If you have prepared yourself for race day and have not decided to include stretching before your race in your plan, then that is a grave mistake. Stretching makes you more limber and prepares your muscles for the imminent exercise—in this case, race day—that you are subjecting your body to. For the better part of the last 30 or so years, the kind of stretching called static or gradual stretching has been the most popular. This is where you assume a gradual and slow stretch and then hold the pose for up to 30 seconds. Some of these types of stretches are nearly instinctive in that you don’t even really have to think too much about them. Here are 3 stretching tips for runners on race day.
1. Stretch Conservatively
Stretching conservatively means two things: One, that you don’t force or push yourself before race day while stretching and, two, that you don’t try to stretch as much as people who are more flexible than you. The ideal way to stretch is to assume the proper stretching position, then hold it for up to 30 seconds. The important thing to remember while doing this stretch before your race is to not stretch to the point where you are hurting yourself. Some mild or modest tension during your stretch is fine, even natural, but if you are giving yourself pain during your stretching, you should ease off. Sometimes, you will push yourself to stretch farther than your bodily limitations because you see others around you being able to stretch farther than you. This may have to do with them just being naturally more flexible than you, so don’t sweat it, and don’t overdo it.
2. Stay Relaxed
Relaxation while stretching is a key component to not only performing your stretches in the proper fashion, but also to making sure that you do not hurt yourself unnecessarily. A big component of and the best way to ensure staying relaxed is to watch your breathing, more specifically, making sure that your breathing is regular. You want to breathe while you are stretching in a normal, calm and relaxed fashion; some people actually hold their breath when stretching, which is harmful. Holding your breath means that you are tense and stressing out, and that defeats the whole purpose of stretching, which is to relax your muscles and prepare them for the upcoming race you will be running.
3. Never Cold-Stretch
Cold stretching is beginning a stretching routine when you have not warmed up your muscles. You do not want to do this at all because the risk for pulling and tearing your muscles increases this way. Instead, you should do a quick warm-up for about 5 to 10 minutes that consists of light running or jogging. Then, after taking a 5-minute break you can launch yourself into your real, pre-race stretching routine.