Stretching – To Be or Not To Be!

You are about to start your first run of the day. You put on your favourite music and make sure your shoelaces are perfectly tied. Then suddenly, you realize that you should bend over, touch your toes, and stretch yourself before the run. Why? Perhaps this is what your brain has stored in there, picturing how athletes usually stretch themselves before a sprint. How important is stretching to your runs? When should you stretch? How should you stretch? This blog post will help you find answers to these questions.

Before or After?

The importance of stretching has been debated a lot in recent years. While some experts argue that static stretching does not prevent injuries or improve performance as highlighted in this article, there are many who believe that dynamic stretching can really help you stay injury-free. Dynamic stretching includes moves like walking with high knees and butt kicks and they can help improve range of motion as well as loosen up the muscles. These stretches also help in increasing the heart rate, blood flow and body temperature, making you feel warmed up sooner and more effectively for running. A little stretching after your runs can also be beneficial, especially if you feel like an area is stiff, like the IT bands, quads, hip flexor, hamstrings or the calves. However, bear in mind that you do not need to do any stretches after a run if there is no stiffness. To conclude, there is no right answer here post-run, but but as a rule, you should definitely do dynamic stretching before running. We also found this article on Runners World very useful.

3 Dynamic Stretches you Should Do

If you are planning to run a bit faster, you should definitely do some dynamic stretching to mobilize your muscles and get more blood to the important areas. Here are some of the stretches that guarantee you a better performance on the track or trail:

  1. Activation of Glute and Piriformis. This is necessary for those who suffer from piriformis, IT Band issues and runner’s knee. In this simple stretch, you stand up straight while retaining a good posture and balance. Next, you should bring up your ankle, inverting the foot towards the knee and the waist. You should feel the stretch in the glute and the lateral quad areas. Each of these movements should take about two to three seconds on alternating legs, at a slow walking pace and over a 20-metre distance. Perform 3 sets with walk back recoveries in between. This great dynamic stretch will help mobilize your hips, glutes, lateral quad and lower back.
  2. Hamstring Sweeps. Ideal for those suffering from hamstring tightness, these require runners to take short strides forward, firmly keeping the heels on the ground. The front leg should be kept straight and the back knee is bent, sinking your bottom towards the ground as if you were about to sit on a chair. At this moment that you are keeping your front leg straight, and should sweep your hands down towards the ground, stretching your hamstring. The hamstring sweeps should take two to three seconds over a 20-meter distance on alternating legs and at a slow walking pace. You should aim to do at least 3 sets. This dynamic stretch will help condition your hamstrings, making them flexible in the long term.
  3. Calf Mobilization. This is necessary for those who suffer from calf, plantar fasciitis, shin and Achilles issues and involves a drill of alternating calf raise and lowering. In this dynamic stretch, you place your foot on the ground with the toes and the ball of your foot first. Next, you lower your weight through the foot, allowing the heel to return to the ground. To make it easy, just think of it as doing the opposite of walking, going toe first and then heel as opposed to heel first and then toe. Each of the movements should take one to two seconds, alternating on each leg and foot. You should aim for 15 to 30 seconds, picking up the pace and doing brisk walking. Perform 3 sets with walk back recoveries in between. Doing this stretch will strengthen your Achilles and calf, mobilizing and increasing the flexibility in them.

As long as it is a dynamic stretch, it should help your body be mobilized and in better condition to take the stress of running. Try the above stretches before your next running challenge.

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