Should you stretch before or after running?
This is a common question. And with all of the myriad conflicting personal advice floating around on the web, it’s no wonder. While some sources advocate for one or the other, and some even suggest that it’s matter of preference, expert research shows something completely different.
So, which is it? The short answer is both. Experts have shown health benefits to stretching both before and after a run. However, as in most areas in life, what you do matters. The type of stretching you perform is important, and what your body needs before strenuous exercise is different from what it needs after.
When you think of stretching, you probably think back to the elementary gym when your gym teacher lined you all up and had you stand up tall, bend over, and touch your toes before making you keep pace with her around the gym for an hour. Well, no offense to your gym teacher, but today’s sport scientists have learned that when it comes to running your functional range of motion is far more important than flexibility.
For running, a good dynamic stretch sequence should take your ankles, knees, and hips through their full range of motion. Some great exercises for a pre-run warm up include heel and toe raises, high-knees, back (donkey) kicks, and hip circles. Remember, trunk rotation plays an integral part in healthy walking and running. Be sure to warm up your trunk muscles with torso rotation to get the juices flowing along your spinal collumn.
See Related: 5 Morning Stretches You Should Do Every Day
For any workout, including running, static stretching is an important part of your cooldown. Remain active in the early stage of your cooldown, allowing your heart rate to come down slowly. After running, you may notice tighness or fatigue in your feet, calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, and hip flexors. Start your static stretch sequence from the bottom up, taking care to elongate the muscle slowly and only to the point where you feel extreme tightness. Stretching should never hurt. Release the stretch slowly, and take a moment to rotate the joint nearest to promote the healthy flow of blood and synovial fluid in the joint capsule.
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Warm up, cool down, and enjoy your run!