STRETCHING – THE DOs and DON'Ts
Raise your hand if you know you should stretch. Now raise your other hand if you know you should stretch, but still never actually do it.
The biggest mistake runners and other athletes make when it comes to stretching is simply by not doing it. It’s so important to stay flexible/ mobile in order to stay injury-free. Runners who focus solely on running and ignore cross-training and stretching are at a higher risk of getting injured.
If you keep training/ running without dynamic stretching, you will end up becoming overly tight in some areas and weak in other areas and if you’re overly tight from never working on mobility, you may have to work harder to stride longer and move faster than if your body was moving with more efficiency through its full range of motion, with better quality of movement.
Stretching isn’t something you should only be doing before or after training. A little dynamic limbering and a few hamstring stretches before training or a run, then some long holds in a lunge or pigeon pose afterwards, isn’t going to cut it.
When it comes to stretching, frequency trumps duration. Even if you stretch for 20 minutes before and after your run, spending the rest of the day doing nothing will ensure those effects wear off quickly and have less of an effect on overall injury prevention.
Ideally, you should start your day with dynamic stretches, and again at midday. Save the long holding stretches for deep relaxation time and before bed. They’re a great way to relieve your body of the tension and allow for a better night’s sleep. If you keep the body moving through its full range of motion for short periods of time throughout the day, you will build a strong, flexible, less injury-prone body.
Dynamic > Static
A dynamic stretch is one that brings about flexibility through movement, such as arm circles or leg swings. A static stretch is one where you find the full length of the muscle and hold it for 30–90 seconds. Flexibility will actually improve far sooner with dynamic stretches which uses muscular effort and requires the joint to move through its entire range whereas with static stretching, most of your benefit is in the moment but as soon as you stand up and walk again, the muscle returns back to its contracted position. Static stretching can actually also aggravate inflamed areas which could slow down healing/ recovery.
If stretching hurts, Don’t do it. When you are stretching, find your “edge”. This is where you feel a stretch, without pain. Holding it there for a while allows for your connective tissue around the muscle to stretch out slowly. Going beyond your edge can lead to injury and inflammation as well as decreased performance.
The DO’s and DON’T’s of stretching, according to Kylie:
DO stretch daily
DON’T just focus on static stretching
DO stretch frequently
DON’T overstretch one muscle group
DO stretch front and back muscles equally (i.e. quads and hamstrings)
DON’T do the same thing every day
DO make use of foam rolling and self-myofascial release
DON’T try to stretch an injury! Always seek medical help or physiotherapy first
DO what feels good in your body – stretching out of pain
DON’T try to become “good” at stretching. A little bit a day will show great results and get where it needs to!
If you have any questions regarding stretching and injuries, let us know!