Fitness

What a year 2020!

By Ian Tait

So, with great dreams and hopes, 2020 was going to be a year to be remembered with all the goals I wanted to achieve. Trying to top 2019 was going to be a tough ask, but hey, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not living…

2020 will always be known for Covid19 and the year the world nearly shut down. To Runners it will always be remembered as the year Garmin was down for 3 days 😊

So, my first challenge for the year was to do a Triathlon, and going to visit my wife in Qatar seemed like the perfect place to do one, nobody to see me thrash, splash and panic swim my way in the ocean, then get onto a bike “Gasp” runners don’t free wheel… and then run how hard could it be. Well, don’t believe anybody when they say the desert does not get cold, I happened to visit during the coldest winter in 20 years. I should have realised there was an omen on the brew…

Race day arrives, I’m ready to race and my hire bike is nowhere to be found. Panic! 20 minutes before the start it arrives with a flat tyre. More Panic! No problem for another bike hire company, they see this and take the wheel of my hire bike and replace it with one of theirs, such awesome customer service. I now go off to the pens and am stressing only for this awesome lady to come to me and says, “Ahh Stella, are you from Durban?” I was wearing my new Stella Club T-Shirt. Relief knows no bounds, she said she’s from Toti but lives in Doha now and will sort my stuff out and took my bike my kit bag and chased me off to start the swim. (2 minutes before the start)

In brief, I get to the doc, and jump into the water, and just about died, 17c. I should have worn the wetsuit. Anyways 850m later, on the 750m swim I get the end and drag my sorry frozen self out of the water. The life savers seemed relieved as I thought they were going to jump in after me a few times… My angel from Toti is waiting for me, to direct me to my bike. I dry off get changed and remembered to put the helmet on, NB don’t forget the helmet, or your race is done. With Meganne cheering on from the side line it was on your bike for 20km.

So, I go as fast as I can, when I say Doha is flat, there is literally no hills, unless it is manmade. I’m in top gear and passing cyclists even some of those on TT Bikes and thinking this is easy. The bike section is done in no time and I think imagine if I could run this fast… I rack the bike, take off the helmet and I hit the road, 5km in the bag! Well, let me tell you a little story, that none of the Triathletes I spoke to for advice told me about. You need to rest your legs before the end of the bike, or they turn to jelly. For the first 3km, someone else’s legs were running for me, don’t know who, but thank you anyway. I was so fast, in those other persons legs, Meganne did not even see me finish.

After the adventure in Qatar, it was back home, to run Loskop and Tour D’ Durban a week later, all carefully coordinated by Craig George, ensuring I’m resting, training following the coach’s orders. Then we heard those dreaded words, “My Fellow South Africans”

Level 5 and the start of garden running, well thank the Lord for Trail Running as this is exactly what it was, round and around and around you would go. 5km is 45 minutes, like what on earth. Anyway this continues, Loskop is cancelled, then Oceans and we stay locked up. So, Debbie Wessels gets a bright idea and challenges me to run 42,2km around my house for her Cape Town Spending money, to donate to a charity of my choice. Mmmm, Ok, let raise some funds for those that are really struggling through these extraordinary times. The big day arrives and I start out and I run, and run, change direction and run, my dog Captain starts running with me but decides after about 5 minutes, this is crazy. I messaged Debbie about three hours into the run just on 20km to say this is madness and she calmly replies, you got this! Seven hours and fifty odd minutes later 479 laps around the house I finish with a swan dive into the pool. Note for future races in 2025, a pool to finish in is a great idea. Total raised for charity R10k!

Eventually Level 4 and Level 3 came to be, and we could venture out the yards and into the streets. Well who know there were so many dog walkers and runners in Glenwood. It was fantastic to see people and the some of those new faces are still at it.

Comrades was still up in the air and then boom cancelled and many a roadie’s heart was broken. That Comrades Dream, gone! Fear not along came Virtual Races and Comrades had a great idea, run, just not the race and run it from anywhere, just stay safe. I must admit, that although it will never compete with the vibe of Comrades, the trot up Botha’s Hill to The Wall and back with all the other runners on the road, was special. 21.1km Comrades, might be a great idea for the future.

I decided it was time to run an international event and what a better race than that of The Hawaii Marathon. So training started in earnest, with the help of the Stella Morning Group, known as the “Early Birds” keeping Stella out of any liabilities with the you know who. Nobody else was going to run, so I mapped out a route, Surf Riders to Umhlanga and back would be along the coast and give a semi feel of the tropical island of Hawaii. Then Alistair Green offered to come and run with Petra as our support on 27km. This was going to be a race with no water tables, time starts and only stops at the end. The day started off overcast and things were looking up, first 10km in an hour, and we work our way to The Pier, a quick photo shot as one does and we turn for home.

By this time Durban decides to show off and the sun comes out blazing. Alistair kept say, on the way back, Petra will be at Caltex in Forest Drive with refreshments, and we could not wait to get there fast enough. A well-deserved 10-minute break change of shirt, food and cold drinks, and it was 15km to go, home stretch. As we all know too well that promenade can be brutal, the last 8km was no hell, but know there was a huge Chocolate Milkshake at the end was the reward. Hawaii Completed 4:42 and change, two very happy Stella runners.

Running it a great fun and running with friends makes it so much more fun. Always find a friend that will be willing to deal with your whinging, has a sense of humour and will encourage you to keeping going.

 Then a friend of mine in Pretoria messaged me to say why don’t we do a trail run in the mountains, seeing that these races are open. We looked and found one in December enough time to trail, only 40km and 1600m of elevation. Pat Freeman told me about Norther Drakensberg Trail last year, that she ran and loved it. #DNT2020 it was going to be.

On Saturday the 5th of December my good friend Jenny Cairns from Irene Running Club started the daunting task of #DNT2020. Knowing that this was an Andrew Booth race, KZN Trail Running, it would be spectacular but tough. Stella was well represented with Shantelle and Brett Walters, Pat Freeman and Margie all taking on the 20km event as well.

The day started off cold, wet and misty, a blessing is disguise as we never really saw what lay ahead of us. Sometimes the mist was so thick, we had to search for the markers to proceed forward. Jenny and I started off nicely, evenly paced, and we banked on 8kph, we should have more than enough in the bag for the 11H30 (6 Hour Cut Off on 25km) Boy were we wrong! We climbed, climbed some more and then climbed again, trying not to walk off the ridge to certain pain and death! Roadies, I’m being dramatic, trail running is the best running to improve your road running, I promise, take it from a runner that could barely break 7 minute a kilometre two years back.

We got to the 25km mark with 30 minutes to spare, time for a break, food at the aid station before taking on Vultures Pass. (460m long, 179m high and 24 minutes of climbing at 38% gradient)

By this time, it was bucketing down with rain but eventually we get to the top and start working our way back to the start. The mist slowly started to lift and the sun game out to reveal the Sterkfontein Dam in all its glory on our left and The Royal Natal Park on our right. The beauty can’t be described in words, not by me anyway.

We found a straggler from Durban Old Boys, and he tagged along for the last 14km that felt like an eternity, we were convinced that we would be stone last, but it was not about where you finished, but finishing the challenge that counts. When the results came out, we were only 5th from last, to a good result none the less 😊 Race Result: 40,5km in a time of 09:36:12 and 1970m of Elevation!

As the year draws to an end, and the uncertainty that the future holds with regards to races next year, I would like to thank all my running friends and supporters for being there for me this year. To all my fellow Stella friends and running friends from elsewhere, my advice is pick something that scares you, set the goal, enter, train and always wear sun screen!

Here’s to 2021.

Road Captain Rants

To say we will never forget 2020 is an understatement! Who would have thought that when the clock struck 00:00 2020, that we would have experienced such a dramatic, upside down passage of time. I do not think anyone can say they were unaffected by “Rona”! To see the whole world literally come to a standstill was eerie and totally surreal.

There were many negative aspects, illness, loss of life, loss of income, morale, and depression to name the obvious. But I think there were a few positives to be taken from it. We all had to dig deep and re-evaluate what our priorities were. To really see that things are not as important as relationships and where our time is spent is important. As a community we had to reach out and help where possible, which is humbling.

Running was altered to the backyard and athletes had to learn to be creative with the minimal space they had. I am not a short distance runner, but suddenly clocking up 5k’s a day was like running a marathon, just to stay sane! The day we were allowed “out of camp” to run between 06.00 and 09.00 was such a social occasion.  To see our running mates again was a stop every few hundred metres just to catch up, recognising everyone under the disguise of a buff/mask and realising how important friendships are. 

Some of the accomplishments people achieved in the virtual world was amazing. Treadmills were abused, and paths created from repetitive laps to achieve half marathons, marathons, Two Oceans and Comrades distances was mind boggling.

Many more folk donned on running kit that perhaps would never have started exercising but because it was now limited, it ignited a spark to keep fit and healthy. Virtual runs allowed us to compete in races that we would never be able to participate in.

We were finally able to open the club in the latter part of the year, and to see the response of dedicated athletes was amazing. Our first time trial and braai was really special. We have seen many folk coming back to the club. Not to be put off by the faster runners, a new group sprung up with the “easy paced” run/walk group starting  15 minutes earlier, following the same planned route in order to not be left behind, has been extremely successful. And to see the progress of many athlete is encouraging.

So a year that stopped in March and started again in October is almost up.

Making it happen!

The lockdown due to the epidemic has caused worldwide havoc triggering everything to come to a grinding halt. Who would have thought a few month’s ago that there would be silence – no working, no socialising, and no sport. Almost like a sci-fi movie, which is quite scary. For sports lovers it was crazy not to watch any live coverage or participate in sport, as event after event was cancelled. Comrades was no exception, and it was heart breaking especially for novices who would have experienced the “Ultimate Human Race” for the first time on the 14th June. Having the virtual Comrades was a good initiative allowing thousands to experience the sensation of being a part of the brand. The shorter options were popular, especially having limited training. But there were those that went the full hog, even though it will not be officially recognised, but “in for a penny, in for a pound”. One such Stella athlete who would have lined up as a novice, did the 90k journey and deserves kudos for a brilliant effort.

Greg Conti, along with his mate Richard Jenkin ran from Glenwood through Berea, Morningside down to the beachfront, and along the promenade and back again, four times over! The journey was completed in under eleven hours to family and friends cheering them home. To do this on your own in a sense, with not experiencing the vibe of spectators lining the route throughout, no Big Five but the same training route four times is quite impressive.

Hats off Greg, this is an amazing achievement and gutsy, you “Dared to Dream” and you did it! Next year you will fly down to Durban and into the stadium with thousands welcoming you home! We salute you.

How to avoid training burnout when training for a race

By Dr. Grant Matkovich 

The start of every new year gives a chance at a new beginning and even a ‘restart’. As runners the new year allows us to set new running goals, whether its new races, longer distances, going for PB’s or refocusing after an injury.

An important part of being able to reach your goal is to take the time out now to plan your training. Divide the months and weeks leading up to your event into phases. With each phase focusing on different parts of your conditioning to get you to race day in peak condition. This will help prevent overtraining. The symptoms of overtraining may include tired and heavy legs, slower running times or even injuries start creeping in.

Here is a basic guideline to help focus your training, so that you can avoid overtraining with the unwanted fatigue and injuries.

Phase one: Preparation Phase

This phase is aimed at easing back into training for 4-12 weeks, this should include easy aerobic conditioning and even a bit of cross training.

Goal of the phase:

To slowly improve your general fitness and being able to run at your comfortable pace.

What can be included:

  1. Easy club runs should be the focus during this period.
  2. Cross training may include cycling or swimming

Phase two: Base Training Phase

This phase is aimed at building a solid fitness base over 8 to 12 weeks. The focus is on slowly increasing your training intensity to develop a decent fitness level and to avoid injuries.

Goal of the phase:

To increase the endurance capacity of your fitness. Meaning that by the end of this phase you should be able to run longer distances at your comfortable pace.

What can be included:

  1. Increase the duration of your runs from your preparation phase, these should still be at a comfortable pace (60 -75% effort)
  2. Consider adding in one additional run per week into your schedule
  3. Occasional hill running, however this should be done at a lower effort to avoid injuries
  4. If you have any technique issues (running up/down hill; stride etc) this is the time to address them

Phase three: Building Phase

For the next 4-8 weeks the focus is on building on your base by increasing intensity and race specific training

Goal of the phase:

To increase your fitness and conditioning to be able to run at your desired race pace, but without the risk of constantly running at your highest levels.

At the peak of this phase you should be at your physiological peak. This is when you will be at maximum intensity of training. Shorter distance runners may be able to hold this peak for longer, however longer distance runners will not be able to. The peak of maximum intensity training should last 2 weeks.

What can be included:

  1. Add some tempo runs, runs which are at a slightly faster pace than your comfortable pace
  2. Fartleks and longer interval runs
  3. Runs on terrain like what you will be racing on
  4. Run that is close to or over your race distance, but at a lower intensity (slower than your race pace)

Phase four: Taper

The aim of the next 1-2 weeks is to allow the body to recover after the intense training whilst still maintaining fitness levels.

Goal of the phase:

To allow the body to recover after training so that you are in optimal condition on race day

What can be included:

Rest! This is a difficult phase as you feel strong and want to run, however you need to fight urges of wanting to train or doubts of feeling undertrained, trust your plan!

Shorter runs at a VERY comfortable pace are important.

Phase Five: Race

Phase Six: Recover

Remember to allow sufficient time to recover after your race. Runners are often back on the road way to soon after a race. Take time off and recover properly.

 

Other tips to avoid burnout when training:

1. Choose one race and make that race your priority

Choose ONE race as your goal and design your training schedule to that race. It is difficult to race many races without facing burnout and fatigue. When training for long distance and Ultra races it is hard to maintain your physiological peak for long periods of time due to the strain training places on your body. Choose one race that is your goal race, and make sure your training ‘peaks’ for that race.

 

2. Know your paces:

This might sound a bit obvious but is so often over-looked by runners. Know your comfortable pace, your tempo pace (Slightly faster) and your race pace (faster).

Likewise, realistically the pace of your club run, 10km, 21km and 42km pace can’t all be the same. Get to know what your comfortable pace is for each distance. When training allocate paces to your runs, irrespective of the distance you are running.

Race paces should be done very infrequently (Time trials etc). Tempo paces can be done more frequently. Allocate comfortable pace runs often, to allow your legs to recover especially a run after a hard run or hill session.

If you run every run at your fastest pace you will pick up injuries, varying your pace (to slower paces) allows your body to recover whilst still running!

 

3. Training runs are training runs:

Take training runs easy. Stop for water, chat, regroup. Its about time on your legs. Often runners use road races as training runs, which they plan to run slower. This is difficult as it is easy to get caught up in the atmosphere of the race. The other runners next to you pull you along often faster than you intended. The water table stop you from stopping for water. The crowd support on the side of the road can make you run a bit faster.

This often causes runners to run their ‘race’ on a ‘training’ run, because the legs have not recovered from the training run which was faster than planned.

 

4. Listen to your body

During training the body will get tired and feel heavy. There will be days when you will not want to get out of bed. That is normal during the Base training and Building phase of training. With the correct Taper phase, the body will recover. However, if your body is in pain and you have injuries or persistent niggles that are getting worse, you need to listen to your body. That is often a sign of over-training and fatigue. Often backing off on the intensity, modifying your training or a couple of rest days will do the trick in getting you back on track. Not listening to your body, however, might cause you to stop completely!

DIPPING UNDER 3 (Hippo Marathon)

By Siya Ngcobo

Siya

 

It had to happen! The barrier that had been on my mind since the beginning of 2020, I had no choice but to run a Sub 3 marathon. Runners might find it arrogant, but my mind was made up, I was going to go to Richards Bay on the 22nd of February 2020 and run a marathon in under 3 hours, so please allow me to share the best 2 hours and 55 minutes of my running life.

In August 2019 after the Mandela marathon, Gcina and I decided to go run Hippo Marathon in Richards Bay the following year because we had great reviews about the course, flat they said, they lied to us! There is no such thing as a flat marathon especially after 38km where a speed hump feels like a hill.

We left Durban on Friday at 12:04 and were at our destination in no time, collected and whined about not having plastic sachets on route, especially with 34° expected on race day. Oscar was kind enough to show us the route so we could strategize. I find it easier to run when I know what’s coming. At 6:20pm on Friday we did a 4km jog at 4:22/km to stretch our legs and get a feel of the roads and the air in Richards Bay, found the humidity not to be as bad as Durban, and that made me happy.  We got back to the hotel and prepared our drinks, but we had a challenge as no one was there to second us. Oscar was kind enough to find someone to do that job, but that was a disaster as we only met the guy 15 minutes before the start. He could not process the information fast enough to do an efficient job (we only met him at 27km for the first time), he popped up at 38km when I was expecting him at 32km, was already running on grit at that time but that caffeine GU gel was heavenly when I got it at 38km. Now this is how the whole race went.

The gun went and I said “Valar Morghulis”, Game of Thrones fans will know these words very well, but at that moment I was prepared for a battle, the battle of dipping under Sub 3. In racing terms, you only have to maintain 4:15/km for 42.195km to finish in 2:59:59, I had bigger plans than that. I had told myself that every part of the race must be like a training session, and had planned to replicate all my sessions in one race. As soon as the race starts you climb a monster 350m hill, my mind went into Hill repeat mode and I was done with it without any trouble, I knew that the next 13km was flat and undulating with gentle climbs popping up now and again, these gentle climbs became monsters in the second lap. The first half went well, I could stay at 3:55 without breaking a sweat and put the hammer down to 3:45 on gentle downhills. I had expected our guy to be waiting for us with the magic stuff at 12km, but “dololo” he was nowhere to be found, bought time and only took the GU gel I had with me after 15km, felt the magic as I crossed the halfway point at 1:22:50, climbed the 350m hill at 4:05/km and went on cruise mode trying to stay at 4:00/km.

My face lit up when I met our drinks man at 27km, took my second gel and decided to push a bit because I had expected to see him in the next 5km’s, but that was not the case. Went through the 30km mark in 1:59:35, that is when I knew that Sub 3hrs was in the bag, now it was a matter of how low can I dip under the magic figure, Sub 2:50 started to pop in my head but that all vanished when I got to 32km and did not get the most important gel in my race plan, I needed that high caffeine gel to turn me in to running lunatic. I did not know what to do, the temperature was rising with each stride, so I could overheat at any time and stop on the side of the road like an old Toyota (I drive one too). Decided to drop the pace to 4:30-4:35/km as I knew this would get me a 2:55 without much trouble.

Gcina came into this race carrying an injury, and when I started seeing him on the road, I knew he was in trouble, I ran with him for about 150m but he could not keep up, so seeing my running mate battle at a race messed up my head for a while but he told me to go, and that made me feel at ease with the decision of living him behind.

I got to 38km and I started to feel my legs getting heavier with each stride, it was getting hot, above 30° I reckon. I was in the dark hours, now the last 4km were a challenge but I started to think of the people who would be disappointed more than me if I did not get the Sub 3. I thought of my wife to be, my club Stella who have been supporting with kudos on Strava and just general encouragment, my head went back to a track session I did with a mad Surgeon Henry Van Niekerk, surely this last 4km is a breeze compared to that madness we did two weeks before Hippo. I do not remember the last 4km except asking people to move and leave the yellow line to me, I do not know what was that all about, but I just wanted to run in the yellow lane until I finished, and when I entered the finish point I said “Valar Dohaeris,” meaning “all men must serve.” I had served a 2:55:17 (2:54:43 official time) on a steaming hot day in Richards Bay, now let the “Chasing Silver” slogan take over in preparation for Comrades. I have dare to dream “Iphupho lam” and hope to achieve it.

Fun at Parkrun

By: Roger Bailey

29983423_10216054104805340_5616207277103332316_o.jpgI suppose racking up 50 Parkruns (which I achieved at North Beach on 14 April 2018) is a minor milestone of a sort and I must admit to a small glow of satisfaction on eventually “earning the T-shirt”.  I now no longer feel like a novice when mixing it with the literally hundreds of runners and walkers who sport 50s or 100s on their running shirts on the promenade on Saturday mornings.

Stella members might have noticed that I have not exactly been a regular at Gillies runs on Saturday mornings over the years; coffee and the newspaper in bed in the morning have long exerted an irresistible pull. But with advancing years making their presence increasingly felt in the shape of steadily slower training paces and race times, it was time for action. So, from April last year Parkrun has filled my need for a regular, short, sharp race to keep my pipes open and heart pumping.

North Beach Parkrun has a lot going for it.  It is probably one of the fastest Parkrun courses anywhere, the promenade is wide, flat and made for racing, and it regularly attracts the largest number of participants; more than 2000 most Saturdays and a worldwide record of over 2500 a few weeks ago.

And it is very well organised – off we go at 08h00 sharp heading south from Suncoast, down the gentle slope past Circus-Circus and on to the hairpin turn-around point at South Beach, then the fun of trying to maintain pace on the return leg, where we old dogs usually make up places and time against the field, then the final sprint for the line at Suncoast.  Of course, one doesn’t have to race – there are plenty of joggers and walkers, lots of family groups, and plenty of dogs taking their owners for a stroll.

After a while it gets in the blood, and most of the regulars turn up most Saturdays.  From Stella, we have Pat Fisher, with well over 200 runs to her name and Pat Freeman with more than 100. Therese Hurly, also with more than 100 runs, usually shows me a clean pair of heels these days and Arthur Zimmerman always ranks highly in his and my age-group category.  And there are dozens of long standing acquaintances from other running clubs, as well as more than a handful of new friends made at Parkrun, all doing our best to bust each other’s guts.  In fact the element of competition is remarkable.

Is it doing me any good?  It must be. And I no longer have any problems getting out of bed early on Saturday mornings.

On Running and Illness

By: Dr Anver Goga

We runners believe we are an invincible lot, immune from ills due to our fitness levels. Unfortunately we are just as prone to illness as everyone else, at times more so.

I am often asked, Doc, I have the `flu`; can I run? Can I sweat it out?

It is important to distinguish whether you actually have a simple cold or the dreaded influenza, which are quite different and caused by different viruses.

The common cold virus, most commonly caused by a group of viruses called Rhinovirus, affects us 3 – 4 times a year, causing an itchy nose, scratchy throat, itchy eyes and the sniffles. If these symptoms are mild and stay above the neck, don’t cause a fever then it is safe to run. You don’t need an antibiotic. Remember the common cold can become complicated with bacterial infections giving rise to sinusitis, ear infections and migrating down to your chest. Headaches, earaches, cough and yellow nasal discharge suggest this necessitating antibiotics and a longer duration of illness – running not allowed.

A completely different kettle of fish is when you have the actual flu virus, influenza virus. This usually comes around once a year, usually in April / May before the Comrades Marathon. The influenza virus affects the entire body; Fever, malaise, and especially for the runners, muscle soreness. The virus affects all muscles and can also affect the heart muscle leading to heart failure. Symptoms are above and below the neck. It is especially dangerous to run with the flu virus as running can further depress your immunity and raise the core temperature of the body facilitating spread of the virus. Running not advised.

So, how do we get these viruses?

We all know that when a symptomatic person sneezes and you are in close proximity, you are likely to inhale the virus. The virus is also spread by touch. An infected person who may be asymptomatic for up to 24hours after catching the virus spreads the virus by touching door knobs, gym equipment, escalator rails at shopping malls, eating utensils and fridge handles. By touching the infected apparatus ourselves we infect ourselves by touching our nose/ eyes.

How do we avoid getting colds and flu?

By frequent hand washing, especially after touching objects; avoiding people with the flu (easier said than done); by keeping your immunity high; avoiding work and domestic stress (again easier said than done), avoid overtraining, changing into dry clothes as soon as possible after a run and avoiding sudden changes in temperature. High dose Vit C, multivitamin supplements, zinc, ecchinacia; have not been shown to reduce the incidence of getting the flu / colds. Taking the flu vaccine at the end of February prevents getting the flu 70% of the time; Advisable to take it. The  vaccine has dead virus particles in it so you cannot get the flu by taking it.

What to take if you have the flu / cold?

Panado; nasal decongestants, together with lots of fluid and rest. Antibiotics are only needed if you develop bacterial infection. Avoid all anti inflammatory medication like Advil; Celebrex; Coxflam; Arcoxia; Aspirin; Mypaid; Voltaren and Myprodol, These decrease the blood supply to the kidneys and affect your stomach lining giving rise to ulcers. Especially avoid all forms of anti inflammatory medication when running races; disastrous complications can occur; especially renal failure.

Recommended time after having the flu to get back into running – at least 2-4 weeks.

To stretch or not to stretch….

by Dr Grant Matkovitch

DrG
Running training, especially when increasing mileage, adds a lot of stress to your muscles.

When a muscle becomes fatigued it becomes shorter. As the shortened muscle gets used over and over it becomes more shortened. Until the muscle becomes so shortened that the runner feels the ‘tight’ muscle, which feels weak, painful and limited in its movement. The muscle may even start cramping.

To stop the effects of tight muscles it is important to stretch as stretching helps lengthen the shortened muscle back to its normal length.

There is a lot of conflicting information about stretching (When to stretch, how to stretch). This has made it confusing on when and how to stretch.

As a specific guideline: Should you stretch?
Yes, it is a good idea to stretch, because as mentioned earlier, after months of training your muscles are very likely fatigued and would benefit from regular stretching, even if you can’t feel the tight muscle yet, they are there!

Which muscles should you stretch?
The best muscles to stretch are the Gluteus muscles (Max, Min and Med) otherwise known as your butt muscles, your hamstrings (back of the thigh), your quadriceps muscle (front of your thigh) and calf muscles.

How should you stretch?
‘Static’ stretches are the best. This means finding the position where you can feel the muscle stretching and holding that position. When you feel the stretch in the muscle it should be a pleasant sensation. It should have that “nice” pain sensation if it’s more than slightly uncomfortable then back off on the amount of stretch.

Unfortunately the idea “no pain, no gain” does not apply with stretching as if it’s too painful you might be aggravating the muscle and causing damage. Do not bounce in the stretch position (known as ballistic stretching) as this can badly damage the muscle!

How long and often should you stretch for?
Keep the stretch position for a recommended 30 seconds. This will help give a chance for the muscle fibres to lengthen. I would suggest introducing stretching of muscles 2/3 times per week. It can be done either in the morning or evening, no time has been shown to be better, so whichever time suits your schedule.

If you are having an issue with a specific muscle and it feels tight, painful or is hampering your running performance, then I would suggest increasing stretching to every day of the painful muscle. If a muscle is sore during a run, then stretch that muscle after the run.

Remember that if a muscle is causing pain and tightness whilst you are running, consider taking 3 mins out of your run/race to stretch the muscle on the side of the road. This might help release the tightness and lead to a more comfortable rest of the run (without the need for painkillers/supplements!).

As an add on to stretching consider putting a heat pack on your muscles whilst stretching or watching TV. The heat will increase blood supply to the muscle which will help flush the muscle of Lactic acid and metabolites that cause the muscle fatigue. It will also help promote healing in the muscle.