WHY IS STRETCHING IMPORTANT FOR RUNNERS?
When you exercise, your muscles shorten and tighten up. Over time, stiff muscles become weak and more resistant to exercise. They lose their flexibility and as a result, your joints suffer and your risk of injury goes up. Stretching after running helps to relieve stiff muscles and keeps them flexible, strong and healthy.
If the end of your run is the end of your workout, you're missing out on a crucial way to improve your flexibility and performance. Adding a few post-run stretches to your workout is a great way to reduce injury while training and prevent lactic acid from building up in your muscles.
Stretching warms and elongates your muscles, increasing the range of motion in your body for safe and comfortable exercise. It also helps to sharpen your mental focus. This can strengthen your body-mind connection and improve your overall running performance.
Stretching can keep your muscles loose and increase the amount of blood flowing to them — which is essential in recovering from your training. Post-run stretches strengthen your flexibility and joint mobility, leading to long, lean, healthy muscles making it the ideal time to stretch.
WHEN AND HOW TO STRETCH:
One of the great things about adding a stretching routine is that it doesn't have to take a lot of time; even taking just five minutes to stretch at the end of a run can make a noticeable difference in your recovery.
After a run, your stretching routine should target the areas affected by your run — which is basically your entire body. While people often focus on their legs, feet, and lower back, it's important to include your neck, arms, and abs, which also play a role in your training.
TIPS FOR STRETCHING AFTER RUNNING:
- Never stretch a cold muscle – you need to get your blood flowing first
- Hold stretches for 30 seconds – this helps to get the most out of them, no more than 30 seconds as this is the optimum time needed for the most benefit
- Don’t hurt yourself – stretching should loosen up your muscles, not be painful
- Stay still when you stretch – bouncing or hopping can cause injury
- Stretch after a shower if your muscles are tight – the hot water can warm the muscle up and help relax muscles after a run