Running is a popular way to burn stress and stay in shape. What many people don’t know is that stretching should be an essential part of the running routine. Before and after all workouts, there are several stretching exercises for runners that should be performed. Let’s dig in deeper to find out why we need to stretch and which stretches we should be doing.
What are Stretching Exercises? Why Are They Useful?
If you aren’t used to stretching, you may wonder why it is important. Stretching is an important way to keep the muscles of your body flexible. This will allow you to have the fullest range of motion possible.
Even jogging gives the muscles a good workout. During exercise, your muscles actually shorten and decrease mobility over time. That’s why it is essential to undergo a regular stretching routine.
If you are looking to perform better during your run, a warm up can help you achieve that. Stretching can increase your time running up to two and half minutes longer.
Your muscles will respond better to the stress of exercise after they’ve been warmed up. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes before and after exercise. Then you can maintain optimum flexibility and range of motion.
Stretching Before or After a Workout
Dynamic stretches are the best for you before a workout. These are the stretches that keep you moving instead of holding one position. Make sure you are using active movements that will mimic your workout. Starting with some hip circles, butt kicks or walking lunges prior to a workout is going to activate the proper muscle groups. It also allows you to receive a small, cardio warm-up before you go running.
When you are finished running, it is a great time to use those static stretches. This will help to bring your heart rate back down. It also aids in giving those muscles you’ve used a break with a gentle stretching. Whenever in doubt about what stretches you should do, you can always consult with a personal trainer who can help you determine what is best for your workout.
Stretching for Runners
Stretching as a runner is critical to your overall well-being. The sport of running is a demanding activity. It requires a repeated motion to propel the body forward. Even if you’re running on a treadmill to ensure the protection of your muscles, you must work hard to avoid all injuries.
That’s where stretching comes in.
While running, the impact of the foot with the ground is going to cause the muscles to push together. Imagine a rubber band being wound several times. Once it gets wound too tight, what is it going to do?
This is the same concept with the foot and other muscles that are being worked over and over again. Stretching is the key to protecting them, especially during running. The pre-stretch is going to lengthen those muscles. It can also help you achieve a wider running stride and longer endurance.
The post-stretch will lengthen those muscles that have become wound too tight. It will aid in getting rid of the knots that are common in a runner’s muscles.
Stretching Exercises for the Legs
The legs are the largest part of the body that gets worked during running. That’s why it is crucial to ensure they’ve been properly stretched.
The quadriceps cover the majority of your thighs; front and sides. This muscle group gets worked the hardest if you are running on hills.
- Start by standing upright and gently pull your leg behind you with your hand.
- Tuck your pelvis in and pull the shin close to your thigh.
- To protect the knee joint, keep the knee pointed downward at all times.
- Hold this for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
If you find yourself getting off balance, use a chair.
Your hamstrings are the back part of your thigh and are another important part of stretching.
- Sit on the ground and extend one leg out.
- Move the opposite foot toward the inner thigh until it touches the top of the leg.
- Lean forward slightly.
- Be sure to bend, but don’t round your back.
- Reach for the toes and hold for 30 seconds.
- Then, repeat on the other side.
The calf muscles run the back of your lower leg and are important to stretch, especially after running. When you don’t care for your calf muscles, you are more prone to soreness and injury.
- Place your right foot behind the left foot while standing.
- Bend your left leg forward and keep your right leg straight. Do not bend the right knee, but keep it firmly planted on the ground with the toes pointing forward.
- Straighten up the back and hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Stretching Exercises for the Upper Body
Don’t neglect your upper body! It is used to help propel yourself forward during running and surely gets a workout of its own.
The shoulders are prone to many injuries. They benefit from stretching before and after a workout.
- Stand up straight with your hips facing forward. Your legs should be hip-width apart.
- Place one arm across the upper body. Keep your palm facing your chest and place the opposite hand on your elbow.
- Gently push your elbow towards your chest. You should feel a comfortable stretch. Hold that for 15 seconds.
- Repeat with the other side.
Many people neglect the back, even though it is another critical area to stretch.
- Stand straight with your hips facing forward. Your legs should be hip-width apart.
- Extend your arms out front at shoulder level.
- Interlace your fingers with your palms facing outward.
- Stretch your arms forward and hold for 15 seconds.
Finally, be sure to take a minute to focus your attention on the chest muscles.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lace your fingers behind your head by resting them on your neck.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and extend your elbows out to your side and back as you open your chest into a stretch.
Enjoy your time running, but do it safely. Protect your precious muscles by stretching before and after your regular run. You’ll gain better performance and protect yourself from painful injuries in the future.
About The Author:
Luke Anderson likes to write for Sport and Health sections at ASmarterTip.com. One of the most fulfilling sport and activity for him is running. He grew up running. Whether you’re a pro or just a newbie runner you’ll find his tips incredibly beneficial!