Have A Great Running Stretch of Your Own?

Do you have a great running stretch that works well to keep you limber? Please share your wisdom with us so we can give it a try!

Essential Stretches for Runners

Why Stretch?

Muscle fatigue and tightness is a normal part of your body's response and adaptation to running training, especially high mileage and high intensity training. Tight muscles are essentially a shortening of your muscles fibres which can place you in a vulnerable pre-injury state. Stretching is important because when done consistently, it helps to increase your muscle fibre length as well as keep all of your connective tissue limber and therefore flexible and less vulnerable to damage from further training. Flexibility also allows you to move more freely and it's this fluidity of movement that promotes good running form as well as speed due to an increase in your running cadence. There are two different types of stretches you may have heard of; static and ballistic stretching. Static stretching is basically stretching without movement. Static stretches are typically held for 15 to 30 seconds in one position. Ballistic stretching inversely involves movement. An example of a ballistic stretch would be leg swings, like those shown in the ballistic stretching video below. Ballistic stretches are particularly helpful during warm up to promote blood flow for say an interval session. Static stretching on the other hand is more common performed post run. Both types of stretches have their place and are beneficial and so it’s a good idea to incorporate them into your routine.

While there are many schools of thought on when and when not to stretch as well as how long to hold a stretch, there are definitely some basic guidelines that you can safely follow to achieve and maintain your flexibility as a runner.

To get the most out of your time, there are a few areas that you should emphasize, particularly if you already have good running form, and these include your hamstrings, lower back muscles, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors (rectus femoris and iliopsoas). In addition to the following stretching guidelines, there are several pictures of stretches for runners pictured below for your reference.

Stretching Guidelines

  1. Never stretch cold!
  2. Never bounce – stretch until the point of light resistance and hold
  3. Hold static stretches for 10 to 15 seconds but not longer than 30 seconds
  4. For your day to day average pace runs simply warm up by easing into your run Start with an easy pace and gradually increase every 5 minutes until you’ve reached your average pace for the run
  5. Follow up your runs with a brief 5 minute static stretching routine immediately after you’ve finished your run while your muscles are warm
  6. For higher intensity workouts, it would be well worth your while to warm up easy for at least 10 to 15 minutes followed by a combination of ballistic and static stretching of your key speed muscles (hamstrings, hip flexors, calves)
  7. Consider incorporating a weekly 30 to 60 minute yoga session into your training program to get total body stretching. The physical and mental benefits of doing so are simply invaluable

If you haven't already done so, check out the following downloadable document with brief instructions and pictures of static stretches below, and give them a try after your next run!

Great Stretches for Runners

Also, if you're interested, here are a few great ballistic stretches for runners that are ideal to perform during your pre-run warm up. These 3 stretches do not take long to incorporate but really open up the hips and get your hip flexors warm. They'll thank you since they work hard for you; particularly during high intensity workouts. Be sure to give equal attention to each leg!

Ballistic Prerun Stretch Video

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