You may be eager to start your run as soon as you step foot outside, but let’s take some steps back. After tuning into your favorite running playlist, getting water, and putting on your SPIbelt, the next step is stretching. Yes, that means pausing for a few minutes and loosening up those muscles! The last thing any runner wants is to experience injury, especially before race day. With that said, stretching before and after your run is important in more ways than one. From preventing injury to improving mobility, the benefits of stretching will make a huge difference in your exercise regimen and daily life.
Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why you should stretch before and after your run the next time you hit the track or gym.
- Minimize Risk Of Injury
Nobody likes injuries and if there is any way to prevent them, why wouldn’t you? Luckily, stretching is a helpful method to keep your body in top shape.
According to Yale Medicine, it’s important to give muscles some time to stretch, especially after sitting for a long time: “When seated, many of our muscles contract or shorten because of the position. But during running, these muscles are stretched. If the shift from sitting to running is done too quickly, there is risk for injury—a pre-stretched muscle can handle and resist stress better than an unstretched one.” The same goes for after a workout where stretching helps the body cool down and reduce potential tissue tightness and pain.
For best results, try to do this for 10 minutes both before and after your run. Five minutes will suffice, but the longer the better.
Before your next workout, try doing stretches that mimic the motions you’ll do during your workout (known as dynamic stretches). Not only will it help prepare your body, but it will increase blood flow to those areas so they are in better condition and more warmed up. We advise staying away from static stretches before a run because those can actually increase feelings of tightness which you don’t want.
However, some dynamic stretches you may want to try include leg swings (bent knee forward/lateral and straight leg forward). These will help with your range of motion which can help improve the quality of your workouts.
To help push your body to new limits during your run, you might want to consider ballistic stretching. According to Physical Therapy Zone, this stretching modality “involves bouncing movement to push muscles beyond a normal range of motion.”
Whether you are looking to improve your mile time or even go the extra mile, helping to prep your body to go the distance can be done with a bit of stretching. It’s important to remember not to push yourself too hard but even a tiny improvement is one, so it still counts! (Yes, that includes a few seconds shaved off your mile.)
- Reduce Post-Workout Tightness And Soreness
Try to loosen up directly after your run because tight muscles are more prone to injury and we don’t want that. While it’s normal to experience some level of soreness after a workout, stretching can help minimize the extent of that soreness due to an increase in blood flow to those muscles. If you can help prevent yourself from some pain by just sparing a few minutes after your run, then why would you?
Need some post-run stretch ideas? Hamstring, quad and calf stretches are a great way to stretch out the lower part of your body. However, that’s not all - running also requires movement of the upper body too so you can’t forget about the arms–try tricep, arm and ab stretches to loosen up those muscles.
After a run, your body is still in its active state, so, it’s best to gradually wind down, and stretching is an easy way to do that. Not only will your heart rate come back down, but your mind can return to its more normal state. For many people, running helps clear the mind which can be great for one’s mental health. Others might experience racing thoughts if a workout was challenging or allowed new thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. With that said, use stretching after a workout as a way to not only wind down your body, but your mind. Add some breathwork to your stretches as a form of meditation for two benefits in one.
Similar to most workouts, running requires proper form and part of that stems from posture. Stretching before a workout can help improve posture which will improve the overall quality of your workout. Great posture doesn’t happen overnight, but occurs as a result of slow and steady practice and commitment. Tuning into your body while stretching can help you become more cognizant of muscles and areas that might be out of alignment so you can adjust accordingly.
Overall, when it comes to stretching before and after a run, here are our top recommendations:
- Avoid static stretches before your run (opt for dynamic or ballistic instead)
- Stretch for five to 10 minutes both before and after your workout
- Use stretch time to wind down both mentally and physically (add in some breathwork if you wish)
- Stretch in a way that’s helpful for you - don’t overexert yourself.
The next time you’re off for a run with one of our SPIbelts, make sure you’ve got a good stretch in first to help you feel your best!