For whatever reason, there is an all-to-common trend among the running crowd, mistakenly believed to be a sort of badge of honor: People love to boast about their aversion to, and avoidance of, stretching. Typically, this comes from those who are more serious than the average runner, but ultimately not really serious about it. And you should definitely not listen to them.
To fully embrace becoming a true runner, you need to accept all that comes with the territory, or your foray into this sport is destined to be cut shorter than you plan. Stretching is one of those things that should not be underestimated because it will make you a stronger runner overall.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a basic guide to stretching for runners.
Stretching can drastically reduce your risk of injury. Of course, it’s not a get-out-of-jail guarantee; nothing can provide you with that. But it does help, and that reason alone should be enough to convince you to start. Getting laid up with a bad injury — one that could have been prevented — sucks. It doesn’t take long to lose fitness due to inactivity, not to mention wasted money if, say, you have to sit out one or more races you’ve registered for. On top of injury prevention, it’ll ease post-workout soreness and cramping. (Trust me, if you’ve never felt a hardcore running cramp, consider yourself lucky, and do whatever it takes to steer clear.)
When to Stretch?
With all this hype about the importance of stretching, you might feel inclined to get in a good stretch sesh before heading out for your run, but the opposite is actually true. Your muscles are much better conditioned for static stretching (in other words, positions that you hold for an extended period) after they’ve had a chance to warm up. So, while you might be feeling exhausted by the time you finish your miles for the day, this is the ideal time.
How to Stretch?
I’m a visual learner, so rather than try to describe the types of stretches you should be doing, it’s far easier to show you. Having a visual also ensures that you’ll be doing each one the right way. My go-to for all things stretching is Tom Merrick aka The Bodyweight Warrior. His 15-minute routine for runners is the perfect way to end each session.