At almost all running races of any distance, one can see the stereotypical runner statically stretching their hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, abs, arms, basically anything that they can get their hands on to stretch. Do not be that stereotypical runner!
After talking about why and how to properly warm up before your runs I wanted to address the 2 different kinds of stretching - dynamic & static. Specifically, when you should include them in your running routine and some examples of each.
Why is this important?
Because if you are including static stretching before you run you are increasing your risk of injury, hindering how fast you will be able to run during your workout, and reducing your performance ability!
What do we mean by “static” stretching?
Static deals with anything that does not require movement so standing still, sitting or lying still while stretching would be considered static stretching.
Dynamic means to be moving, and so dynamic stretches include movement while you are getting a stretch in.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association, along with countless other research journals state that static stretching before partaking in an endurance run (or any exercise for that matter) is not effective and can in fact be detrimental to performance.
Their stance: “Static stretching has also been shown to lead to a decrease in force production, power performance, running speed, reaction and movement time, and strength endurance.”
The good news is that dynamic stretching does not elicit the same effects as static stretching and in fact has been shown to increase running performance. Yay for us runners!
To maximize the effects you should include about 8-12 minutes of dynamic stretching and save the static stretching for after your run!
Remember you do not have to include dynamic stretching into your warm up. You might just want to do a slow jog for a couple of minutes before you actually start your actual run.
Here are some ideas for when you want to mix things up a bit.
Here are 4 different dynamic stretches that will help to loosen and warm-up your muscles before a run.
Toe touches - don't just hang out at your toes, bring one arm at a time down to the opposite foot as far as possible and immediately come back up and repeat with the opposite arm and foot.
Arm Circles - take your arms up and out to the sides and circle them forwards and backwards swimmer style. This will help keep your
Butt Kicks - just like the name implies bring your heels one at a time up and try to kick yourself in the bum. This one will really get those hamstrings in the back of your leg fired up and ready to go.
Walking Lunges - bring yourself down into lunge position and walk a couple of paces.
If you really feel the need to do any static stretches before a run then only do so after you have done some dynamic stretches!
I get that it can be really easy to just skip the stretching after you run but that is really going to catch up with you!
You will be more susceptible to injury, you will lose flexibility, you will reduce your potential of recovering at faster rates after a long run, and you can increase the amount of soreness that you feel after running.
No matter how long you have been a runner, start now to make it a habit to include stretching into your routine.
Maybe begin by committing to stretching after at least 1 day a week. Then slowly increase that by 1 day each week.
It doesn't have to be long either. 3-5 minutes can work wonders and allow you to see a difference!
Make it a habit to include these 4 stretches that I give to my runners in the 6 Week Half Marathon Challenge.
These four stretches really target all of those major muscles that get used when you run and will make you feel more relaxed and will help keep you flexible!
Quads + IT Band Stretch: Grab your foot from behind and touch your heel to your bottom. Hold on to something for extra support.
Calf Stretches for Runners: Spread legs out in split stance shoulder width apart. Keep back leg straight and feel the stretch. Keep the weight on your front leg.
Hip Opener: Lie on ground and cross one leg in front of the other. Grab and pull uncrossed leg in towards your chest. Hold and then switch legs.
Inner Thigh Stretches for Runners: Spread feet wide and drop hands down to one foot. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides. Your weight should be on the side that your hands are positioned.
Your Goal: If you aren't in the habit of stretching at the end of your run then make that your goal for 1 month to include some stretching at the end of every run. After those 30ish days it should come as second nature for you to include it!