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Ask yourself: Do I take time to properly stretch before and after I run? If your answer is no, don’t worry. You are not alone. A lot of runners would answer no as well. From not having enough time to thinking it’s not that important, there are a number of reasons why stretching is somehow overlooked. This only proves that runners need to be more informed on why they should stretch and how.
Most runners are not aware of the wonders that stretching could do to them. There are actually a lot of benefits when you decide to stretch before and after you run. When stretched before running, muscle resistance reduces as well as it improves blood circulation. This is mostly applicable for those who run in the morning. After waking up, your muscles will feel tight as they have rested for a long time. You’ll need to loosen the muscles up as you build up your blood flow. When the blood circulation is all primed up, your muscles would be warmed up and ready as well. This will certainly lead to a better athletic performance. In other words, you’ll feel better when you run. You’ll avoid different running injuries this way.
After the run, stretching is equally important. This is done to prevent the build up of lactic acid in your muscles. The risk of injury significantly increases when there is a build up of lactic acid. Stretching also relaxes the muscles as it helps relieve muscle stress and tension. You’ll also improve your flexibility through proper stretching.
Types of Stretching
There’s a number of stretching techniques out there for us runners, in this post we’ll discuss the four most important ones:
This is the type of stretching that everyone is familiar with. Basically, you just have to hold one stretch position for a certain amount of time. The main thing to consider is that there are no extra or rapid movements. Hold it in place firmly and never bounce. You should feel the muscle being stretched and not the joints. Feel the pull but never stretch to the point that it hurts. Static stretches are done for 20 up to 50 seconds. This is very effective after your running session.
Now this is the exact opposite of static stretching. Ballistic stretching involves bouncing and rapid movements. It also helps relax different muscle groups to prepare them for further activity. Be warned though, because this type of stretch can cause injuries when too much effort is exerted. This is more suited for the experienced runners. Ballistic stretching can be done from 20 – 50 seconds as well.
This sounds similar to static stretching doesn’t it? Actually, the idea is the same. You’ll still hold a passive stretch for a certain amount of time. The only difference is that you have a stretching partner that will help you execute the stretch. Your partner will be the one responsible holding down a specific stretch. You don’t have to put much effort into these kinds of stretches. You just need to stay relaxed as your partner assists you in the stretch. Signal your partner to stop when it starts to hurt. Hold it for 20 – 60 seconds.
Now this sounds like a great way to stretch. Indeed, it is. This type of stretching involves your arms or limbs utilizing the full range of motion. This means that you won’t be holding them in one position but rather continuously moving them in a patter to feel the stretch in different areas. For instance, raising your knees as high as you can while walking at the same time. This type of stretching should be done after a warm up to ensure that the body can move freely.
With all these types of stretches, you can certainly improve your performance and physical condition. Just make sure to do them when appropriate. For instance, do dynamic and ballistic stretching before you run while static and passive stretching after you run.
What to Stretch and How?
Muscles should be warmed up and ready before any running session to avoid possible injury
As a runner, there are specific muscles that work harder than the others. These muscles should be warmed up and ready before any running session to avoid possible injury. They should also be cooled down for the same reasons. The most important muscles to be stretched are the buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, and calf.
This part of the body is very important for a runner simply because it’s being used every step of the way. It’s quite simple to do this, all you have to do is find a wall.
Face the wall and lean towards it as you raise your arms in front of you.
Move one leg forward as you place it close to the wall. Toes are pointing to the wall.
Move your hips forward as you slowly bend your front leg’s knee.
Make sure to keep your heels on the floor as much as you can to feel the calf stretch.
Hold the position. Afterwards, you can bring the front leg behind as you bring the other leg forward.
This calf stretch can prevent injuries like Achilles tendinitis and Achilles tear. It also prevents calf strain which has 3 levels.
The groin is also vital for a runner. The legs are connected to the hips through the groin.
Stand with a wide stance while knees are straight.
Bend one knee and lean on that side.
Feel the groin being stretched as you hold it for 12 – 24 seconds.
Do it on the other side as well.
This stretch is essential to avoid groin strain. A groin strain is a tear or rupture to the adductor muscles.
These muscles are the most tight when it comes to running. You can try doing a sitting stretch in order to fully stretch them.
Sit down on the floor and relax as you straighten both your legs in front of you.
Slowly lean forward towards your toes, but make sure to keep the back straight.
Don’t lean too much when you experience pain. Hold it for 12 – 24 seconds as well.
This stretch will surely prevent contusions, hamstring tendinitis, and hamstring strain. The hamstring strain is also known as a pulled hamstring which is quite common for athletes.
The quadriceps is one of the muscles that are always stretched even in other sports or activities. You are probably familiar with the technique to stretch it since all runners do it.
Stand firmly on the ground as you find your balance, you can stand by a wall.
Raise one foot behind and pull the foot towards your buttocks. You can grab on anything to help you keep your balance.
Hold the position for 12 – 24 seconds. Do the same for the other leg.
This stretch will help you avoid thigh strain, contusion, and patella tendonitis. Thigh strain occurs when the quadriceps are ruptured or inflamed.
The buttocks are as active as the groin when running. That is why it is also important to stretch it fully before and after running. This stretch maybe a little hard for beginners, but they are actually simple. This is also called the gluteal stretch.
Lay down facing the floor similar to a wide push-up position.
Bend a leg upwards towards your stomach and rest it on the floor. The other one remains straight but also on the floor.
Lean forward and feel the stretch.
Hold for 12- 24 seconds. Do for the other leg as well.
This stretch is extremely helpful in preventing buttocks injuries such as piriformis syndrome and myofascial pain. The piriformis is a muscle in the buttocks which can also be affected by myofascial pain.
When stretching, there are some things that you should and should not do. In order to fully benefit from your stretching routine, you have to keep these things in mind:
- Take your time
Do not rush your stretch, it won’t be as effective when you rush a certain stretch.
- Don’t hurt yourself
When you feel pain, stop immediately as you will risk injuring your muscle.
- Don’t bounce unless you’re doing ballistics
All movements, except for ballistic and dynamic stretching should be slow and gradual. Muscles could tear when improperly stretched.
- Remember to breathe deeply throughout the stretch
This can help you relax as you focus on the stretch.
You’re ready now !
After knowing the types of stretches, reasons to stretch, techniques, as well as the basic tips, you’re now ready to hit the road. Just keep the importance of stretching in mind as it will help you stay on top of your game and at the same time prevent injuries. By maintaining optimum conditions through stretching, you can take your running to the next level.