I don’t like stretching. I do a half-assed job after every run. Sometimes I don’t even stretch at all. The only time I ever made any effort to properly stretch was during my marathon training. I was committed to trying to do everything right. Even still, I found it tedious.
Running is a physically demanding sport, and many experts maintain that stretching is key to injury prevention and long-term enjoyment of the sport.
I was also reading recently that pre-run stretching should be considered critical as well. I have often heard the phrase “warm up first, stretch after,” and have tried to follow that logic. I do definitely notice a difference in my running ability when I warm up first with a light jog. For example, when I run to Parkrun instead of er….taking an Uber… (Don’t judge. Sometimes I sleep in!), I am almost always better. Take last Saturday as an example. I finished the run in 25:05 after the short 1 mile run there. Compare that to the week before where I took an Uber to the start line. My time was 25:51.
Anyway, I have never had any magical results from stretching and sometimes my need for post-run snacks is greater than my need to stretch. But safely warming up and stretching your big running muscles like your calves, hamstrings and quads both before and after a run is crucial. If these muscles are too tight, injuries are likely to occur.
So, here are a few simple stretching tips to keep you injury-free:
- Don’t stretch cold muscles. Do a little warm-up jog first, then stretch. Stretching is not your warm-up.
- Ease into the stretch. Don’t bounce or force it. If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.
- After a run, hold each stretch for 30 seconds or 5 breaths. Longer if you like.
- Focus on major muscle groups, especially your running muscles.
- Strive for consistency. It’s a pain. I know. But you get the most benefit by stretching regularly.
Also, half way through writing this post, I had a weird sense of deja-vu. I thought to myself, “I feel like I have written about this topic before.” Turns out, I did indeed write on this topic, back in 2012, and even had expert help from a yoga instructor named Jamie! If you would like to read more about some awesome stretches from an expert (not me!) check out: