With the warmer weather gracing our presence in the southern hemisphere, many people are pledging to be more active and trying to start positive throughout the summer. For many, exercise means one thing: running.
If you're getting your running shoes on and are planning on hitting the pavement this summer, make sure you take some time to loosen up and stretch beforehand. Stretching can help prevent injury and even give you a bit of a performance boost when done right - the five minutes it takes before and after a workout can truly make a difference.
How to Stretch Before a Workout
It's important that you stretch comfortably to suit the condition of your muscles. Before your workout, your muscles are cool without much blood flowing to them. Dynamic stretches like lunges and high knees can be good to get the blood pumping, but intensive, full extension stretches should be avoided until after your workout.
Keep it gentle and soft, without pushing yourself too hard before your run to prevent injury.
How to Stretch After a Workout
When your muscles have been warmed up after a nice, long run is the best time to stretch. Stretches should be slow and last around the thirty-second mark to ensure you're getting the most from each movement.
Focus on stretching these essential muscles for running.
Tight hamstrings can cause lower back problems and pulled muscles. Stretching your hamstrings regularly can improve your form and stride, preventing injuries.
Your quads help you lift your knees and stretching them will improve speed and help your hamstrings grow stronger.
The more flexible your calf muscles are, the longer the stride that you can achieve and the easier running is on your shins. If you suffer from shin splints, calf stretches can help ease the pain and prevent them from returning after proper rest and care.
The piriformis is the muscle responsible for hip rotation. Frequent runners might find that their piriformis tightens up, and stretching can prevent spasms and irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Keeping in shape is incredibly important, and it's just as important to look after your body by stretching properly before and after workouts. Make sure that you don't overstretch to the point where your muscles feel tight or sore. Stay loose and improve your performance by stretching every time you head out on a run.