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Many people enjoy running as a way to stay fit and reduce stress. What many runners don’t understand is that stretching should be an integral part of their daily routine. Before exercise and immediately following, all athletes should perform stretching exercises for runners.
Let’s take a closer look at why stretching is important and what the best options for your body are.
Why Stretching Exercises are Useful
For those of you that haven’t been stretching, you might wonder why we feel it is so important. First, stretching is designed to keep your body flexible and your muscles loose. This enables you to achieve a fuller range of motion.
Even when you head out for a light job, your muscles are working out. During this time, the muscles in your body tend to shorten which decreases your mobility. With regular stretching, you counteract this phenomenon.
Performing at your best level is important to most runners. With a proper warm-up routine, you have a better chance of competing at your best. In fact, studies show that stretching increases running times up to two and half minutes.
Even those of you that run on a compact treadmill placed at home, you’ll find the benefits of stretching to be important. Your body’s muscles favorably respond to the stress after warming up.
The biggest perk to stretching is that the process doesn’t need to take long. In a few minutes, you can achieve maximum range of motion and flexibility.
Dynamic Stretching & Static Stretching
Another part of stretching that most people don’t realize is that there are two forms of stretching that should be used for runners. A dynamic stretch mimics the movement you’ll perform. Instead of stretching and holding the position, you’ll want to have active movements.
This is important to do prior to running.
Some good choices include butt kicks, hip circles and walking lunges. This warms up all those muscle groups that are used during a run. In addition, it gets your heart rate pumping in preparation for the cardio that is before you.
After the run is over, you can opt for static stretches. Not only does this decrease the heart rate but it gives your muscles a break.
Running is a sport that requires a strong demand on your body. Stretching is the essential key to protecting your muscles from injury.
Imagine that your foot muscles are like a rubber band that is wound tightly. When that hits the ground repeatedly, what is bound to happen?
That’s right – it will snap.
Any muscle that is worked repeatedly faces this dilemma. The key to protecting them is through proper stretching. In a pre-workout stretch, you lengthen the muscles; like unwinding a rubber band. Then, you achieve longer endurance and a wider stride while running.
The after-workout stretch lengthens the muscles again to reduce the tightness occurring during running. It enables you to rid yourself of those uncomfortable knots.
So, let’s get right into those stretches which will protect your body!
Best Stretching Exercises to do for Your Legs
Your legs are what work the hardest during a run, so you want to pay extra attention to the lower body stretches you perform.
The Active Pigeon stretch targets your gluteal muscle called the Piriformis.
- Start in a typical position for a push-up. Make sure your palms remain aligned beneath your shoulders.
- Put your left knee onto the floor by your shoulder with your left heel placed by your right hip.
- Lower the forearms. Then, bring down the right leg, placing your foot directly on the floor.
- Through this exercise, be sure to keep the chest lifted up while gazing down. For those that are more flexible, you can bring your chest down toward the floor while extending your arms out in front.
- Bring your navel back toward your spine while tightening the pelvic muscles. Take a little extra time to contract the glute muscles.
- Press the ball of your foot to the floor while the right toes curl underneath.
- Bend your knee towards the floor and release the muscles. Perform this stretch five times before switching sides.
This Hamstring Stretch is going to target your hamstring muscles that are heavily used during running.
- Put a folded towel under your head while lying face-up on your floor. Extend your legs while maintaining flexed feet.
- Bend your right knee up to your chest while interlacing your fingers behind the hamstring muscles. Keep your gaze focused on your chest while you chin stays down.
- Tighten up your muscles in the pelvic region and extend the leg back out. Push through your heel and be sure to contract your quads.
- Do this five times before switching legs.
The Split Squat is a great exercise for the calves and quad muscles.
- Stand upright with your feet spread apart hip-width.
- Place your right foot 12 inches in front of you.
- Curling the toes of the left leg, keep your weight equally spread between both of your feet. Place your hands under your ribs with your fingers interlaced. Make sure your shoulders stay away from your ears.
- Tighten your pelvic muscles and tuck under your body. Squeeze together the glutes.
- While bending the knees, feel the stretch occurring in your left quad.
- Press down into the floor and come back up.
- Do this five times before switching legs.
Best Stretching Exercises to do for Your Upper Body
Many runners neglect stretching the upper body, but these muscles are also important. They move you forward while running, so you want to care for them as well.
Before and after running, take a few minutes and run through these movements.
- Tilt your head to one side until you feel it stretch. Hold that for about thirty seconds and then do the same on the other side.
- Grab your elbow and pull your arm towards your chest. Breathe and hold this for thirty seconds before moving onto the other side.
- Clasp your hands together behind your back. Rotate and raise them until the stretch is felt. Hold this for thirty seconds.
- Place your arms out in front of you and rotate your wrists in circles for thirty seconds.
- With your right hand flat on a wall, rotate the entire body to the left. Hold this for thirty seconds and switch sides.
- Place your hands together with the thumbs pointed down. While rounding your shoulders forward, reach in front of you and hold for thirty seconds.
Running is a valuable activity to stay in shape, but it is important to proceed with safety in mind. Keep your muscles safe by performing the proper stretching exercises before and after each run. Not only will your performance increase, but you will protect your body from injury.