Are you getting in some great stretches for runners after your runs? Or are you stretching before a run?
Which is better? Stretching before or after running?
Since we have already talked about why and how to properly warm up before your runs, I wanted to address here:
Stretching allows the body and muscles that runners are constantly putting under contraction to lengthen and elongate.
The benefits runners can gain from including stretching are:
Most runners tend to stretch either before a run, or after a run.
The biggest reason to limit your stretching before a run is because if you are including static stretching before you run you will be:
Let's now talk about the 2 types of stretches.
Static deals with anything that does not require movement. For example, standing still, sitting or lying still while stretching would be considered static stretching.
Static stretching most often requires you to get into a certain position and hold a stretch without moving.
Dynamic means to be moving.
Therefore, dynamic stretches include movement while you are stretching your muscles.
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.
“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.
Hurray for us!
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 though 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.
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.
Take your arms up and out to the sides and circle them forwards and backwards swimmer style.
This will help keep your upper body loose and free from tightness.
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.
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!
However by neglecting to stretch after a run:
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 Stretch:
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.
Of course there are so many different types of stretches for runners.
Pinterest is a great place to find stretches for runners but you can also find stretching routines on YouTube if you want something guided.
Obviously, after a run is a great time to stretch.
However, if you have a long run that you need to complete, it can be very beneficial to stretch for about 1-2 minutes during your long run.
I like to stretch at least every hour for about 2 minutes when I am completing a long run.
It helps to breath a second wind throughout my body, helps me relax and aids in performance!
I usually will do a variation of the four exercises I just listed (except for the hip opener as I don't relish lying on the road or gravel). Wherever I begin to feel tight or sore is where I will focus on.
In the days following a long run you will often feel very tight and sore.
While this is natural, the best ways to fight this and recover faster are to move! Taking a walk is a great way to release tightness and soreness.
Another option though is to include a stretching session into your recovery day.
A routine such as in the following video would be a great addition.
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 stretches for runners at the end of every run.
Remember, it does not have to be lengthy!
3 to 5 minutes is really a great place to start and even stay at.
It's definitely true in this case that something is better than nothing.
After those 30 days it should come as second nature for you to include it!
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