Stretching for Runners - 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Muscles Before and After a Run
Most runners need to run to feel normal, happy and healthy. So, it makes sense to do what you can to increase the longevity of your ability to run, because one day you won’t be able to anymore. If you commit to stretching regularly, you will improve your flexibility over time and reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
Stretching will also help with endurance, as it improves circulation, ensuring oxygen reaches your working muscles. However, knowing how and when to stretch is vital to improving your runs, protecting your muscles and joints and improving overall health.
Before You Run:
Don’t Static Stretch Before You Run
Most of us grew up playing soccer, football or basketball and huddling in a group on the floor to stretch before each session. Youth may have saved us then, but it can be damaging to your muscles to static stretch before having warmed up properly.
Dynamic stretching resembles real movement more than static stretching does, which makes it much better for your body pre-workout. It’s a great way warm your muscles up and improve your range of motion before exercise. Try 10 to 15 minutes of dynamic stretches to warm your muscles before running, including movements such as straight-leg lateral swings, and alternating side lunges.
Walking Lunges opening up your major leg muscles and hip flexors, which are prone to tightening when running. They also simulate the forward motion of running which make them particularly useful as a running warm-up.
Your calves work hard during a run, stretching and contracting every time your foot hits and leaves the ground. Calf raises can be done on a set of stairs or on the kerbside using both legs or a single leg at a time. Don’t overdo it, but warming up your calves will help prevent them cramping or seizing up during your run.
After You Run:
It’s important to have a post-workout stretching routine. One of the worst things you can do after a run is come home and flop on the couch. Stretch your full body, not just the hamstrings and quadriceps. Be sure to also stretch out your hip-flexors, lower back, glutes, calves and upper body too.
Some people don’t agree with foam rolling and insist it is more a waste of time than anything, or can damage your muscles. But if you can’t afford regular physio or massage appointments, then a roller is a pretty good way to stimulate blood flow, relax and lengthen the muscles.
Rolling can potentially reduce soreness if done daily, increase range of motion and delay muscle soreness after a workout. Once you get comfortable with using the foam roller, you can also throw in some trigger ball sessions to really get at those niggling knots and to help loosen up your ITB, glutes and lower back.
There are a variety of stretches and ways to improve your muscle elasticity and joint mobility and range of motion. It’s important to listen to your body and realise what areas may need work on and improved flexibility, and also to know when to stop. Daily stretching is going to help in keeping you running for longer, and for most runners that is a priority. So ensure that you make the time to incorporate a pre and post-workout warmup and stretching routine into your workouts to keep you running smoother, faster, stronger and pain free for longer.