It is important to stretch before and after running to avoid muscle injury and pain. Running stretches may be any stretches that work various muscle groups in the body, particularly the legs, arms, and hips. Before doing any running stretches, however, it is important to consider some important tips.
The first is to avoid stretching cold muscles. Do not simply walk out the door in the morning and start stretching; this can lead to a pulled muscle. Instead, do some brief warm-ups, such as a brisk walk or slow jog, and then stretch the muscles once they are warm. Some runners say it is not necessary to stretch muscles at all before running, it is just necessary to slowly warm up, but others disagree.
The most important time to stretch is after running, when muscles are warm. Be sure the stretches are slow and gentle, and do not bounce while stretching. It is important to make the stretches one slow, fluid movement to avoid muscle contraction and injury. If any muscles feel especially tight, pay particular attention to those. They could potentially continue to tighten after the run and cause pain.
Doing running stretches after a run can also help to strengthen the muscles used most frequently. Some of the best running stretches include heel drops and calf raises, which will strengthen and stretch the muscles of the calves. Groin stretches are another type of running stretch, as well as hamstring and quadricep stretches.
A heel to buttock stretch is a good stretch for the front of the leg. Toe touches are a great way to stretch the legs, either with legs apart or crossed. Remember to bend from the waist when doing toe touches, and do not round the upper spine.
Other types of running stretches are designed to loosen the arms, hips, and lower back. Do not neglect these areas, because it is particularly easy to pull a muscle in the hip or back when running. It is a good idea to search online for a diagram or example video for these individual stretches, or ask a trainer at a gym to demonstrate. Runners often recommend stretching for ten to 15 minutes after a workout, and warming up for a similar amount of time before a workout. Someone who stretches regularly will likely have an easier time running as well as the ability to better heal after an injury than someone who never takes the time to stretch.