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A Guide To Stretching After A Run

Why do many runners always have the time to run, but seldom have the time afterward to stretch (or the time to warm up before for that matter)?

Besides choosing the right running shoe and training correctly for your runs, stretching is the most important thing you can do to help protect your body from injuries.

Warm muscles react better to stretching, so after a run is a perfect time to go through your stretching routine. Not only does stretching help you stay injury-free, you’ll notice less post-run muscle soreness, and better body response and performance.

But the key to proper stretching is the method you use, or in other words, how you stretch. Do it wrong and you actually increase your chances for an injury.

One of the worst things you can do is bounce (quickly stretch) a muscle. When bounced, a muscle’s natural tendency is to contract. This instant contraction is what can rip or tear a muscle and cause an injury. Instead:

• stretch slowly
• hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds
• slowly relax the stretch

Never push a muscle (even slowly) past the point of where it feels tight. Use the sequence above and you can gently push the muscle to safely stretch further.

After a run, stretch the large muscles groups that were worked. These are:

1) Quadriceps:

• With your knees together and your back straight, lean up against a wall with your right hand.
• Bend your left knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks.
• Hold your left foot with your left hand.
• Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
• Repeat using your other leg.

2) Hamstrings:

• Lie on your back with your knees bent ensuring both feet are flat on the floor.
• Draw one knee up to your chest and extend that leg straight up.
• Hold onto the back of your calf with both hands.
• Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slowly pull the leg towards you.
• Hold for at least 30 seconds.
• Repeat with the other leg.

3) Lower Leg:

• Stand on a raised surface.
• Move both feet back until your heels are just off the raised surface.
• Slowly lower your heels down until you feel the stretch in your calves.
• Hold for at least 30 seconds.

4) Hip Flexors and Glutes:

To stretch out these two large muscles groups requires two different stretches.

Stretch One
• Lie on your back with your knees bent ensuring both feet are flat on the floor.
• Place your right ankle on your left knee.
• Grab your left hamstring with both your hands by lacing your fingers together behind it.
• Inhale deeply and while exhaling, lift your left foot off the floor and draw your legs towards your chest.
• Keep your head, back and shoulders flat on the floor.
• Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
• Repeat using your left ankle.

Stretch Two
• Kneel on your right knee with your left leg forward ensuring your knees are at 90-degree angles.
• For stability, place your hands on your left thigh or on the ground.
• Take a deep breath in and slowly bend forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip.
• Hold for at least 30 seconds.
• Repeat with the other knee.

Performing these static stretches after a run will help improve your flexibility, prevent injury and speed in the recovery of your large lower body muscle groups.

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