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Guest Blogger: Stretch and Strengthen

Posted Jul 28 2009 11:42pm 2 Comments

Greetings Carrots n Cake Readers!! My name is Laural and I am known as Bhealthier at my blog My blog is about what I do to nourish all aspects of my life- not just my stomach- as I work toward my master’s degree in Nutrition and train for a marathon! I was so excited that Tina was open to having guest bloggers because she and I have similar ideas about how we eat and exercise! I hope you enjoy this post about exercises you can do to help strengthen those important running muscles & joints!

In high school, I was on cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball and track and field.  For track, I was specifically a triple jumper but ran sprints and hurdles also. Indoor season was all winter so we trained inside on hard gym floors. By the time outdoor season started, I had stress fractures in both ankles.

I’ve done everything from ice baths up to my hips, compression sleeves, knee braces and taped up ankles and shins.  I have also gone to physical therapy for my neck, ankles, knees, shins, and then again for my ankle, and then again for my knee!

Listen to your body!

Training hard is wonderful and worth the effort, however, over-training leads to injury and injury begets injury unless you properly recover! Take the time as soon as you feel true pain or injury to recover from it. It will make you stronger!

I had been what I like to call, an Ellipticizer, mostly since last July. During recovery from all of my various sport injuries, it was the least impact-exercise that I could do! After hearing about friends starting to race and giving me encouragement, I randomly decided to run again in July and it felt amazing at first. One month later, I dislocated my kneecap on a short tempo run. I found myself wearing another brace and faced with MRI’s and physical therapy again.

I decided to do therapy on my own that time because I have learned so much from physical therapy, Why not put it to use? I felt like I could get my legs stronger and save the medical bills!  I have been running happily since October and wanted to share with all of you what helps me!

Simply put: I rested listening to my body. I strengthened my knees. I stretched after workouts. I cross-trained.

Here are only a few exercises from my physical therapy. I try to do these daily still, if not, 3 times a week. The best part (and I think everyone will enjoy this) you can do them while reading or even watching TV!

Straight Leg Lift

Start with your legs out in front, the non-lifted leg bent to stabilize.

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Lift your straight leg, keeping it straight and hold it just below the knee of your bent leg for 5 seconds. ( notice the lifted knee cap is flattened)

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Return it to the ground. When you return it to the ground, let it settle slowly, meaning you will see your kneecap release.

Repeat on this leg for a set of 10-15. Start out low and increase repetitions as needed. Repeat with other leg.

Heel Drags

Start with either laying down or propped on elbows, with your legs out in front.

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Drag the heel of your leg toward your butt, keeping the other on the ground.

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You will feel this exercise more in your hamstring ( notice just below my knee but before my hamstring is flexed, this helps the outer and inner knee ligaments/muscles).

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All the way up to your butt ( or as far as you can). Notice my sock coming off- I intentionally kept this photo to emphasize that you keep your heel on the ground the entire time.

Repeat: Bringing leg back to the starting position, repeat same leg and then the other for sets of 10-15

Tense and Hold

This is fairly “easy”

Sit with legs, both straight out in front

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Now tense your quad, as hard as you can.

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Hold it for at least 5 seconds in that tense position. Look at the kneecaps- They flex and straighten as you do this exercise.

Repeat 10 times. Work your way up to 3 sets of 10.

Ankle Alphabet

I write the alphabet with my ankle. Using my toe as a pencil, I lift my leg in the air or just have it out in front of me and I write the imaginary alphabet. Here is a “C ”

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Go through the alphabet on each ankle, or work your way up through all the letters.

Toe Scrunching

You can use a towel under your toes of an object of reference, but scrunch your toes up and hold them there for 5-10 seconds. Repeating ( I do about 20 times).

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IT Band stretches from your hip, across the kneecap, and down towards your shin. Clearly important for running and often causes the most problems due to lack of stretching. I do these AFTER running because static stretches prior to running can cause over-stretching!

IT Band Stretches

You will need some type of structure to hold on to. No worries though, it really could be anything, I use trees outside, benches, a chair, the treadmill arms, a wall.

Stretching Left Side:

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Stretching Left Side: position structure on your right side, holding on to it for support, cross your left foot over your right and stretch left hip out towards the left (away from the bench).

I guess Jack really wanted to be part of this photo, he ran up and stopped just as the photo snapped! He surprised me, hence my silly face.

Stretching Right Side:

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Position the structure on your left (opposite) side. Cross your right leg over your left. Push/Hold onto structure on your left while pushing your right hip out to the right. You should feel this from your hip, across your knee, down through your shin.

I really hope these become helpful tools for you. Happy Exercising, injury-free!


Comments (2)
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Do you still have any pain in your knee. Many people who suffer a dislocation will have patellofemoral pain after the dislocation. Either way I recommend a website called . It is a blog that is creating a conversation for those who suffer from knee pain.
Thanks for the assists! I have a trauma caused by yoga training, and now my knee joint looks really bad. Now I have to stay in bed and entertain myself with TV shows and scrabble (I have to use  scrabble cheat though cause I'm not very good in it:)) I'll definitely give your system a try, thanks a bunch!
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