To stretch or not to stretch. That is the question. It's the great debate in the running world. Do you stretch? If so, when? Before? After? How much? How often?
For years, it was recommended to "warm up" with static stretching prior to a run. If you didn't, you'd be that person grabbing their hamstring in pain because proper stretching supposedly prevented injury. Now we know that's totally false. No research has proven that static stretching before a workout prevents injury or improves performance. In fact, static stretching prior to your muscles being warmed up may increase your odds of getting an injury.
What is recommended for any runner is a dynamic warm up that gets the blood flowing to the muscles and the heart rate elevated slowly prior to a run or workout. Good examples of a dynamic warm up are walking, lunges, walking alternating quad stretch, knee to chest, squats and more.
If you want to do static stretching, post-workout is the best time. We know what you're thinking--who has time for that? It doesn't need to be a full on, hour-long yoga session. Try these five stretches, held for 60 seconds each, and you'll be done in five minutes and ready to crush the rest of your day.
Standing Quadriceps Stretch
A simple standard stretch that you probably learned in fifth grade P.E. class. There's a reason it's still around--it hits the quads right where they need a stretch.
Stretches: psoas, quad, hip, glute
Of course, a stretch with this name would be good for runners. Be sure to relax through your hips and back to feel the release in your hips so you can feel a deep stretch.
Single Leg Downward Facing Dog
Stretches: calf, hamstrings, lower back
Downward Facing Dog is a fantastic stretch for the entire body but is especially good for hitting the hardworking calves. You can do this with both feet on the ground, but if you want to take it up a notch, try it with one foot off the ground and have it rest on the opposite calf.
Stretches: lower back, hamstrings
This stretch is great for releasing tension in the entire upper body, straightens the spine and targets the hamstrings. If you have more time, stay in forward fold, release the hands to the ground and cross right leg over left to target the IT Band. Repeat on opposite side.
Standing Figure Four
Stretches: piriformis, glute
Hit the pesky Piriformis muscles and glutes with this stretch. It's a great alternative to the runner's favorite pose, Pigeon, especially if you have knee problems. This can also be done on the floor for a nice low back stretch in addition to the piriformis.
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