Do you stretch at the end of a run or workout?
Our “what’s the first thing you do post run” theme on the Facebook daily thread recently was most revealing…only two of you mentioned stretching after you run! You’re not alone, stretching is often seen as optional, or done separately as a discrete workout rather than post run (yoga, Pilates, rest-day stretch etc)….but just a few spare minutes a day can make a big difference.
Why bother to stretch after a run or workout?
Running is a repetitive movement. It forces your muscles into set positions, creating tension and changing their length over time. Our modern lifestyles add to this – forcing the shortening of some muscles over extended periods of time… sitting at desks, driving etc. Stretching helps release the tension in the muscle and return it to its original length. It can reduce the risk of injury (evidence is a little mixed on this), increase mobility / range of motion, increase flexibility, and promote blood flow to the local area (therefore aiding recovery).
How to get started in less than a minute a day…
The benefits of a post-run stretch are generally well accepted, the problem is actually getting round to doing it – working out a routine and making it a habit. Here’s some ideas on how to make it practical and make it stick:
- Work out the main muscle groups you want to stretch, test out different stretches and stick to ones that are quick and give you maximum benefit. (I’ve focused on hamstrings, adductors, quads and hip flexors in this short video, but you may find your calves or glutes get tight too and may want specific stretches for them).
- Keep it really easy to do – the harder or longer you make the stretching session, at least to start with, the less likely you are to stick with it. If you did these four exercises and held the stretch for 15-20 seconds, you would be stretching for just over a minute.
- Habits are easier to stick to if you tie them to a trigger. Post run is perfect, get in a door, head straight to your space and do it. Stick a post it note up with the stretches you want to do so you don’t need to look them up.
Your challenge this week is to do a minimum of two of the four stretches in this video after EVERY run this week (easy effort ones too!). Put a reminder somewhere so you don’t forget, and let us know how you get on. Share any alternative or favourite stretches you have below.
– If you already have a cool down / stretch routine, this is not designed to replace it. This is for runners who don’t currently do anything post run except check Strava / eat / jump into the shower (please note, feel free to check Strava / eat whilst doing these but the risk of slipping whilst trying to contort yourself in the shower is quite high…)
– Breathe! Don’t hold your breath whilst you stretch. Breathing is good.
– If it hurts stop! If the muscle is tight, ease off slightly and then repeat more gently, but if it actually causes pain, do not continue. You should be able to feel tension in the muscle that you can hold for 15-20s without pain.
– I am talking about static stretching here. Don’t do static stretching pre run (it elongates the muscle so increases risk of injury) and don’t bounce when you static stretch – it doesn’t change the stretch and increases risk of injury.
If you enjoy this, try some of these:
More stretches for runners: https://www.nhs.uk/…/exercise/how-to-stretch-after-a-run/ (this has quite a nice calf, ITB and glute stretch you could include in your routine)
More info about stretching post-run: https://www.health.harvard.edu/…/the-importance-of…
For more info on creating and sticking to new habits, try this podcast: https://drchatterjee.com/how-to-build-good-habits-and…/
I hope that you can take something away from this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts and I’ve set up a very supportive free Facebook Community where like-minded people can share their experiences of life and exercising. Please feel free to join and invite others you know who may be interested.
I also have a Facebook Club for runners where I post two weekly workout videos, host a live weekly Ask The Coach question and answer session plus a monthly live webinar on a host of running related topics. This is ideal for those who use free plans but want to have access to a coach and ongoing information. You can find more information and join here.
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