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Stretching and Running

posted by Chris Barber

I wasn’t a stretcher; until I got injured.  Now I am more of a stretcher, doing stretching exercises that focus on the parts of my body that need a little extra wake up, cool down, or strengthening.  There is some debate when it comes to stretching and running.  When is it best to stretch, before, during, or after a run?  What muscles should you focus on?  Should you stretch longer for longer runs?  Should you bounce when you stretch?  Ok, well maybe there isn’t any debate to that question, everyone pretty much agrees that you shouldn’t bounce when you stretch.  At any rate, I’m here to tell you, stretching is like most things in running, the best policy is to stretch whatever you feel you need stretching.  Stretching is also like most things in life, it is good for you in moderation, but over-stretching can cause damage or injury.  Geez, stop doing everything in excess.  It drives me crazy.

stretching-before-running

So I am not going to debate whether or not stretching is mandatory for every runner or tell you to do certain stretches.  But I do want to give you some information about what stretching can do for you and your muscles.  Then you can determine what amount of stretching is right for you.  Guess what, running isn’t one size fits all.  However, there is one universal theme to stretching, it increases flexibility; and an increase in flexibility will breed a more satisfying…lifestyle.  Maybe the Rolling Stones should have thought about stretching before complaining that they couldn’t get any satisfaction.

Wear and Tear: The more flexible your muscles are the better they can take the everyday pounding of serious running…dot com.  Stretching prepares your muscles better for the micro-tears you get from running and helps you recover more quickly.

Fluid Runny Style: Stretching increases your flexibility which allows you to run in your normal running style.  Running in a stiff posture can lead to injury.

Increases Blood Flow to Muscles: Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles which brings oxegyn and nutrients to them.  This helps aid recovery and allows your muscles to perform at optimal levels during your work-out.

Improves Running Form: When stretching you strengthen muscles that you would not normally use.  Often these are muscles that have stress put on them while running and need to be stronger to keep up with the rest of your well-tuned muscles.

Reduces Muscle Soreness: The less sore you are, the better you’re going to run.  It’s just science.

Lactic Acid Removal: Stretching before and after a run removes the lactic acid in your muscles.  I will write more about lactic acid later but for now, just know that you don’t want it.

So start stretching and play around with what feels good to you.  How can something that feels so good be so wrong?

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Comments

  1. Amy Reinink says:

    Yeah, yeah … I know. It’s SO good for you. Just wish it wasn’t SO boring. I’ve been stretching like a madwoman this week (do madwomen stretch?), though, and it’s been helping a ton. Good advice, my friend.

  2. Chris Barber says:

    Stretching can be boring but the great thing about it is that you can stretch anywhere and anytime, like while watching tv, standing in a line, or during yoga class!

  3. [...] muscle cramps during your run or race you should make sure you stretch properly beforehand.  Stretching helps loosen your contracted muscles in their rest state.  You should stretch 10-15 minutes before [...]