Not Lance. Stretch!
If you were to Google “runner’s stretches”, chances are you would be reading some very contradicting articles. You may come across people saying to stretch before runs, after runs, or not even to stretch at all (which is outrageous by the way!). If you are just starting out, how the heck are you supposed to determine what is right? Don’t let information overload overwhelm you. I will break it down for you with an explanation to why I do what do. Understanding the reasoning behind people’s methods is the first step to deciding what is best for YOU.
First off, did you know that there are many types of stretching? I would like to go over two very important types with you right now.
Static stretching is the one most of us are familiar with. This is the type of stretching where you position your body to a point of discomfort and hold it there for 15-30 seconds. By doing this, you are lengthening your muscles for increased flexibility and movement. This type of stretching is done while the body is at rest.
Dynamic stretching is using momentum and force to stretch your muscles, but not holding yourself in the end position. A good example would be walking lunges. This type of stretching kills two birds with one stone: you are warming up your muscles and getting a stretch at the same time.
Some people gave up on static stretching all together, saying that it is dangerous and can cause you to pull your muscles or damage tendons. I disagree. You can absolutely hurt yourself by static stretching if you are doing it at the improper time (when your muscles are cold), but it is an important part of your workout and should not be left out!
Now that you have a basis of the different methods of stretching I am talking about here, let me share with you what I have found to be the best and safest way to get a good stretch before AND after your runs (or other cardio activities).
Warm up: Fast pace walk for two minutes just to bring your body to life.
Dynamic Warmup: Perform 3-5 dynamic exercises to really get your muscles loosened up ad HOT in preparation for your run.
Dynamic Cool down: Take a good 5 minutes at the end your run to gradually bring your heat rate down. Throw in 1 or 2 dynamic stretches, such as a few walking lunges, to avoid bringing your muscles to a cold halt.
Post static Stretch: Now is where you was to take the time to give your body a nice, lengthening stretch! Sit down for 10 minutes and combine a series of static stretches. If post running or other vigorous cardio, spend extra time with your quads, hamstrings, calves, and piriformis (hips). This will help with soreness, cramping, and a faster recovery time.