The Best Stretching Routine To Do Before Running
Stretching is one of those topics that is highly debated in the physiotherapy community. There’s been plenty of research done in trying to prove whether stretching before activity improves performance and injury risk, impairs it, or does nothing at all. In this Erko Physio blog, we will discuss the best and most effective way for you to use stretching to enhance your running!
Cycling, swimming and team sports are all great ways to bust a sweat, but what’s probably the easiest way to get your heart rate up and your muscles pumping is to go for a run. Running for 20 minutes a day has huge benefits in improving our cardiovascular health, increasing longevity, maintaining our weight, and improving our mood and mental health. To ensure you get the most out of your running, you want to make sure your joints and muscles are adequately prepared and primed before embarking on a running journey around the neighborhood.
Before you start stretching, you want to make sure your muscles are as warm and pliable as possible so you get the most out of stretching. The best way to warm up our muscles is to move our bodies in a way that resembles the exercise we are about to perform. So if you are going for a run, the best way to warm up the body is to walk! Doing a brisk walk for 5 minutes, followed by a few leg stretches is the best way to prepare our bodies for running! Below, we’ve included some effective stretches you can do once your body is nice and warm and you’re ready to hit the pavement!
Best Stretches For Quadriceps
So once you’ve done your 5 minute warm up walk, you want to start by stretching the quadriceps! Stand on one leg with the same arm stretched out, raise your other foot behind you, and grab your foot with the corresponding hand and pull slowly, until you feel the pressure. Hold for 10 seconds and release, then do the other. Do this three times, breathing slowly. The quadriceps are the strongest and leanest of all the muscles in the leg and stretching them out properly before exercise is important.
Dynamic Stretching Examples – Hamstrings
‘Pulling a hammy’ is one of the most common injuries faced by runners and can sustain permanent injury. Pulling a hamstring often happens in a flash and can be terribly painful. To stretch your hamstring, extend one foot out in front of you, keeping your heel on the ground and your toes raised. Reach over and grab your toes with the corresponding hand. Keep your leg as straight as possible during this motion and pull slowly on the muscle until you feel the strain. Don’t overdo it, but hold for ten seconds, breathing, then release. Repeat three times for each leg. This motion will also apply pressure to your calves which is needed before going for a run.
Active Stretching – Shoulders
Reach directly across your chest with one hand, extending it as far as you can while cradling your triceps with your other elbow. Push with your extended arm and pull with your cradle to stretch the shoulder muscle on the extended side and the opposite lung. Repeat this for the other side to ensure your upper body is just as warm as your lower body before running. While it may not seem obvious, you consistently move your shoulders and arms while jogging, and it’s best practice to keep your body in tandem by stretching before you begin.
Before you get into these stretches, here’s some simple stretching tips to get the most out of them!
Stretch Gently and Slowly
By stretching slowly and gently you will help to relax your muscles, helping to avoid those nasty muscle tears and strains that can be caused by rapid, jerky movements.
Stretching is NOT meant to be painful
Some people will tell you that to get the most from your stretching you need to be in constant pain. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when stretching. As crazy as it sounds, stretching is actually meant to be pleasurable and relaxing.
When your muscles are stretching to the point of pain, your body uses a defence mechanism called the stretch reflex. This is your body’s way of trying to prevent serious damage occurring to your muscles, tendons and joints by contracting them.
Breathe slowly and naturally while stretching
Have you ever checked yourself while you were stretching and realised that you were subconsciously holding your breath? Holding your breath creates muscular tension which in turn makes it very difficult to stretch effectively. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply during all stretching exercises, picture your muscles relaxing and feel the blood flow and increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
So there you have it. These exercises are especially useful for before running, but can be done at any time before commencing exercise. . If you need further help, please reach out to your friendly Erko Physio physiotherapists. We love keeping our local Inner West community happy and mobile, and we’d love to help you out too! So if you need to make an appointment because you’ve pulled something or otherwise, you can reach our clinic on 02 9557 9272.