By Harvey Leon
Stretching: What Runners Need to Know
Ever wonder what does stretching do and why is it important? Do you stretch before working out? Health experts recommend stretching each major muscle group at least twice a week for 60 seconds. If you exercise regularly, you should do it more often. Stretching helps you stay flexible and prevent injuries. It also prepares your muscles for a challenging workout. By stretching before working out, you’ll move better and relax tense muscles.
What Happens When You Stretch Your Muscles?
Stretching is important for everyone, especially for athletes, runners, and bodybuilders. This basic activity prepares your muscles and joints for the strain that is about to come. It increases your flexibility and strength, improves circulation, and lowers the risk of injury. Regular stretching is just as important as exercise.
This training method involves stretching a specific muscle or tendon in order to increase its flexibility and range of motion. It’s also a good way to relieve cramps and back pain. When practiced regularly, it can help you achieve comfortable muscle tone and improve joint mobility. Compared to other forms of exercise, stretching is a natural activity that occurs instinctively.
Research indicates that stretching exercises can improve athletic performance, relieve muscle stiffness, and increase length and/or flexibility of muscle tissue. They may also increase your range of motion after a single bout of stretching, which helps prevent overuse or acute sports injuries. Many runners claim that stretching reduces soreness and muscle tears.
The Benefits of Stretching For Runners
Running may seem fairly simple, but it’s actually very complex. This sport requires upper body strength and back support as well as cardiovascular endurance and leg strength. Running long distances can put strain on your muscles and cause injuries. Over time, some muscles can become stronger and less flexible. Regular stretching can help prevent and reduce muscle pain, soreness, and loss of flexibility.
The benefits for runners are huge. This activity improves physical performance and keeps you safe. It also reduces muscular tension, increases coordination, and decreases your risk of lower back pain. Other key benefits include:
- Improved balance
- Improved circulation
- Increased neuromuscular coordination
- Lower risk of injury
- Increased movement efficiency
- Enhanced athletic performance
- Improved range of motion
- Greater flexibility
- Reduces muscle soreness
- Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles
- Assists in correct posture
- Relaxes tense muscles
- Relieves stress
- Alleviates back pain
- Prepares the muscles for use
- Helps the muscles stay limber after a workout
- Helps prevents delayed onset muscle soreness
- Increases mobility
Stretching before and after exercise will improve your running performance. This activity should be a key part of your routine, regardless of how fast you run or how fit you are. Stretching after a run helps pull out and lengthen the muscles that have been used during training. Stretching before running helps warm your muscles and get them ready for exercise.
Types of Stretching
There are many stretching techniques, and each has unique benefits. Based on your goals and fitness level, you can try the following:
- Static active
- Static passive
- Self-myofascial release
- Active isolated
Some stretching techniques improve soft tissue extensibility and neural muscular control, while others correct muscle imbalances and postural distortions. Recent studies have found that dynamic stretching is more effective than static stretching. Runners who perform dynamic stretches before a race experience fewer muscle tears and pulls. Examples of dynamic stretches include leg swings, side lunges, knee raises, mountain climbers, and arm swings. This form of stretching involves dynamic movements with the full range of motion through the joint.[adToAppearHere]
Static stretching is beneficial too. This training method involves stretching your muscles while the body is at rest. For example, you can try standing wall stretches, ball stretches, chest stretches, side bends, and calf stretches. While dynamic stretching focuses on challenging and repetitive moves, static stretching is all about relaxing the body part being stretched.
In general, static stretching is recommended post-run, while dynamic stretching works best pre-run. For instance, athletes can perform walking lunges, inchworms, reverse lunges, high knees, and butt kicks before running. As soon as you’re done training, do static stretches such as the pigeon, the quad stretch, or the frog stretch. Other moves recommended to runners include standing calf stretches, kneeling hip flexor and hamstring stretches, wall push-ups, and heel-to-buttock stretches.[adToAppearHere]
A five-minute jog is not enough to prepare you for running. If you want to stay safe and achieve your fullest potential, stretch your muscles properly. Generally, all types of stretching can enhance your performance and prevent injuries. The key is to try different exercises so you can figure out what works best for you.
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