Stretching is a job, we recognize that. Most of us do not do not do it or not pay enough attention to that, but if we don’t do it in the long term, that results in injuries.
In this article we are going to review the most important concepts and giving examples of stretching.
Stretch before running or after running?
Note the myth: “stretching before running is bad”. It’s not true. For many years it was believed that it was like that, but it is far from being true.
Stretching before training increases the heart rate, increases the production of adrenaline and is a good way to complete the earlier warm-up.
In addition, contrary to what is thought, stretching just after the training is not advantageous. Muscles need energy for stretching, so we need to rehydrate them and regain energy.
Ideally, stretch after two hours after the training is over. A good practice can be to train in the morning and stretch in the afternoon, or vice versa.
How to stretch correctly
- Do not start stretching cold. We have to have previously warmed-up a little
- Leave the muscle elongated for 20-30 seconds (in static stretches)
- Do not feel pain at any time. If it causes discomfort, you are doing it wrong
- Dedicate at least 10 minutes in each training session to stretching
- Accept criticism from a friend if they tell you when you do something wrong
7 basic stretches
There are many stretches and it can paralyze us to see all the options we have.
We have made a selection of the seven most basic or essential stretches that you can start doing today.
1.- Quadriceps and hip extensors
It is a very common stretch in which the flexors of the hip and quadriceps are stretched.
Lean with one hand on a fence or wall and let yourself fall backwards. With the other hand hold the toe of the foot, approaching the gluteus.
It is important to keep the back straight and the knee as close as possible to the knee of the supporting leg. A frequent mistake is to separate them.
A variation of this stretch is to do it lying on one side, but it is more complicated. Doing it like in the image will be a good way to accustom the muscles involved.
2.- Hamstrings and calves
Stretching the hamstrings and the entire posterior cross chain is very important.
Place the heel of the foot of the leg to stretch on top of a fence, wall or bench. The objective is to reach 90º (maximum angle), but in the first sessions it will be normal not to be able to go beyond 45º, hence we need a lower support, such as a bench or the first or second step.
Once the heel is placed, lean the body forward, trying to keep the back straight and touching the toe of the foot with the hand. At the beginning, the normal thing is not to reach the foot, so to stay a few centimeters away is enough.
Although it may not seem like it, the other arm plays an important role. Support it without straining the stretched leg to avoid any rotation of the hip.
Even though you do not pay much attention, the iliopsoas is a muscle that is easily shortened if you run regularly. This shortening can cause lumbar pain.
You have to advance one of the legs and bend the knee at an angle of approximately 90 degrees, trying to keep the knee forward in a slightly forward position with respect to the ankle. The other leg extends behind the trunk and comes in contact with the ground.
The hands rest on the forward knee without force to keep balance. It is important that the forward knee be directed forward and not in any other direction.
4.- Lumbar and back
“Doing the cat” is one of the best stretches to strengthen the lumbar area and back. Intervertebral pressures are reduced and pains that can appear in long runs are minimized.
In quadruped position, with knees and hands spaced a distance from the width of the person, arch the column until it is bent and, without pausing, arch to extend the column down. In this way, the rectus abdominus is also stretched.
Sit on the floor and spread your legs, opening them in a V shape. At first the opening will not be as wide as the image, nothing happens.
Place the outstretched arms in front and slide your hands little by little, flexing the trunk. The knees and legs should remain stretched and stuck to the ground so that the stretch is done correctly.
Stretching the glutes is essential. The most basic stretch is that in the image.
Lie down and bend one knee, bringing the foot to the trunk with both hands. The other leg should remain stretched in extension, without separating from the ground. Then you have to repeat with the other leg.
7.- External hip rotator
To finish, a quite common and easy to do stretch.
Sit on the floor and, with one leg extended, flex the other and place your foot next to the outer side of the extended knee. The arms embrace the flexed knee until you feel some muscle tension (never pain) in the buttock and the outside of the hip.
These stretches are centered, to a greater extent, on the lower body training (minus the back one). That does not mean that it is not important to stretch the rest of the body (head, shoulders, chest,), but they are a good start for the beginner runner.
Of course there are many other stretching exercises you can do and also you have to take into account that stretching have to be adapted to everyone physical characteristics. Always listen to your body!