Whether you run recreationally, to keep fit or even if you just run for the bus, it’s never a bad idea to stretch afterwards.
There are two main types of stretching:
These are the stretches you’ll remember from your high school P.E. lessons (however reluctantly you took part!). Static stretching brings your muscle tissues to the end of its range and holds it there for a period of time. Bringing your heel to your glutes and holding it there to stretch the muscles in the front of your thighs (your quadriceps, or quads) for example.
This involves moving your muscles from their natural position to the end of their range in a smooth, controlled action. One that you might recognise is swinging your leg back and forth to stretch your hamstrings.
There’s a number of reasons why you should stretch after a run, however far or long you’ve gone. It helps to prevent post-exercise muscle soreness, increases flexibility and range of motion and, if you stretch before you exercise as part of your warm up routine, it can help to improve performance too.
Or does it?
We’re often taught to make stretching part of both our warm up and cool down routines by friends, coaches, and even teachers in school but, there’s been a lot of debate over whether or not it’s actually as beneficial as we initially thought. This review, that looked at the results of a variety of studies, showed us that stretching before or after exercise makes little difference to post-exercise muscle soreness but whilst it can’t stave off the dreaded DOMS, it can help to improve your flexibility and range of movement.
In fact, flexibility and range of movement is actually instantly improved by stretching; muscles resist movements less and joints move further too. These improvements can be achieved through both static and dynamic stretching but, if you’re stretching to improve performance, be careful and choose wisely…
Static stretching, whilst beneficial in some ways, can impair your power, agility and balance immediately after the stretch. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has the same benefits without the drawbacks.
So, overall, studies have shown us that while stretching helps to improve the body’s range of motion, it probably won’t help with your muscle soreness and, if you choose a static stretch, may even stop you getting that Parkrun personal best.
And, don’t forget, if you’re feeling tight or sore post-workout, make sure you book an appointment with one of our Sports Massage Therapists who can provide you with the treatment and advice you need to get back up and running in no time.