To Stretch or not to stretch?? As a running coach I often get asked whether or not to stretch before and or after a run and my answer is never short and sweet because there is actually a lot to this. As always this is my opinion and I have developed my thoughts and feelings after years and years of running and much necessary research.
First of all there are many different forms of stretching so I will explain the differences and what may or may not be good before and after a run. Let’s start with before a run. Before a run I would never suggest doing static stretching, where we hold a stretch in one position for 30 seconds, on cold muscles. This is definitely asking for injury to follow. What I would suggest is warming up the muscles first with a sufficient warm up and by sufficient I mean about a 10 minute light jog at 50% before you do anything else. Within this warm up I would include something called dynamic stretches, such as high knees, butt kickers, karaoke, side shuffle and skipping. Then when the muscles are warm following with some static stretches, such as a calf stretch, quadricep stretch, hamstring and glute. Warming up the muscles first with a sufficient warm up is key! Then following with specific stretches for your run is important as well. Don’t just tackle your run with no warm up and no stretching, that is definitely not a habit you want to create.
Now for after your run. After your run I recommend static stretching and take your time here! I would repeat the stretches that you started with holding each one for 30 seconds. Dynamic stretches are unnecessary here. It is important to keep all stretches pertinent to your run so you want to both warm up and cool down with stretches that are specific to the muscles you use while running, and don’t forget your upper body, we use these muscles while running too! Don’t let them feel neglected here, they are just as much a part of your run as your lower body muscles.
Don’t leave out a proper warm up and cool down to save time. If you want to run for life you must make the time to prepare the body for what you are asking it to do. Let me add something here, while stretching is key both before and after a run, the true key here is your overall flexibility as a runner. If we are tight we are prone to injury down the line so the true advice here is overall flexibility training where you stretch and foam roll on a consistent basis to become a more flexible runner, that is the most important. This flexibility can also be achieved through full body cross training that involves only one’s body weight. This cross-training is also key to becoming a more flexible runner and therefore a safer runner that is able to predict and ultimately prevent injury.
So, warm up with a light jog and dynamic stretches. Follow with static stretches that are specific to the run that lies ahead. Cool down with the same static stretches. Most of all, work on flexibility training with a consistent stretching schedule that involves body weight cross training. Always listen to your body and do what feels right for you. Follow the steps necessary to prevent injury, but if you do get injured stop and listen, don’t push it! Take some time off and consult your running coach to figure out why it happened and how to ultimately recover so that you can run again because no one wants to be around a runner who is not able to run They get langry, lazy angry
Until next time,
All the best in your stretching,