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There is no question about the importance of stretching for runners. It helps alleviate tightness and decrease imbalances that resulted from the repetitive motion of running. But many runners still ask whether you should stretch before or after a run.
In general, it is recommended to perform dynamic stretching before a run to help warm up cold muscles. Static stretching, on the other hand, should be performed after a run or separate from your running session.
Ahead, we will discuss the type of stretching you should do before a run and when to do static stretching. But first, let’s discuss why stretching is important for runners.
Why Stretching Is Important For Runners
Before we jump into the types of stretching you should use and the timing of it, let’s first discuss why stretching is important for runners.
When you’re seating down or lying down or have just woken up from sleep, your muscles are in a “cold” state. Meaning, they aren’t ready to be put into any vigorous activity just yet.
Any vigorous activity performed when the muscles are “cold” can lead to a decrease in performance or worse—injury. Stretching helps warm up your muscles and helps your muscles adapt to certain positions.
Furthermore, stretching also helps correct tightness caused by repetitive motion and prolonged sitting which can lead to alterations in running form.
But stretching only helps if you do them correctly.
Stretching Before A Run
Your goal for stretching before a run is NOT to lengthen the muscles like you’re taught in gym glass. Static stretching, or holding into a lengthened position for a prolonged period, may actually even be counterproductive.
A 2012 study saw a decrease in running performance and increased calorie expenditure following a pre-run static stretching routine.
The findings of a decrease in performance following a pre-workout static stretching routine are not only evident in runners but also in strength sports as well.
Instead, do dynamic stretching before a run.
Dynamic stretching is a type of stretching that involves actively moving parts of your body to certain positions gradually increasing the range, speed, or both.
Not only that it helps prevent injuries, but it also helps improve the running performance of trained male adults according to the study performed by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Here’s a helpful 4-minute routine that you can do before a run.
Also read: Are Foam Rollers Good For Runners? (Based on Science)
When To Do Static Stretching?
Just because several pieces of research showed a decrease in running performance following a static stretching routine performed before a workout doesn’t mean static stretching is bad altogether.
Static stretching also offers benefits that can be helpful to runners. Some of which are:
- Increase range of motion
- Alleviate muscle tightness
- Decrease muscle soreness
- Correct posture
Running is a very repetitive motion. And because of that, some muscles tighten up more than others. The result? Your muscles adapt creating imbalances and changes in posture.
To correct that, you must stretch the muscles that are usually shortened like your hips, hamstrings, and calves.
But when should you do static stretching? Experts recommend that you do static stretching after your run to help you cool down.
You can also do stretching exercises separate from your run session if you’re aiming to increase your range of motion or correct your posture.
Static stretching is a needs-based exercise. That means, if you have lots of tightness, then you should consider doing longer stretches on tight muscles more frequently.
If you’re relatively flexible, then you can just use stretching to maintain your current range of motion and prevent muscle tightness.
Here’s a good static stretching routine that hits the key muscle we’ve discussed.
Static stretching before a workout was believed to be a good practice. It’s what’s been taught to most of us for decades. However, research suggests quite the contrary.
Now that you’ve learned about the proper timing of stretching, I hope that you will apply what you’ve learned to your training program.