The importance of stretching before a workout has become an increasingly neglected part of many people's time on the pavement, but it's easy to optimize your run by stretching before running. While stretching in and of itself should not take a significant amount of time to complete, the benefits of stretching before a run can be considerable.
The Benefits of Stretching
Regardless of age or athletic ability, stretching is an activity that can benefit anyone before a run. Helping to increase the range of movement and reduce muscle tension, stretching before a run will also assist in raising your energy level during a run because of the increased circulation that comes from working your muscles.
Stretching can also offer a positive meditative effect before the physical exertion of a run and can help to clear your mind of that day's concerns, so as to allow you to focus on proper form during your workout.Precautions of Stretching
Above all, the most important part of stretching before a run is completing those stretches in a safe and correct manner. When deciding what stretches to include in a pre-run session, finding examples of stretches that include illustrations and step-by-step instructions can help to ensure you won't injure yourself. Even better is finding a veteran runner to ask for live demonstrations.
Avoid stretching too much before a run, so as not to prematurely fatigue the muscles. Over-stretching before you work out can actually have a negative impact if you stretch your muscles to the point of pain. Although the amount of stretching before working out can be guided by personal preference, 5 to 10 minutes of stretching should be all you need to fully benefit. You should also focus on dynamic, not static, stretches.Don't Just Stretch Your Legs
Proper stretching before a run involves more than just stretching your calves against a street curb. In addition to stretching the legs, it is important not to neglect the arms, torso and groin.
While it is possible to spend a full hour stretching (this is what happens in a Yoga class), all you need is 10 minutes and the following stretches for a basic pre-run routine. Remember that none of these stretches should hurt and that a gentle, steady pressure is all that is needed for proper stretching.
- Groin Stretch: While seated, place the soles of the feet against one another and use the elbows to push downward on the inside of the knees, leaning forward to apply pressure.
- Back Stretch: While sitting on the ground, lift the left leg and cross it over the right (with both legs bent). Then, hug the left leg to the chest while looking backward over the left shoulder. Reverse for the opposite leg.
- Hamstring Stretch: While flat on your back, raise one leg in the air with the other bent, with that foot flat on the floor. Using a towel, place the center of the towel across the arch of the foot in the air and with each hand, pull gently downward with the towel. Reverse for the opposite leg.