The What, Why, When and How of Post Run Stretching

Firstly…We should not static stretch before running:

A functional warm up, steadily raising the heart rate, increasing oxygenated blood to the muscles, enhancing the range of motion in joints and releasing exercise ready hormones is more important. That’s why we have introduced a group warm up on club nights.

Why we should stretch after running

But having the longest muscles is not necessarily a benefit. Imagine that your muscle was longer than the distance between its two fixing points… it would be like a saggy elastic band. When you want the muscle to contract to make the limb move, there would be too much slack in it preventing it from being effective. Therefore we are trying to achieve a happy medium between tight muscles and muscles that are too long – btw, it rarely happens, but you get my drift!

How long to hold a stretch for?

Stretches should be held for a minimum of 20 seconds preferably 30 or more.

As soon as you stretch a muscle a signal goes to the spinal cord indicating a change in muscle length. The response is a signal back to the muscle to contract and shorten back to the length it previously was, resulting in the stretch being resisted. This is called Stretch reflex. By holding the stretch for over 20 seconds, the stretch reflex can be over ridden, enabling the muscle stretch to be effective.

How should it feel?

When stretching, you should have a slight feeling if discomfort in the muscle, but should not be painful or sharp; if so back it off gently. We need to get to the slightly uncomfortable point as that is where physiological change takes place. Ease into a stretch, don’t rush it, force it or bounce it.

What to stretch and how

Firstly, ensure that high intensity cardio sessions are followed by at least 10 minutes of low intensity exercise. This will enable continued blood flow to remove metabolic waste products and reduce the risk of muscle soreness the following day. So don’t just stop running and stretch, jog slowly then reduce to a walk before commencing stretching.

 

Calves - Gastrocnemius & Soleus

Calves - Gastrocnemius soleus

Move into the Soleus stretch

Soleus stretch

Quad Stretch Standing (Non cheating)

quad stretch

The reason for the crunchie is to maintain the position of the pelvis in relation to the lower spine; otherwise you would just be tilting the pelvis forward during the stretch making it less effective and placing pressure into the lower back.

Hamstrings - Standing

Hip flexor stretch

Why should we not place your foot on a raised object like a wall or fence? Because we are different heights with different tension in our muscles, so the same height object does not suit us all. This stretch is bespoke to you and your needs.

Hip Flexors


The most often overlooked group of muscles by runners. Vital to maintain pelvic neutrality, reducing the risk of lower back pain and preventing tight hamstrings.

If you struggle to maintain your balance during this stretch, perform it with a support to the side of the outstretched front foot.

Gluteal Muscles

Three very important muscles for the runner which should be developed for strength and maintained for flexibility. Gluteus Minimis, Medius and Maximus. They contribute to stabilisation of the pelvis, hip and knee joints; flexion, extension, internal and external rotation of the femur; and abduction of the hip – pretty important muscle group!


Glutes – Seated Twist

Glutes seated twist

ITB - Standing

IT Band stretch
As the ITB is connective tissue it is not a muscle and cannot be stretched very much at all, however relief can be felt if the connected muscles are stretched.

Here endeth the stretching lesson. If anyone has any questions about stretching or need guidance when we are back together at the club, please do ask.

There are of course many other stretches that can be done, so I shall cover some more of them in the coming weeks.

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