Top 10 Stretching Exercises to help you win a Marathon
By Mark A Goetz, certified personal trainer (NFPT)

Running a Marathon requires extreme stamina, resilience, will power and physical as well as mental prowess. It demands months of physical training and performance building to even participate in a marathon, let alone winning it.
Think of running as a synchronously paced motion between the legs whilst maintaining the momentum and keeping in mind the balance and forces acting against your body. But, it is easier said than done. Your body needs all the flexibility and preparation in order to do the needful.
Stretching exercises are a much debated workout routine. To some trainers, it is known to reduce the performance and also, doesn’t reduce the chances of injuries (as thought of earlier). But, no doubt stretching makes the muscles stronger and provides you the flexibility as well as stamina for running a marathon.
When we talk about the stretching exercises required for extensive marathon training, they are an amalgamation of static and dynamic stretching exercises. But first, you must know the difference between them.

Static Stretching exercises are done when the body is stationary. You might have seen various athletes stretching, holding onto the position for several seconds whilst standing; that is static stretching.
Dynamic Stretching is done by gently stretching the muscles and tendons to increase flexibility and performance. These are usually a set of similar motion exercises that you will be doing whilst running. It is highly recommended to do dynamic stretching before the run. It increases your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow; and therefore, helps you run more efficiently.
Please be aware that you must warm up for 5-10 minutes before any type of stretching exercises. Also, don’t push yourself with stretching; make sure the threshold is well within your range. If you have an injury or problem area, do consult with your trainer or coach before taking up any form of exercise and find out what kind of exercises are beneficial for you.
Some of the best exercises recommended are:

1. Calf Stretch:
• Stand at an arm’s distance from a wall or treadmill
• Place your arms on the wall or hold the treadmill for support
• Place your right foot behind the left one
• Slowly bend your left leg forward (leaning your body forward too) while keeping your right knee straight and the right heel firmly on the ground
• Your back should be straight and your hips must lean forward
• Hold the position for at least 30 seconds but not more than that
• Switch legs and repeat

2. Hamstring Stretch:
• Lie on the floor with your legs straight near the outer corner of a wall
• Lift your right leg and place your heel on the wall keeping your knee slightly bent
• Gently straighten your right leg till you feel a little stretch along your leg
• Hold on for 30 seconds
• Switch legs and repeat

3. Quadriceps Stretch:
• Stand near a wall or treadmill
• With your right hand on the wall or whilst holding the treadmill with your right hand for support, use your left hand to grasp your left ankle and pull your heel up( backwards) until you feel a stretch
• Make sure your stomach is not sagging and your knees are close
• Hold on for 30 seconds
• Switch legs and repeat

4. Walking Lunges:
• Stand straight on flat ground or floor
• Step your right foot forward with a long stride
• Place the right knee over your toes
• Drop your left knee towards the ground and lower your body
• Make sure your posture is upright and your stomach is not sagging
• Now switch legs and continue that for 10 repetitions

5. Knee Bend:
• Take a step forward with your right leg and grab your left knee
• Pull your knee towards your chest
• This will help you stretch your hamstring
• Now continue that for 10 repetitions

6. Leg Lift:
• Put your hands on your hips
• Swing your leg to one side away from your torso and then back across your body in front of your other leg
• Continue that for 10 times(for each leg)
• Switch to the other leg and start from step 1
• If you have trouble with balancing your body, it is okay to support yourself with a wall

7. Butt-Kick:
• Stand upright
• Start a gentle walking and swing your legs back so that your heels touch your glutes. If it seems easy, advance it with jogging
• You can hold onto a steady object if you have problems with balancing
• Now continue that for 10 times on each side

8. Hacky-Sack:
• Stand upright
• Take a step forward, lift your leg up and pull it into your mid-section
• With your one hand hold the heel of the lifted leg and with another hand hold the knee
• Push your knee down (sideways, so that its perpendicular to your waist and points out)
• Now switch legs and continue that for 10 repetitions

9. Pike Stretch:
• Start with being on all fours with palms flat on the ground
• Lift your hips into a pike or ‘V’ position.
• Lift your left foot and place it on top of your right heel
• Press down with your left foot so that it pushes your right heel slightly towards the ground
• Release the stretch and then repeat for 10 times
• Start with the right leg

10. Toy Soldier:
• Stand upright
• Keep your back and knees straight and walk forward whilst lifting your legs in the front and flexing your toes
• After this seems easy upgrade this by skipping motion
• Do 10 repetitions on each side

You might want to try quadriceps stretch if an area of your body feels a little tight after your run.
So, you will find that when you will go through all of these stretching exercises, your body has been warmed up adequately and your heart rate is up. It will help you in that training run and eventually winning the marathon.

Article by Mark Andrew Goetz
NFPT (National Federation of Professional Trainers)

Biography: Mark Andrew Goetz is a certified personal with master’s certification in nutrition, weight training and endurance. Mr. Goetz trains his clients in Northfield, Prior Lake and the Minneapolis area.