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Glutes - Are you standing comfortably? 

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Glutes, buttocks, bum, backside! Call them what you like, but your butt plays a vital part in keeping the whole running process together. Think of your body as car, feet and shoes - tyres and wheels, knees - shock absorbers, hips / glutes / pelvis - chassis, the upper body - passenger. Indeed, just like any car, a weakness in the chassis is likely to cause all sorts of wear and tear down through the shocks and tyres, and be a general danger to your health, a write off is a serious likeliness with a weak chassis! 

Mindful of the fact that the external force is forward ( it is every runners intention to direct their energy in a forward motion! ) any muscles that aren't necessarily positioned in the best way to run forward will create resistance when you run. It will tighten muscles, reduce performance and make you vulnerable to injury. The very first thing we can do to test glute tightness is have you standing up. When standing, take half a dozen steps up in the air to get you balanced on your feet. Are you standing comfortably? At this point take a look down at your feet. Are they pointing forwards? are they angled out? are they pointing in? I'm an advocate believer that how we tend to stand is how we tend to run. If your feet are neutrally positioned pointing forward, this would suggest that you may have good foot positioning when you run. If they are pointing in, this would denote last months spotlight on tight adductors (you can back order a copy if you haven't one laying around). If one or both feet are pointing out, this would suggest that you have tightness in the glute / glutes, (piriformis to be precise!). A 'lateral foot rotation' can be responsible for tight calves, knee pain and also ITband / runners knee. It can also cause your foot to pronate and long term cause bunions.  

Why do we get tight glutes?

How many of your waking hours do you spend sitting down whether in a car or behind a PC? Now that we've clarified that, lets talk about how we are going to stretch them. If you ever done pilates or yoga, you may be familiar with a pigeon stretch. We've taken that idea and put a slight twist to it. Laying in press up position, bring your right knee up towards your elbow and twist your foot in. It is important not to twist your pelvis and loose the stretch. Always keep your knee directly under the elbow. Place your left knee on the ground and and relax your foot behind. When ready, push that rear leg back and stretch your arms forward. This will hit the Right glute a treat. Hold the stretch for 45 seconds to a minute and don't forget to breathe. After that minute, slowly return your body back to press up position and repeat on the other side. 

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The Pigeon stretch is a very effective way of stretching your glutes as it enables you to place your body weight into it. Do understand that it may not suit everyone, especially if you have any knee condition. If it feels uncomfortable or you are in any doubt... leave it out. Theres always other ways to stretch.  

A note about stretching

The benefits of stretching is not going to happen over night, nor bring you much change in performance unless you frequently commit to it. Think about how much time we spend sitting down, now think about how much stretching you have to do to counter balance. Stretching should be ideally be performed as frequently as you brush your teeth. Stretch every day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Regardless of contra suggestions that you shouldn't stretch cold, I'm a huge believe that we can trust ourselves to stretch within our means. Never force a stretch, it should be no more than 7 out of 10 in intensity and always bring the stretch in slowly.  

Use these to read further spotlights

Heel Striking
Forefoot running
Minimalist running
Walking lunges
Pelvic instability
Hamstring strengthening
Why stretch
Runners knee ITB
Single leg squats
Glutes, are you standing comfortably?
Squat test
Migrating to a minimalist shoe
Richard Whitehead Paralympic 200m
Medial Shin Splints
The cumulative effect
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