Many of us want to be more flexible but don't seem to find the time to do just that “stretching”. There are many forms of stretching,i.e static stretching, PNF stretching, dynamic stretching, myofascial release, just to name a few stretching modalities.
Let's look at some of the questions that might present themselves:
Why even bather with stretching?
What benefits does stretching have if any?
What type of stretching should one do?
How long do I hold it a stretch for ?
When do I stretch?
Does it matter what muscles I stretch?
Besides running is more important then stretching right? Wait a minute, although studies about the benefits of stretching are mixed, some say there are benefits and others not so much.
The main benefits of stretching seem to be,
reduced risk of injury,
and improved running performance.
Stretching helps joints move through their full range of motion, decreases the risk of microtrauma to tendon, which can lead to overload and injury, and increases blood flow (Mayo clinic).
Stretching is best done after your run, although doing it before may just feel good, it does not make a difference in your performance or injury rate (ACE) .
Here are some stretching safety tips:
Stretching is not a warm-up. Some studies show that pre-stretching prior to running may actually decrease performance. So warm up, go into your dynamic stretches and safe the rest for later.
Focus on stretching your major muscles and joints, i.e. hamstrings, quads, calves, IT-band, lower back, neck and shoulders used in running.
Don't bounce! Bouncing can cause small muscles tears and cause more tightening of your muscles, hence more pain. Hold you each stretch 30-45 seconds and perhaps increase the stretch by reaching even farther for one more round of 30-45 seconds.
No pain no gain is out! This motto applies to stretching as well.You should feel a gentle pull in the muscles being stretched, if it hurts or burns you have gone too far. Back off and hold your stretch there. Burning may actually signal an underlying injury! Keep an eye on it.
Make your stretch sports specific. You are a runner, stretch like a runner!
Stretch always! Best results are achieved when consistently stretching, stretching 2-3 times per week after running or other cardiovascular exercise.
Increase ROM (range of motion) and decrease DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) Studies show that keeping up a regular stretching routine not only increases ROM but also decreases DOMS. DOMS = when you feel tight the next day and know it was from the workout the day before.
Can stretching lead to injury? Yes, in some cases.
Stretching a muscle that is pulled or strained can further inflame the muscles and increase the strain, as the muscle has not time to heal. Let the muscle rest from running and stretching, try RICE and see a doctor if the condition does not improve.
I have included a little video to show some of the stretches appropriate for runners. http://youtu.be/poAHUOuu8zw
Stretching is not only for athletes and runners but everyone!
Enjoy and see you on the trail