The Magic Six, Plus Two
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When you run, three things happen to your muscles. Two are bad. The prime movers-the calf, hamstring, and low back muscles-become tight and inflexible. The Antagonists-the shin, quadricep, gluteal, and abdominal muscles-become relatively weak. This creates a strength/flexibility imbalance that must be corrected. The following is what I call the Magic six, Plus two. Remember to stretch slowly and only to the point of tension. 1) Wall Push-Up. This stretches the calf muscles. Stand about 3 feet from the wall. Lean in, with the legs straight and knees locked, feet flat and pointed straight ahead. Counting "one elephant, two elephants…," hold for 10 "elephants." Relax. Then repeat. Do morning and night. 2) Hamstring Stretch. Straighten one leg, and place it, knees locked, first on a footstool. Keep the other leg straight with knee locked. Bring your head toward the knee of the extended leg. Hold for a count of 10 "elephants." Relax. Repeat for 1 minute. Do morning and night, graduating to a toilet seat, then a chair, and finally a table as you improve. 3) Knee Clasp. Lie on the floor. Bring both knees up to your chest. Put your arms around your shins and pull your knees toward your chest. Hold for 10 "elephants." Relax. Repeat for 1 minute. Do morning and night. 4) Chest Push-Up. Lie on the floor. Keep your lower abdomen flat on the floor. With your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders, push up the chest with your arms. Hold for 10 "elephants." Relax. Repeat for 1 minute. Do morning and night. 5) Backward Stretch. Stand straight, and place the palms of your hands against the small of your back. Tighten your buttocks and bend backwards. Hold for 10 "elephants." Relax. Repeat 1 minute. Do this whenever you come to a standing position. 6) Shin Splinter. This is a strengthening exercise. Sit on a table, with your legs hanging over the side. Hang a 3 to 5 pound weight over your toes (a paint can) . Flex your foot at the ankle. Hold for 6 "elephants." Relax. Repeat for 1 minute with each leg. 7) Leg Extension. This is a second strengthening exercise, for your quads. Assume the same position with the weights as for the Shin Splinter. This time, straighten the leg, locking the knee. Hold for 6 "elephants." Relax. Repeat for 1 minute with each leg. 8) Bent Leg Sit-Up. The third strengthening exercise. This must be done correctly. Do not hold or lock the feet into position. The sit-up must not be a thrust but quite gradual, moving one vertebra at a time. Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Tighten your buttocks. Come to a position 30 degrees from the floor. Lie back. Repeat for a count of 20 or until you can't do anymore. Do once daily. If you stretch conscientiously and still have problems, it may be time for some further detective work.