It is almost impossible to find any fitness seeker who does not include stretching exercises in his/her workout regime. Stretching offers your body a number of benefits. The improved muscular coordination and range of motion can come in handy for athletes and runners. It helps the muscles recover faster, thereby charging you up for the next round of running! The nice thing about stretching is that you need not spend oodles of time in performing the methods. All you need is less than half an hour after your usual workout.
Types Of Stretching:
There are various types of stretching and before you start practicing you need to know the basics (1). These are:
- Static stretching
- Ballistic stretching
- Active stretching
- Dynamic stretching
- PNF stretching
- Isometric stretches
- Passive (or relaxed) stretching
While each type has its inherent benefits, recent studies indicate that runners and athletes benefit the most from practicing the methods of dynamic stretching. It is true that a few runners resort to static stretching to warm-up before a run, but caution should be exercised. Experts recommend that stretching after an intense workout or downhill acceleration is not a viable thing to do.
Stretching Tips For Runners:
Runners need to choose the most suitable stretching techniques to cope with muscle stiffness, joint issues and performance boosts (2). There are a number of stretches that can aid you in coping better with aches and pains experienced by runners.
Below listed are a few handy tips runners can benefit from:
- Runners should ideally focus on stretching methods that aid warm muscles. That is why fitness experts suggest you should stretch after performing regular exercises. This is the time when your body muscles are quite warm. Even the joints are lubricated and there would be lesser stress on them.
- There is a dispute regarding the efficacy of stretching before going for a run. A few experts claim that it aids the runners while others feel doing so actually negates the benefit of warming up.
- In general, you should remain in a pose for each stretch for a duration of 15 seconds or so. If applicable, repeat the steps for the other side.
- It would be a good idea to do some light jogging before you resort to stretching every time to warm up the muscles to an extent. It is a bad idea to stretch cold muscles (3). If you want to do stretching after a run, it is okay, but give yourself a short break.
These are dynamic stretches that aid in loosening up and stimulating the muscles in your legs, hips, and calves.
1. Leg Swings:
- You need to hold on to a heavy and sturdy object, such as a table or a bar.
- Stand on one of the legs and swing the other leg backward and forward.
- Do it 20 times and then swing the leg side-wise 20 times.
- Repeat the steps for the other leg as well.
2. Walking Lunges:
- Take a big step forward with one leg and then bend your knee till the thigh becomes parallel to the ground.
- Your knee should be aligned with the ankle. Focus on keeping these walking lunges fluid.
- Do 20 lunges for both the legs.
These stretches are meant to be done after running. They target the major leg muscles and enhance the range of motion and flexibility. You may try the stretching poses and remain in the positions for 30 seconds or a little more.
3. Standing Quad:
- For this stretch, you need to stand with both the legs together.
- Bend the left leg so that your heel touches the butt.
- Then hold your left foot with the left hand.
- Repeat this for your right leg.
4. Kneeling Hip Flexor And Hamstring:
- Get into a kneeling position first and then put the right foot on the floor in front.
- Bend your leg at 90 degrees. Your ankle and knee will be aligned.
- Then press forward, while keeping the spine erect, into your right hip.
- Your left knee will be pressed on the floor so that the right hamstring and left hip get stretched.
5. Standing Calf:
- For this stretch, you will have to stand facing the wall, and both the hands should be on the wall at the chest level (4).
- Now, place the right foot’s ball against the wall so that heel touches the floor.
- Slowly, lean into the wall till your calf gets stretched and keep the leg straightened.
6. Groin Stretch:
Also called the butterfly stretch, this pose works on your groin area and inner thighs.
- Sit on the floor with the soles of both your feet touching in front. Your knees will be spread to the sides.
- Move your feet close to the groin as much as possible.
- Ensure your knees remain close to the ground at this time.
When you become an expert in this stretch, try leaning forward to bring the nose close to the floor. However, be cautious when you do so. Be in this pose for 15 seconds or so.
7. Quadriceps Stretch:
This standing stretch makes your hamstrings contract and eventually strengthens them. It is true that flexible and strong quads aid in lifting your knees and enhancing speed.
- Lie down on the floor with your face facing the ground.
- Ensure your legs are on the ground and are parallel to each other.
- Now grab the right foot using the right hand so that your thighs remain lined up close to each other. Inhale deeply and remain in the posture for 30 seconds.
- Do the same for the other side.
8. Hamstrings Stretch:
Runners often have to cope with the problem of tight hamstrings which leads to pulled muscles and lower back problems. Needless to say, tight hamstrings can limit the range of motion, thus affecting performance. This hamstring stretch can counter such issues.
- Lie on your back and keep legs extended. Your lower back should be on the floor.
- Now, bend your right knee to the chest while keeping your left leg stretched on the ground.
- Gradually make the right knee straight while grabbing the back part of your leg with the hands.
- Then pull the leg towards the upper torso while keeping both hips placed on the floor.
- Inhale deeply and remain in the pose for 20 seconds or so.
These exercises will help strengthen your core muscles and other parts of your body that will help you perform better on the track. Dedicate 45 minutes a day to perform these exercises and see for yourself how your body responds! Let us know how they worked for you.
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