Stretching: Get the Most Out of Your Run
Right before starting a run, workout or race, runners often are seen doing some last minute stretches. The frantic toe touches and heel grabs to loosen up. But the stretching routines we all once learned in gym class are not the best choice.
Dynamic Stretches – Before Running:
Before running, the best stretches to do are “dynamic stretches.” These are motion based stretching routines rather than the more well known static, or stationary, stretches.
Many athletes have been taught to stretch before each workout or competition with the purpose of increasing range of motion and potentially reducing the incidence of injuries. Since the early 1980′s stretching has been promoted by sports medicine professionals. Stretching has been thought to prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Unfortunately, what most people do not know is that isolated static stretching immediately before exercise may impair a person’s strength and power and has no effect on injury prevention.
- FIELDS, M.D. et al. (2007). Should Athletes Stretch before Exercise? Sports Science Exchange, 20
Static stretching actually does little to warm up the muscles prior to running and has been shown to reduce muscular strength. Rather just doing these isolated static stretches, a much better alternative is to do dynamic stretching. There are 4 types of dynamic stretches that are especially beneficial for runners:
- Leg Swings: Stand next to something that you can hold on to for support, and swing your leg forward and backward through the full range of motion to loosen your quads and hamstrings.
- Sideways Leg Swings: Stand facing a wall with both hands against the wall, and swing your leg to each side through the full range of motion to loosen your hip muscles.
- Lunges and Leg Extensions: Step forward into a lunge, and then put your hands on the ground in front of you and extend your leg behind you to stretch your hamstring muscle
- Pushup Butt Kicks: While in a push up position, butt kicks will help loosen up your quads and hip flexors.
Here is a great instructional video demonstrating how to do all of the above dynamic stretches:
Static Stretches – After Running:
Once your run is over, static stretching can help to alleviate aches and pains, reduce tightness, and relax your legs for the next outing. There’s many different stretches to address different muscle groups and ranges of motion. Here is a great guide with many different stretches filled with illustrations and animations:
Special thanks to ABC-of-Fitness for the info!
I hope these different types of stretching will help you to get the most out of your running, and stay injury and pain free!