Running is one of the most popular activities on the planet. There are many reasons why people love running. Not only is it great fun, but it’s also good for our health too. And that’s not all, research has shown that running can help us to feel happier, calmer and it can also make us more resistant to stress too. So, what’s not to like?
Although there are lots of positives to running there are also a couple of negatives too. One of the most common things we hear runners complaining about is the pain they feel if they’ve not stretched properly before or after a run. Stretching properly before a run can help you to have a more enjoyable running experience and it can also reduce your chances of suffering from a muscle injury.
But how do you stretch properly? Whether you started running to burn off some of the extra calories you ate over the winter months or you simply run to alleviate stress, it’s important to know how to stretch properly before and after a run. So, to help you out, we’ve created a list of some of the most common stretching mistakes runners should avoid. Keep reading below to find out more:
1. You Bounce
You may have seen videos online of people bouncing at the end of their stretching routine. However, this isn’t advisable. According to doctors and rehabilitation specialists, bouncing can cause your tendons, muscles, and ligaments to tear. Instead of doing this, you should consider gradually elongating and holding your stretches for ten to fifteen seconds before releasing them. This should be repeated several times to ensure you’ve stretched properly.
2. You’re Doing the Wrong Type of Stretching
When most of us hear the words “warm-up stretch” we picture static stretches like sit and reach stretches or toe touches. However, for runners, movement-based stretches are a better way to start your workout. In fact, research has shown that dynamic stretching enhances muscle activation. Dynamic stretches include things like leg swings, trunk rotations, lunges, and jumping rope.
Although dynamic stretching is advisable before a run, during the cool-down period after your run, you should focus on static stretching instead. This will help your muscles to relax and will help to release tension. Knowing what stretches to do, and when to do them will help you to have a more positive running experience.
3. You’re Focusing on the Wrong Muscles
When it comes to stretching our muscles before and after a run there are lots of things we need to think about. Not only should we think about the type of stretching we are doing e.g., dynamic, or static, but we also need to think about which muscles we’re stretching.
There’s no point in spending all your time focusing on stretching your upper body muscles when it’s your lower body muscles such as your quadriceps that will be doing most of the work. Although it’s important to make sure your upper body is stretched before a run, it’s a good idea to spend most of your time focusing on the muscles in the lower half of your body. If you want to know how to stretch your quadriceps before and after a run, then check out MoveWell.
4. You Forget to Warm Up First
This is one of the most common stretching mistakes that runners make. Most people are under the impression that stretching is a warmup. However, this isn’t the case. In fact, runners need to warm up before they start stretching their muscles. This is because stretching cold muscles can cause them to tear.
For most people, a short ten-minute warm-up is enough to protect their muscles from damage. However, if you’re short on time, then a heating pad or a hot shower can be used as a substitute. While these options may not work as well as a real-life warm up, they can help to prevent muscle damage from occurring.
5. You’re Stretching Injured Muscles
Under no circumstances should you stretch injured muscles. Most muscle strains occur when muscles are stretched beyond their limits. Stretching these muscles even more will only further aggravate the injury. Instead, use the POLICE principle (protect, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation) if you want the muscle to heal more quickly.
No matter whether you’ve only just started your running journey or you’re a seasoned runner, we all get things wrong, and often repeat the same mistakes time and time again. However, we can learn from the mistakes we make. If you want to have an enjoyable running experience and you don’t want to end up in pain after every run, then make sure you avoid the stretching mistakes listed above.