Runners are notorious for not stretching properly. This is usually largely a
result of a cycle of events in which running by itself causes the muscles to
shorten and tighten. This phenomenon makes stretching difficult so runners start
stretching less and less often. The less often the runner stretching the worse
the problem gets and the endless cycle continues. This is unfortunate because
stretching can be very beneficial for runners. It not only helps them to improve
their flexibility but can also help to prevent injuries and can result in the
muscles feeling less fatigued. This article will discuss the importance of
stretching for runners and will describe stretches with are helpful for runners.
Stretching is important for maintaining flexibility and for injury prevention.
As muscles continue to get stronger there will be a decreased range of motion
unless a regular stretching program is followed. As we discussed in the opening
paragraph a failure to stretch properly can compound this problem. Therefore
runners should make a concerted effort to stretch more often but should also be
sure to stretch properly. For example stretching should only be done after a
proper warm-up or at the end of activity to prevent overstretching and possible
injury. Runners who wish to stretch at the beginning of their run should
consider going on a short jog to warm up the muscles before starting to stretch.
This will make the muscles more pliable and less susceptible to injury.
One of the basic running stretches is the seated hamstring stretch. To perform
this stretch a runner should sit on the ground with one leg extended outward and
toe facing up. The other leg should be angled so that the sole of the opposite
foot rests on the inside of the extended leg. By bending at the waist toward the
toe of the extended foot you feel a pull in the back of your leg. Control the
amount of stretch by how much you bend at the waist. Support can be provided by
your hands if necessary. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, reverse the position
and repeat. It is important to not bounce when performing this or any other
stretch as this may result in injury. Runners who want to engage in a deeper
stretch are advised to make movements slowly and precisely.
Another basic stretch for runners is a calf stretch. To perform this stretch,
stand facing a wall or any other stationary object that is at least shoulder
height, and place your hands straight out against the object. Place one foot
behind you and the other foot in front of you. Bend your front knee toward the
wall and lean forward at the waist supporting yourself with your hands and front
foot. The heel of your back foot should start to rise off of the ground. Now
slowly press the heel of your back foot toward the ground. You should feel the
stretch in the lower section of the back of your leg. Hold for 15 seconds and
repeat with the other leg extend back.
The next stretch would be for your quadriceps muscles which are located on the
upper front portion of your let. Start by standing near a wall or other
stationary object for support. Standing parallel to the wall place your inside
hand on the wall for support. Pick up your outside foot, bend at the knee, and
grab your ankle with your opposite hand. Next while keeping your knees close
together, pull up on your ankle with your outside hand. As you stand straight
you should feel a pull in the upper front of your leg. Hold this position for 15
seconds. Let your leg down and face the opposite way. Now repeat this technique
with the opposite foot.
The butterfly stretch will work on flexibility of your inner legs. To perform
this stretch you will start out seated. Place the soles of both feet together
with the assistance of your hands. Your knees should be pointed out to your side
and slightly up, depending on your current level of flexibility. The closer that
you pull your feet toward your core, the deeper the stretch becomes. Relax your
legs and you should feel a pull on the inside of both legs. Hold this position
for 15 seconds. Rest and repeat.
When stretching it is important to hold a stretch for 15 to 20 seconds to allow
the muscles and tendons time to relax resulting in a deeper stretch than can be
achieved with shorter durations. Holding stretches for less time is not likely
to have much effect on flexibility and can cause injury if the stretch is
performed too fast. Over a 15 second time period it is not uncommon to make
slight adjustments as your body relaxes and becomes accustomed to the stretch.
It may be necessary to make these slight adjustments to maintain tension on the
The video clip above is from my DVD about running stetches and other running related information. Click on the DVD case below to find out more.