Ask one runner and he’ll tell you that it’s important to stretch before running, ask another and she’ll tell you it’s better to stretch after you run, when your muscles are warmed up and more pliable. So, who’s right? Actually, they both are. It’s important to stretch before and after running and for different reasons. Stretching before gives your muscles a chance to get ready for the coming exertion and stretching after helps them cool down and synthesize the muscle improvement that running provides.
Stretching before running is a little different than stretching after running. You need to warm your muscles up a bit before stretching by running in place for about sixty seconds. Even then, before running, stretches should be milder than after running stretches. Be gentle with your muscles, remember you are only trying to “wake them up” and get them prepared for running. However, you should never try to push through resistance or pain whether stretching before or after running.
While opinions vary on what the best stretches actually are, here is a list of those stretches that most experienced runners consider to be the best.
- Wall Pushups, there are a number of wall pushups that you can do and these different exercises are intended to stretch different muscle groups. There are wall pushups for stretching calves, shoulders, hips, lower back and legs. You should do a combination of wall pushups before and after running.
- The heel to buttock is self-explanatory. Place one hand on a wall and raise and grasp one foot and bring it as close as comfortably possible to the buttock. Then switch and alternate with the other foot. This will stretch your quadriceps.
- One of the more colorfully named exercises is the Back Scratch. This is done by crossing your arms, grasping your elbows and gently pushing up over your head until your hands are in a position to reach down and scratch your back.
- The Hamstring and Back Stretch is a simple exercise where you lie on your back, bring your knees up to your chest and hug your legs for about thirty seconds.
- In the Groin Stretch, sit down and put the bottoms of your feet together, then lean forward with your elbows on your knees and gently push your knees toward the ground.
Aside from the normal running stretches, a moderate yoga program is also a good idea. There are yoga exercises that stretch every muscle involved in running and more.
Stretching before and after running reduces the possibility of injury and can greatly enhance your running experience. Remember that even though stretching might seem tedious and something that is easy to skip for reasons of time and convenience, it is an integral and important part of any running program and is as important as running itself.