Fitness determines the quality and the capacity of every runner and your fitness is determined by some factors which include diet, lifestyle, and general routines. Certain routines and rituals will help every runner to get the best of his/her body, and one of them is stretching, so I have put together for you this article Best Stretches For Runners.
Running is obviously a challenging exercise which requires dedication and commitment to the care of your body. Running requires that certain crucial muscles are prepared before you break into a run and how you maintain these muscles will determine your experience as an athlete.
The main benefit of stretching is to maximise the potential of the muscles that are involved in the running exercise. The best stretches for runners also help to improve the reaction time of a runner and the starting pace for racing.
WHY STRETCHING IS SO IMPORTANT
The truth is that running has a stiffening effect on your legs. As you run, you naturally flex your muscles and all the tendons and ligaments, if this happens suddenly, you run the risk of mild to severe injuries due to sudden wears and tears. You need to stretch a bit before and after a run so your muscles can build momentum before a run and can gradually relax after a run.
It is easier to adhere to stretching before a race, but it is not that easy with an after-race stretch. As a matter of fact, your stretch before a run and the one after a run are equally important. The temptation to just sit down and relax is so strong especially if you just had a relatively long run, but if you just get off your feet like that, you may end up stiffening your muscles too early and run the risk of muscular injuries the next time you try to start again.
The standard recovery procedure is to get you re hydrated as fast as possible and to make you do a few stretches that are healthy and efficient for your body. Your stretch will help you maintain strong tone, curb excessive stiffness and maintain elasticity of the muscles. After-race stretches are a bit different and more static than those before a run. Before a run, you take small strides and reps and increase it till you get the muscles ready for the run and increase your heart rate (dynamic stretch);, after the run, however, you are supposed to reduce the reps and intensity gradually until you cool it off completely (static stretch). You hold each static stretch for approximately 15 seconds.
STATIC STRETCHES VS. DYNAMIC STRETCHES
Most research in the field of strength and conditioning prefer dynamic stretches to the static ones; this is because dynamic stretches are much more like running than the static ones that only involve staying still and holding a part of your body to stretch. When you do dynamic stretches, it has a psychological edge over the static stretches because it gives you a feeling of movement already. Coach Hannah Schultz once said, “I prefer dynamic stretching in general to static stretching because it resembles movement and I love to move”.
TYPES OF STRETCHES
Based on different researchers, various types of stretches can be used by a runner and the choice will depend on the individual and the types of running being done. For the best stretches for runners, the rule is that you choose the simplest routines that will give you the kind of results that you are expecting.
You need to stretch before running because it has a way of warming up the muscles for action. It is like waking them up before they are required for the real deal. Pre running stretching is done before you take on the track and it helps to reduce frictions and improves stride with ease. Post-running stretching is one which helps you get off the track and pull out all the muscles that have become tense due to running.
A word of caution here, you need to be careful not to stretch too much as it can lead to zapping of energy even before you start the race. Take note of your stretching routine and identify any of them that make you tired before the race and eliminate it immediately.
Here are the most widely accepted types of the best stretch for runners:
1. Hamstring Stretch
If you can keep your hamstrings loose and flexible, you will enjoy your running better. Any unnecessary strain on your hamstrings can be very painful and end your days earlier than planned.
How to do it:
The hamstring stretch is more like you are sitting on a chair, but the chair is not there. It involves bending your right knee and lowering yourself into a stretch position on an outstretched left leg. You are supposed to repeat while interchanging the legs.
2. Calf Stretch
The calf is one of the most important muscles for every runner, and you want it to be warm before you set on even the simplest of paces. Otherwise called the gastrocnemius muscle, your calf muscles are like your accelerator and your break when it comes to running, it takes most of the pressure of running.
One of the best calf stretches involves that you stretch your left leg back while you flex your right knee, as if you want to start a sprint, move your hands forward and touch your right toes, you will be stretching your left calf this way. Repeat the same while alternating the legs.
3. Glute and Piriformis Stretch
Your gluteal muscles play a significant role in your ability to propel yourself and to maintain proper flexing tension when you are moving and especially when you are moving very fast. You need to get them warmed up before you initiate movement.
How to do it:
This will involve lowering yourself into a squat with your left ankle placed on your right knee. You may need to hold onto something for balance while you do this. You repeat this on the other leg too. This is one of the best stretches for runners.
4. Chest Stretch
Most runners do not think much about their upper bodies and often neglect it when it comes to fitness training. Chest exercises are not about trying to impress people; it is more about making your fitness complete.
How to do it:
You stretch your chest by standing with your feet apart and with your hands right laced alternately behind your back. You will try to bring your shoulders together while drawing your elbows as far apart as possible.
5. KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
You may be keeping a day job that doesn’t allow you to move around very well and that has made your hip flexor muscles to tighten up. You may need to give them a good stretch before you go ahead to take any form of running.
How to do it:
Your front knees should be aligned with your toes and should be kept at about an angle of 90 degrees. The second leg should be straightened to the back such that you will feel the pressure on the front of the thigh of the stretched leg. Your arms should be raised above your head. Go into a motion of bringing your hands down and shifting forward and backward intermittently. You may repeat five times before doing it on the second leg.
TIPS ON EFFECTIVE STRETCHING
The length of your stretch depends primarily on you as an individual; you stretch gently until your muscles feel ready for the race or until you can calm gently enough to avoid any complications.
If you are just recovering from an injury, it is important not to stretch until you have confirmed with your trainer or physiologist, so you will not tamper with your recovery process and get yourself into more problems. Also, if you do not know what type and routines of stretching is good for you, it will be good that you seek the advice of professionals, so you will not fall on the wrong side of nature as you take the best stretches for runners.
Targeted stretching (being intentional about the part of your body you need to stretch) can go a long way to improve the progress of recovery in some cases of muscular injury while it can also help boost the chances of preventing a re occurrence in the nearest future.
It is better to stretch your muscles before a warm up; this is very important as it prepares your muscles for exercise. The routine that is recommended by coaches is as follows:
- Dynamic stretches
- Warm up
- Cool down
- Static stretches
Overall, you do not need to get confused over the role and the risk of stretching as a runner. Experience will soon teach you that if you know how to do active stretching, it will bring you immense benefits. Do not let research and other conspiracy theories take the joy out of your running and what you need to do to keep yourself on the track.
What Type of stretches do you like to do please leave a comment below and more information on warm ups please click on the link Running Warm Up Exercises