Sometimes starting a run can be an effort in itself. Still, it is well worthwhile learning the benefits of stretching for runners. Stretching should be an integral part of everyone’s running habits. It can be integrated in several ways from a dynamic warm-up, a post-run stretching routine or by starting to include a short yoga routine into your weekly training schedule.
But why is it so important to stretch and what are the best stretches for runners? Might yoga be the solution for our stiff bodies and sore muscles?
Stretching for Runners
Why should I Stretch?
A regular stretching routine will not only contribute to your cool down but improve your flexibility, overall performance, lower your risk of injuries and help your muscles to work effectively during physical activity.
Without stretching your muscles can get shorter and stiffer, especially if you tend to train a lot, resulting in decreased mobility and an increased risk of injury. Joint pains, strains or even muscle damage can be the results of exercise when your muscles are unable to extend and not flexible enough to move through their full range of motions.
How to Stretch Most Effectively:
- Stretch daily to keep the muscles flexible, a few minutes per day or 3-4 times a week will do.
- Start with comfortable stretching exercises and add more strenuous ones at the end of your session.
- Embed a stretch routine post-run and find a routine of about 8 stretches or 10 Minutes.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Ensure symmetry and focus on gaining equal flexibility on each side.
When should I stretch?
It is recommended to stretch after, rather than before, your scheduled run as some exercises can have a negative influence on performance and increase the risk of injury. Instead of static stretches, you should consider a dynamic warm up before hitting the pavement (running in place or starting with a very slow jog or walk for example).
After your workout, you should ensure to focus your stretches on the main areas important for running mobility: your calves, your hamstrings, your hip flexors and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. We have listed some helpful resources for you below.
Pre-workout dynamic stretches:
- 5 dynamic stretches for your running warm-up (runnersworld.com)
- 5 Min Dynamic Warm-Up Exercises Before Workout – Warm Up Before Running, Cardio, or Lifting Weights – YouTube
- Dynamic Warmup Stretches | Stretches to Do Before Every Run (runnersworld.com)
- How to stretch after a run – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
- Post-Run Stretches | Standing Stretches for Runners (runnersworld.com)
Can Yoga be Beneficial for Runners?
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and is increasingly used by runners the world over, for example, ultrarunner Scott Jurek. Yoga combines physical poses, breathing techniques and meditation. Regular practice can help strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, reduce stress and improve your stamina.
The main benefits of yoga:
- Strengthened muscles will give you additional support and stability during running by maintaining an upright posture and a good form.
- Many yoga poses contribute to improved flexibility of hamstrings, hips and the lower back, areas usually prone to injury for runners.
- Breathing techniques are an essential part of yoga and can improve your respiratory capacity. Breathing more effectively and calmly will allow you to run further and faster without gasping for air.
- Yoga not only strengthens the body but also the mind. Increased focus and mental strength might come in handy on this last dreaded uphill stretch or the last kilometres of your long run.
- Restorative yoga poses for deep muscle relaxation can contribute to your post-run recovery by supporting your metabolic processes for quicker healing and re-growth.
You can find a variety of yoga resources online and it might take some time until you find the right video, practice and teaching style for yourself. We have listed a few resources for you below.
Yoga for runners:
- Physical & Mental Stamina | Yoga With Adriene – YouTube
- 7 MIN POST-RUN | Yoga With Adriene – YouTube
- Different styles and their benefits (irishrunner.ie)
Do you have any resources or recommendations to add? Let us know in the comments or on Social Media.
Written by Melanie Pape