Tips on Stretching for Runners
Spring is here and the summer is approaching us. It is a season for outside runners who embrace the Texas heat. At Barkman & Smith Physical Therapy, we believe stretching is an essential part of running. Researchers have determined that connective tissue (i.e., muscles and tendons, etc.) is better able to react to potential injury-causing forces following the application of heat and stretch. A good stretching routine can also prevent:
- muscle imbalances
- decrease in running performance
- decrease in your overall exercise stamina
So you may ask when is the best time to stretch?
Research states that the best time to stretch is generally when you are warm and relaxed! For ideal performance you should stretch after you have done a low-tempo body warm-up of about 5-10 minutes. This can include something as simple as tuck jumps or jumping jacks or light jogging. Running is a dynamic sport so you will need to do both dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic muscle stretches (short quick movements) form part of your pre-race or training warm-up. They are used to prepare your muscles for the rapid contractions experienced during running. Static stretches (long slow holds), on the other hand, are more useful to improve your overall flexibility and are most effective if done after your race or training run, at the end of your cool down.
Rules for Dynamic Stretching:
- Warm up your body first, then stretch while your muscles are still warm.
- Move through your range of movement, keeping control of the movement with your muscles. Do not allow momentum to control the movement by "flinging" or "throwing" your body parts around.
- You may feel light resistance in your muscles, but you should never feel pain during a stretch.
- Start with slow, low intensity movements, and gradually progress to full-speed movements through range of motion. Complete these motions for several repetitions (10-15 times.)
- Finish with simulated quick running motions such as running on the spot, arm swings and jumps. Repeat for several repetitions (8-10 times.)
Rules for Static Stretching:
- Stretch while your muscles are still warm from running.
- Slowly take your muscles to the end of their range. You will feel slight resistance in the muscle, but you should never feel pain during a stretch.
- Hold the stretch in a static position. Do not bounce.
- Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat each stretch 3-4 times.
Tips on Stretching for Runners
The following stretching program is designed for runners who do not have any current injuries or individual stretching needs. If you have an injury or a specific mechanical imbalance that may be holding back your running performance, your Barkman & Smith Physical Therapy Physical Therapist can design a stretching program just for you. These muscles are your prime movers for running. You'll need to stretch these muscles each time you train or before a race. Don't forget to stretch both sides. The stretching program shown below will take about 15-20 minutes to complete.
Leg Swings side to side and front to back
Trunk rotiaton (quickly)
Ankle range of movement
Jogging on the spot
Calf Stretch Gastrocnemius
Calf Stretch Soleus
ITB (Iliotibial Band) Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch
We hope that you have found this reading resource valuable. Please let us know what your favorite stretch routine is by clicking here. Physical & Occupational therapists are amongst the highest educated movement specialists in medicine — with many holding doctorate degrees. We want to put you in the best situation for success. Therapists work to improve quality of life through prescribed exercises, hands-on care, and one-on-one education.
At Barkman & Smith Physical Therapy, we begin with a physical exam to understand your issue and determine how we can best help. Our physical therapists then use a combination of exercises, stretching, equipment, and hands-on techniques to help movement and increase range of motion. Please click here for more information.
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