The Benefits of Stretching for Runners
There are many benefits of stretching such as an increase in flexibility. If a body does not have good flexibility, one’s movements become slower, more strained and can make you more likely to develop ligament sprains, muscle strains and other injuries. Stretching also helps to improve the body’s circulation. When stretching, there is an increase of blood to the muscles and such an increase of blood can also help a body recover from joint and muscle injuries.
Stretching is also beneficial for balance and coordination. When a body is more flexible, a person is more in balance and is more coordinated in movements and that lessens the risk for a fall. Some may not know it, but stretching also takes away back pain. Muscles that are tight and stiff often bring on lower back pain. Stretching the back muscles lowers back pain and that can be a great relief for those who have chronic back pain.
When Is the Best Time for Runners to Stretch?
The best time for runner to stretch is before an activity such as running or jogging; however, some say stretching for runners should also be done after an exercise. Like any exercise, stretching should begin slowly; like a warm up for any exercise. If stretching is done too quickly, one’s muscles could be pulled and that could cause pain. Getting the blood flowing throughout your body first, will prevent any undue pain or injury. Keep in mind that stretching exercises should not be painful. As you continue your stretching exercises, you will notice more flexibility. In addition, it is important to keep breathing as you exercise because this will relax your body and give you more flexibility. Hold each stretch for about 15-20 seconds so that your muscles loosen and then repeat two to three times.
Do’s and Don’ts for Stretching:
Do relax while you stretch.
If you are tensed up, you will hinder your body from moving, as it should. Relaxing as you stretch will also add more flexibility to your movement.
Do stretch gently.
Carefully and slowly ease your body into a stretch. Once you feel a slight tension in your muscle, hold the position. While stretching, do not bounce. This could overstretch the muscle and cause an injury.
Don’t rush it.
Stretch slowly and hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
Don’t stretch through pain.
Don’t stretch beyond the point where you begin to feel tightness in the muscle. You shouldn’t push through muscle resistance, and never stretch to the point of pain. As you feel less tension, you can increase the stretch a bit more until you feel the same slight pull.
Do stretch both sides.
Don’t just stretch your left calf because you feel tightness on that side. Make sure you’re stretching both sides equally.
It’s a common mistake, but bouncing risks pulling or tearing the muscle you’re trying to stretch. Make sure you stretch your muscles gradually.
Don’t hold your breath.
Stay relaxed and breathe in and out slowly. Make sure you don’t hold your breath. Take deep belly breaths.
Stretches for Runners
Some of the most important body parts for runners to stretch are:
Quadriceps (front of thigh),
Hamstrings (back of thigh),
One stretch for runners is leg swings. While holding on to a solid object, stand on one leg and then swing the other leg forward and back.
Do 20 of these. Next, swing that same leg, side to side, 20 times.
Another good stretch for runners is walking lunges:
Begin by taking a large step forward with your right leg and then bend the knee until your thigh is in line with the floor and your knee is in alignment with your ankle. “Then, push back upward, draw your left foot even with your right and then step forward with the left. Keep your walking lunges fluid, and focus on proper form.”
In addition, another stretch for runners is the Standing Quad. With your legs together, bend your left leg, and then bring your heel toward your behind and then grasp your left foot with your left hand. Press the shoelaces of your shoe into your hand, so that your leg does the stretching instead of your hand.
Keep in mind that the most important areas of your body to stretch are: the front of your thighs, calves, hips, lower back, shoulders, groin and triceps.