There is some controversy as to when the best time to stretch is. Some people believe that it is good to stretch before a run and after the warm up. Others prefer to stretch after the run and skip their pre-run stretch. Some stretch both times. In a lot of ways, the right time to stretch will depend on your body.
Basic Stretching Guidelines
It is important to understand that when improperly done, running can cause rather than prevent injury. However, correct stretching technique can increase range of motion and help decrease the likelihood of getting injured. Here are some guidelines that will help you stretch more effectively:
Don’t bounce. Although most people don’t do this anymore, some people still feel the need to bounce when stretching. This is improper form and can lead to injury. Instead, hold your position.
It shouldn’t hurt. Stretching shouldn’t be painful. A good stretch should feel good, not hurt. Hold the stretch at a comfortable level for your body. Listen to what your body is trying to say. Pain is not a good thing.
Hold for a while. Most people do not hold their stretches for long enough. If you break the stretch too soon, you will not reap the benefits of a good stretch. Instead, hold each stretch for at least twenty seconds.
Remember to breathe. It may sound like silly advice, but a lot of people hold their breath when they stretch. Breathe slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. Breathing properly with slow, deep breaths will help you relax and cause you to get deeper into the stretch.
Stretching for Runners
It is a good idea to have someone show you how to stretch properly. Sometimes, good stretching technique cannot be described or obtained from a book or magazine. Remember that stretching can boost performance and increase your range of motion, but only if you do it properly.
Here is a list of the muscle groups you should stretch.
- Calf muscles
Everyone has their own preference as to which stretches work the best. Here is a list of the basics. It is best to seek out someone who can show you these stretches if you do not already know how to do them. Each runner has their own favorite stretches. Try several out until you discover the stretches that work best for you. It is also helpful to perform some basic stretches throughout the day to help increase flexibility.
Gray Rollins is a featured writer for TheRunnersguide.com – a site run by four time All American runner, John Hopple. If you’d like to learn more about running stretches or to get our marathon checklist, please visit his site.