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Stretching and Distance Running Maintenance

August 15, 2013

tags: running


I am not a doctor. I am not medically trained. I am not a physical therapist. I don’t know anything other than what I know about myself from personal experience. The following are statements about my own body and my naive understanding of it.

Stretching is boring. Stretching is tedious and needs to be done regularly or else everything falls apart. Neglecting to stretch can undermine hundreds of miles of training. Neglecting to stretch can turn a high-level runner one week into an immobilized slob with a drinking problem the following week.

For me, distance running comes hand in hand with a tug of war against the muscles and tendons in my lower body. Within the war there are a number of fronts on which daily battles are waged. These battles have continued for years and over the course of history I’ve suffered many defeats and many victories on each front. Listed from north to south:

  1. The Hips & Hip Flexors
  2. The Iliotibial bands
  3. The Peronius Longus Muscles and Tendons
  4. The Plantar Fascias

Hips/Hip Flexors and Iliotibial Bands

tightness in the hip, hip flexor and ITB begins as a minor discomfort but can quickly incapacitate.

  1. the bowler stretch
  2. lie on back, bring leg across abdomen trying to keep hips on the ground
  3. ice

Peronius Longus

a product of heavy supination, tendinitis in the Peronius Longus along the outside of the foot/ankle area can cause considerable discomfort.

  1. Ice
  2. Grass/Soft Surfaces
  3. Attempt to limit over-supination (though in some instances this can just rob Peter to pay Paul)
  5. Local Cortisone Injection - a quick fix for a desperate soul. Does not address the underlying issue and can only be used in a single site a few times before the risks outweigh the benefits.

Plantar Fascia

Incredibly sensitive tendon runs between the heel and forefoot. When irritated the Plantar Fascia can register a sensation similar to a blade stabbing into the bottom of your foot and subsequently twisted/probed around. While the P.F. may feel weak it can take a surprising amount of abuse. I gained 20 pounds between my freshman and sophomore year in college and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why my plantars started screaming under the extra weight.

Perhaps the most persistent, temperamental and needy injury I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been fighting this battle for eight years with the final outcome as yet undecided.

  1. Ice
  2. No Flip Flops
  3. Orthotics
  4. Strassburg Sock
  5. Golf ball, baseball, rigid spherical/cylindrical object to roll across arch
  6. Calf/achilles flexibility
  7. Local cortisone injection - again, the last resort of a lost and desperate soul. Not a long-term solution. The irritation will continue whether you can feel it or not.

R.I.C.E - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation


Rest is so effing important it’s hard for me to emphasize it enough. When training is going well and a solid routine has established itself it’s hard to impose the rest your body needs. I often have this exchange in my head:

-Wow, I feel great. -I know I only planned to do 4 today but I could do 6 or 8 and feel just as good.

…18-year-old Tom would have said: “Let’s do 8 and hammer it.”

…28-year-old Tom says: “Lets get the easy 4 and a good stretch”

It was a heart rending, pride swallowing process that led me down this road. It took many “inexplicable” injuries and the disappointment that comes hand in hand. I needed to admit my mortality and take pleasure in living to fight another day.


Ice. Early and often. Ice packs and bags will suffice but nothing felt more regenerative than sitting in an ice bath at 55 degrees for 15 minutes.


My experience with compression consists of the FOAM ROLLER and massage. Have I mentioned the FOAM ROLLER lately?


Kick your feet up for a bit while resting.

Some Final Thoughts…

Claustrophobia: I felt at times like my body would turn inside on itself. All of my muscles pulled taught, tendons pulled taught. Were it not for a concerted effort to keep these forces from pulling in on themselves I would certainly have been unable to move well.

Discussion, links, and tweets

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I am a software developer in Los Angeles.