeat as many times as you'd like. I only do them one or two times. Be gentle with your muscles because your muscles are cold before you run and tired after you run. Click a picture for a larger view.

Note: There is one stretch that is not illustrated in this page. The stretch is called the "furniture lift", and it strengthens your legs. While wearing your running shoes, place your toe under the edge of a sofa or heavy chair and lift up with your toe as if you were attempting to move the furniture. The purpose is not to actually move the furniture but to put stress on your shins. Hold the stress for 10-15 seconds and then relax. Repeat using the other toe, and repeat the sequence several times. I only do each foot one time.


1:

2:


3:


4:


5:

6:

7:

Notes on the stretches:
Row 1: Calves.Three variations of the wall pusher. Last two are for the Soleus muscle.
Row 2: Quads & hams. Traditional stretches.
Row 3: Buttocks. Pull knee towards opposite side of the body.
Row 3: Quads. Hold leg in air, against gravity.
Row 4: Hips & knees. Keep legs straight & rotate from the hip. Last two, push/pull toe against toe.
Row 5: ITB. Put leg to be stretched behind other leg and lean back.
Row 6: Stomach. Sit ups. Keep shoulders off ground, hands in front to put lower stress on back.
Row 6: Correction to picture. When back is on ground, knees should be bent.
Row 7: Lower back. Last two, pull knee to nose if possible, but don't pull so hard you experience pain.