• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Stretches, preparations for a successful run

February 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
It's not uncommon at the first of the year for many to start a running program. It's great for weight loss and fitness if you practice good form and stretching. But if not, you might experience some of problems."The first injury is Iliotibial Band Syndrome, which is pain along the side of the knee," said Dr. Gino Pucino, chiropractor at Liddy Health Works. "I see shin splints, I see Achilles tendonitis, and plantar fasciitis, which is a sharp pain at the bottom of the foot."

Pucino says these symptoms are often caused by a lack of preparation, so get to an athletic shoe store with running experts to find the right shoe for you, then familiarize yourself with proper stretch techniques.

"Each stretch should be one to two minutes long and held," said Pucino.

A quick 10-second hold won't cut it, so allow time to create some degree of flexibility.

Out of the four major injuries, Pucino says that the calf muscle is the most important muscle for a runner to stretch.

"It is the muscle that propels you forward, propels your ankle, in order to get the stride of your run," said Pucino.

A tight calf is often responsible for Achilles tendonitis, shin splints and plantar fasciitis, so try this stretch: Take the opposite foot forward with bent knee, while the back leg and foot press down with pressure in the heel, with hips pressing forward.

Or a wall calf stretch demonstrated by Pucino: "You're going to move your hip closer to the wall and stretch out the calf (with the foot that is in front against the wall)."

The IT (iliotibial) band, which runs outside the hip and runs down the knee, is released by taking one foot behind the other with arm overhead, leaning away from the hip area. Or, lie on a bench and drop the top leg slightly lower than the bottom, stretching the same area.

For shin splints, draw the alphabet with your toes to really warm up the shins.

Then take baby steps in terms of distance.

"You don't just jump into it," said Pucino. "You start with a mile, you work your way up to two miles, you work your way up to four miles."