We’ve written a lot over the years about how important stretching is before and after running or any workout. Some recent articles we’ve seen dismiss this step, but we’re firmly convinced that proper stretching not only minimizes potential injuries – everything from toes to neck – but also speeds recovery time.
The idea is very simple: before placing stress on muscles, tendons, and ligaments, they should be warmed up so they can better handle that stress. It is a fact that most injuries occur in the early stages of a workout when muscles and connective tissue are cold. Post-run stretching forces blood again into these tissues to speed the process by which they cool down (a complicated fluid and gas exchange between the tissues and bloodstream).
Sports injuries are not to be taken lightly, as even a minor glitch can sideline you for the season. It’s wiser to protect yourself with these simple stretches than to be sitting on your couch icing your foot or leg for one month… or worse.
Here are the most effective post-run stretches:
**Note that there are a number of ways to perform these stretches, including sitting or lying on your back.
1. Quad Stretch: Standing on one leg, grab your opposite foot and pull it towards the rear of your body. Hold for about ten seconds until you feel tension in the quadricep (front of your thigh). Release and repeat. Keep your knees aligned and your back straight while performing this stretch. If you have balance problems, hold on to a stable object.
2. Calf Stretch: Stand on a step or an object the height of a street curb. Place the toes of one foot on the edge of the object and lower your foot until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Bend both knees to deepen the stretch.
3. Glute Stretch: Cross your ankle just above the opposite knee. Now gently push down on the knee, lowering yourself slowly into a squatting position. If you have balance problems, hold on to a stable object while performing this stretch.
4. Standing Hamstring Stretch: Place your leg straight out in front of you. Bend your opposite knee and press down gently on your thigh. Now extend and lower your hips back as if sitting in an imaginary chair, while keeping your heel grounded.
5. Chest Stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, head and eyes straight ahead. Lace your fingers behind your head, just above your neck. Squeeze your shoulder blades together while bringing your elbows out to the sides and as far back as possible. Hold.
You can see a video of how to perform these stretches on the Runner’s World website