A common “running for beginners” topic is stretching. New runners want to know what kind of stretching routine they should have to stay injury free. I think many of us grew up beginning gym class holding a series of stretches for several seconds each, and many new runners assume they should do the same before their runs. Through research and trial-and-error, running coaches have come up with some general suggestions for stretching for runners–what kind of stretches runners should try and when they should do them.
Stretching for Runners – Why?
Most runners know that they should stretch but they don’t know why. Stretching helps us maintain a proper range of motion while running. Imbalances in the tightness of muscles side-to-side or front-to-back can lead to injuries, so making sure you have even flexibility on each side of the body is key. Stretching also helps to loosen tight muscles, which just feels nice after a good, hard run, and it can help reduce muscle soreness.
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Stretching for Runners – When?
It’s generally suggested that runners do dynamic stretching before a run and static stretching after a run. Dynamic stretching consists of stretching the muscles while the body is in motion, generally pulling the limb through its range of motion. Elite runner Tina Muir published a lovely post on her site detailing her warmup routine, complete with dynamic stretching, which I highly suggest reading.
Static stretching is what most people think of as stretching—holding a stretch for 30 seconds or so. If you choose to stretch after your runs, you should make sure to stretch out all of the major muscle groups that you worked during your run—hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes. Common post-run stretches include forward folds for hamstrings, holding the foot toward the buttock while standing for quads, lowering your heel off a step or curb to stretch the calves, and variations of pigeon pose to stretch the outer hip and glutes. Keep an eye out for my future post with my favorite post-run yoga sequence for a great static stretching routine and more on stretching for runners!
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Runners: are you good about stretching after your runs?
What are some of your favorite stretches for running?