There are several questions and concerns among runners when it comes to stretching. Some people stretch before running simply because that’s what they’re used to doing before any type of workout. Others never stretch at all and insist that it doesn’t hinder their performance. Some runners swear that stretching after a run is the most beneficial for them. But what does the research say?
According to most health and fitness experts, stretching before and after a run can help you improve flexibility, prevent injury, and boost your performance. The trick is completing the right types of stretches at the ideal times during your workout routine.
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
Generally speaking, there are two main types of stretches: static and dynamic. Static stretches are the kinds of stretches you do while standing still, such as touching your toes, doing a standing lunge, or holding a simple yoga pose. Static stretches can improve flexibility, but they’re most effective if completed once your muscles are warmed up after a workout. Doing static stretches before a workout can cause you to pull a muscle or injure yourself since your muscles are still “cold.”
Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are perfect for pre-workout warmups. These stretches, such as walking lunges and side stretches, allow you to slowly warm up your muscles through gentle movements. Dynamic stretching has been proven to help runners avoid injuries during their routines, and it can often have positive effects on a runner’s overall flexibility. Athletic performance coach, Hannah Schultz, recommends just 8 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to a workout to reap these benefits.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to stretching is that you should never feel pain or discomfort during a stretch. Pushing yourself too hard or rushing through the stretches won’t do you any favors, and you may risk hurting yourself before your run. Take your time, and don’t force yourself to stretch past the point of moderate resistance.
Some people prefer to complete their dynamic stretches after a brief warm-up jog, whereas others like to do these stretches in place of their typical warm-up routine. You may have to experiment a bit to see what works best for you. In any case, these dynamic, pre-workout stretches are a few good options to try before your next run:
- Walking lunges.
- Calf raises.
- Side stretches.
- Hip circles.
- Standing quad stretches.
After a hard run, your muscles may feel sore, tight, or tired. Instead of packing up and heading back home, take a few minutes to take advantage of your loosened muscles to do some easy static stretches. These poses specifically target muscles that can affect a runner’s performance, and they can ease muscle tension or discomfort:
- Calf stretch (using an exercise step or stairs).
- Low lunge.
- Butterfly stretch.
- Hamstring stretch.
Stretch Yourself Further
If you want to see more examples of static or dynamic stretches, check out these videos for step-by-step tutorials and stretching routines: