Stretch for smoother running with Run Red

While most of my volunteer hours are spent with the Disaster Action Team of American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, I’m also a distance runner and enjoy helping coach new runners. While I’ve run plenty of races of various distances, this year I’ve very proud to be running the Chicago marathon with Run Red Team, the official Red Cross nationwide running team.

Training for a race isn’t just about running. There is the cross-training, the gear shopping (my favorite!), making sure to properly fuel and hydrate, and (my other favorite) many minor tweaks and hacks which can be done throughout the day to contribute to better fitness and an easier time training.

Spending time hunched over the laptop and the general stress of certain jobs (or, the absence thereof, sometimes, too) causes tension in the neck and shoulders, which, believe it or not, carries over to running. Granted, running, as those of us initiated already know, eats stress nicely, but still! The smart runner is all about being proactive and training smart, rather than waiting to address an issue once it’s a big issue.

When you have stiff shoulders due to tension, it limits the ability to swing arms freely forwards and back. When this happens, the arms take a less neutral side to side motion, which does not a lot to propel the body forward and mostly just wastes precious energy and causes unnecessary fatigue. Hello? Not good. So, here’s a quick fix you can start doing today:

  • Take mini-stretch breaks throughout work time. Seems minor, but it matters.
  • Lower your right ear to your right shoulder. Press gently on your left temple with our fingertips. Hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side. Aim for a stretch here, not a neck-crack.
  • Raise right arm up, keeping your elbow locked straight and palm facing forward. Hold your arm between your elbow and shoulder with your left hand. Pull (gently please!), hold, release, and repeat ten times on each side.

Twice a day, then, to strengthen the shoulders:

  • Let your arms hang relaxed at your sides with your palms facing in. In one slow, constant motion, rotate your shoulders up, backward, downward and forward, bringing them toward each other. Hold them for a second. Do it in reverse, rolling shoulders until arms return to starting position. Do two sets of ten reps. Hold dumbells to make it more challenging as strength improves.

How easy is that? Very. So easy you can start right this second! And, as an added benefit, these mini-stretch breaks help you feel more alert during the day too. Pro-tip: there are several simple downloads you can utilize to remind you via email or pop-up to take a second and stretch during the workday. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Hope to see everyone at the Team Run Red fun run on Wednesday August 5th at 6:30 on the west side of the North Ave. bridge.

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