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September 1st, 2014|
Stretching is very important for runners. Flexibility exercises maintain optimal joint mobility, which in turn allows for improved distribution of forces across joint surfaces. Stretching and warming up properly can decrease your injury risk. But—when is the best time to stretch?
Static stretching (in which you hold a position for a period of time) is best when performed after a run or other aerobic activities. While exercising, our blood flow is diverted to the working muscles which warms the muscles and makes them more pliable. Static stretches maximally elongate the muscles and relax the nervous system.
A dynamic warm-up should be performed before running or other aerobic activities. A dynamic warm-up is one in which you are moving throughout the full range of motion of the joints, without holding the position, to prepare yourself for the activity. Dynamic warm-ups improve the elasticity of the muscles, improve your coordination, and excite the nervous system for the upcoming event.
Dynamic Warm-Up: Perform Before Running
Perform the three movements below prior to your run.
High Knee Hug
As you walk forward, bring one knee up to your chest, pulling it close with your hands. Alternate legs as you continue to walk forward. Perform 10 repetitions on each leg. Repeat the exercise walking backward. Perform 10 repetitions on each leg.
Lunge With Overhead Reach
Lunge forward onto one foot. Keep the knee straight on the trail leg and the heel on the floor. Hold this position as you reach your arms overhead. Repeat on the other leg as you continue to move forward. Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
As you walk forward, kick your left leg out in front of you and reach for your toes with your right hand. Then kick your right leg out in front of you and reach for your toes with your left hand. Perform 10 repetitions on each side. Repeat the exercise walking backward. Perform 10 repetitions on each side.
Static Stretching: Perform Post Run
Below are four post run static stretching exercises to perform during your cool down.
Lay on your back with both knees bent. Place the ankle of your left leg onto your right knee. Gently pull your right leg up toward your chest. You should feel a stretch in your left buttock. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions. Repeat on the other side.
Lay on your stomach on the right side of your bed. Drop your right leg off of the bed, flexing your hip and knee so that your foot is underneath your hip. Use a belt or your left hand to grasp your left ankle. Pull your left leg toward your buttock until you feel a stretch in the front of your left thigh. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions. Repeat on the other side.
Stand with your right leg on a chair. Keep your left leg straight and your trunk tall. Gently reach forward, leading with your chest. Do not round your back. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions. Repeat on the other side.
Inner Thigh Stretch
Sit with your back and buttock against a wall. Tuck your feet in toward you. Relax your legs so that they fall toward the ground. From this position, gently arch your back away from the wall. You should feel a stretch in your groin and inner thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Perform 3 repetitions.
About the Author
Amy Flick is a graduate of Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Physical Therapy. She is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist and a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.