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Stretching after a run can reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, prevent joint injuries, and increase the muscle’s efficiency of movement (improving your overall speed, stamina, posture, balance, and form).
Stretching is also great for relaxation!
But unfortunately many runners do not have a good stretching routine. Or worse, their stretching is doing more harm than good!
While training for my first marathon I didn’t have a focused stretching regimen and was plagued by various injuries. Later I took up yoga and noticed the benefits while training for my next marathon. Regular yoga, focused stretching, and cross training made me a stronger, more balanced, healthier runner.
Sports injuries are often caused by imbalances. The pain most runners feel is not from the running in and of itself, but from imbalances that running can cause or exacerbate. Yoga can help you increase range of motion, agility, lung capacity, endurance, and strength.
Yoga also increases flexibility. While runners may have incredible endurance and powerful legs, they often have terribly tight leg, hip and upper back muscles. Yoga’s ability to create more range of motion in the body makes it a wonderful compliment to running.
My personal opinion is that stretching is a very important tool in the runner’s tool box. However, there are a few guidelines that you need to follow…
- Never stretch cold muscles. Always warm up by walking or slowly jogging for 5-10 minutes. Save the stretching routine for after your run. After running, stretching helps to remove lactic acid from the muscle, which in turn reduces muscle soreness. That promotes better flexibility. Stretching afterwards will also help you relax.
- Don’t force a stretch. Stretch to the point of mild, even tension, never pain or muscle trembling. While stretching can promote flexibility, stretching too far actually can damage the muscles—particularly if you’re recovering from an injury. A healthy muscle can elongate up to 1.6 times its length but generally doesn’t respond well to that much stretching and may result in a muscle strain or tear.
- Don’t bounce (ballistic) while stretching. Holding your stretch in a static (still) position works best.
- Breathe comfortably (don’t hold your breath) and let the muscle group relax.
- Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. Don’t hurry through the routine.
- Ease into a stretching routine– don’t try to do too much, too soon; listen to your body and don’t try to compete with others.
- Check with your physician or therapist before stretching injured muscles.
- Find a stretching routine that works for you. There are some great yoga stretches for runners on YouTube and Runner’s World has some good routines.
My Stretching Routine (based on Yoga Poses)
Also Mentioned in this Episode
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This Episode’s Quick Tip
Take a online flexibility test over at www.fitnessmagazine.com/flexibility and see which of your muscle groups need improvement.