Before you run a single step, start with dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching allows you to get the blood flowing to your running muscles by incorporating movement into the stretch. This includes walking, high knees, walking lunges, "kick butts"- where you literally kick your own butt with each foot in rapid succession. You want to avoid the traditional static stretching- where you are stretching the muscle to the point of discomfort for a length of time, usually while at rest- think gym class stretching.
Runner's World has a great guide to running-specific dynamic stretches.
Once you've finished a run, static stretching is absolutely appropriate. Some areas you'll want to target- calves, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Don't forget about your arms, neck, and back. Many people (me included!) tighten up their shoulders/neck/back while running so stretching them after a run can do wonders for easing the feeling of tension.
My favorite stretches target two of my problem areas:
Hip flexor stretch- start out in a lunge position, one leg extended behind you and the front knee bent at 90 degrees. Then slowly roll your hips forward and drop your back leg slightly. You should feel this in your hip- it should feel amazing :-)
|Photo source: precisionnutrition.com|
Curb-side calf stretch- find a curb and something to stabilize yourself- a lamp post or another person works well. Place the balls of your feet on the edge of the curb. Slowly lower your heel down until you can feel a deep stretch in your calf muscle. Hold this for 30 seconds. If you have trouble balancing, just do one foot at a time.
|Photo source: racewalk.com|
Check out more great post-race stretches from Runner's World. By incorporating stretching into your training, you can prevent injury while improving your form and recovery.
Happy running- and stretching!