When you start running or pick back up from a hiatus, it’s normal to feel a little tight. Often this prompts several questions…
Do I stretch before I run or after (or both)? Which stretches are best?
Historically, runners stretched by using static stretching, the kind where you move into a stretch and hold it for 15 seconds to a minute before running. A few years ago some studies came about that showed that these static stretches resulted in poor performance. It negatively impacted running economy for the first ~100 meters. Static stretching got a bad reputation as a result. Now, if you’re training for a short track meet, this may be relevant, but for our purposes – running a few miles and up – not so much.
Still, for healthy runners, there isn’t much gained from a pre-run stretch. You’re off the hook – It’s fine not to stretch at all before.
Before you start running
If you do nothing else pre-run, take 5-10 minutes to warm up slowly. You can start by walking, build to a jog, and then add in some ‘pick ups’, running faster for 100 meters or so. After that, you can throw in some dynamic stretches (but kickers, skips, fast feet, etc.)
When you start running at full speed out of the gate, your heart rate skyrockets, which is abrupt and sort of painful. So many beginner runners dread the first mile. For many years, I did, too. It doesn’t have to be that way. Start slowly. This can mean walking briskly (a great option if you’ve been sitting all day) or jogging slowly. You’ll feel much better during mile 1 and you will be more likely to get out and run again if you aren’t dreading the first mile.
You’ve completed your run. Now what?
The main thing is the cool down. The goal of cooling down is to ease your body back to resting state and allow it to rid itself of any lactic acid build up. Jog or walk for ten minutes after every run. The harder the effort of your main set, the longer the cool down should be.
If there is a particular body part that feels tight, go ahead and stretch it, but general stretching is not necessary
Massage is also fabulous for runners as it lengthens and relaxes shortened muscle fibers and can improve the circulatory system / enable your body to deliver oxygen to your muscles more efficiently.
What’s you’re warm-up / cool down routine?