Marathon Training Part 2: Start With a Stretch

By Chuck Finder 

This is the second in a three-part series about training for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

The 100 runners in attendance all arose from their seats and commenced stretching.

Ron DeAngelo, ATC, had that effect on them.

He was showing the folks Saturday at the first of three UPMC Sports Medicine free seminars for the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon the importance of three-dimensional movement as opposed to static stretching. In short, DeAngelo, the director of Sports Performance Training at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, told the crowd at UPMC Montefiore that you run in a (relatively) straight line, but your muscles move in various directions.

“We are three-dimensional beings,” DeAngelo noted.

So he stressed a proper pre-run preparation called a dynamic warm-up, rather than trying to run a mile or two to get the body into gear.  Lengthening the tissue and getting into run condition is a far better way to break into your usual pace for each workout.

Without such stretching, “You’re going to wear wrong,” DeAngelo said. “It throws your alignment off. Sometimes, that doesn’t show up until Mile 10 or 12 or 18.

Ron DeAngelo, ATC, far left.
“We want you to do a dynamic stretch to get all the muscles to their optimal length. When you do that, you’ll have an optimal run.,” he said. 

DeAngelo, who works with athletes from youths to pros, got the runners up and dynamically warming up. He exhibited how gravity, ground reaction and momentum can be used to an athlete’s advantage. By combining movement with stretching, it lengthens your thigh, hamstring, calf, posterior and hip muscles, and more.
He depicted such exercises as the Captain Morgan stretch, which assumes the position of a popular advertisement but stretches a variety of runner-specific muscles when performed properly

Among DeAngelo’s suggested dynamic warm-up exercises are: the inchworm, where you start in the push-up position and inch toes forward on one foot, then the other; the spider, a variation on the inchworm where one leg is stretched back and the other bent while the fingers on one hand and then the other pull the body forward;  the airplane, where the athlete leans forward and lifts one leg back while the arms are outstretched, then adding a slight hip rotation to where one outstretched arm nearly touches the ground; and a knee-to-chest stretch that ends with the leg going from the chest to a long lunge.

“You’ll hit the ground running,” after such a regimen, DeAngelo said. “You’re ready to rock ‘n roll.”