As runner’s, tight muscles are something many of us deal with on a daily basis.
Muscle tension is controlled by our nervous system but it can be altered in a number of ways.
Stretching is the obvious way but so many people I talk to are totally confused about how, when and why they should stretch.
Here is your answer…
The right kind of stretching can be of great benefit when it is done at the appropriate time – ok, that doesn’t answer the question. Let me explain further.
There are different types of stretching, with the most commonly performed two being static and dynamic stretching. Historically (think back to PE at high school), we were told to sit and hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds. This was typically done before sport and sometimes again afterward. We now know that this is not the best approach because static stretching lengthens the muscles and DECREASES responsiveness of those muscles. This relaxed state INCREASES the chance of injury during most sports due to the fact that your joints are not being properly protected by the appropriate amount of muscle tension required for the activity you are undertaking. It will also most likely lead to a performance deficit in most running activities.
Static stretching is best used after a bout of exercise or on days when you are not training or competing. It can be utilised to encourage better range of motion, improved circulation and help to decrease adhesions in and chronic shortening of your soft tissues. So static stretching IS GOOD when it is used after or outside of times of intense physical activity.
What about stretching before running?
Dynamic stretching, which you will sometimes see the Footballer’s doing just before a game, is performed by either swinging your limb through its full range of motion or using jumping, bounding or springing motions to actively encourage lengthening of muscles while simultaneously warming up the tissues, improving joint mobility and increasing the resting tone (tension) of the muscles. Ideally the movements you will perform will replicate the kind of activity you are about to undertake.
Dynamic stretching should leave you feeling a little warm and ready to perform.
This kind of stretching warm up works best straight after a light warm up of an easy run of 5-10 minutes in duration and no more than 15 minutes prior to the training session or race.
In addition to stretching, a great addition to your injury prevention and muscle maintenance routine is a Foam Roller which is fantastic for taking things to the next level. Research has demonstrated that Foam Rollers can also produce a performance benefit in racing too.
If you have subscribed to this blog recently, you would no doubt have received our ‘Stretching for Runners’ video. This routine is great for making sure you do a good balanced stretching routine. If you missed this video, just let us know and we will make sure you get it.
If you have any questions about stretching or anything else running related, feel free to email us and we’ll do our best to get you the answers you seek.