Over the past number of years there has been much controversy and talk about when it is best to stretch – whether it should be before or after a run, which is more beneficial and why?
The general consensus is that a light warm-up is best before a run to avoid stretching cold muscles, as they are like delicate bands that need heat to start working and performing well.
Looking back, the entire point of stretching was to lengthen the muscles and hope it would enhance performance but, over the years, studies have proven there is no benefit to this. So, sticking to a warm-up routine and possibly some dynamic stretching pre-run is the way to go.
Stretching after a run is as important as warming up. You may feel slightly achy, especially if you are starting to push yourself. Calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes can all feel the impact, even after a light run.
If you think that stretching after a run isn't important for you, think again. Stretching post-run has been proven to help muscles by lengthening and stretching the tendons. The shortening of tendons caused by stress of impact can, over time, leave you feeling very tight and less flexible.
Common areas like the IT band, hamstrings and calves can be particularly prone to this. A lack of good-quality stretching after your run will increase the likelihood of injuries.
There are simple stretches that are easy to do after a run. Hamstring, quad and glute stretches are all great and, if you have time, some foam-rolling massaging can be a great way of relaxing many muscle groups.
Try these stretches on a Swiss ball after your run.
Hamstring stretch on swiss ball
1/ Start by standing straight with one heel on the Swiss ball and your arms out in front.
2/ Keep the leg on the ball as straight as possible. Lean forward at the waist, allowing your hands to reach towards your foot on the ball.
Glute stretch on Swiss ball
Start by lying on your back with your calves on the Swiss ball. Place one foot over the opposite knee and gently push the outside knee towards the ball. Repeat on opposite leg.
IT band on foam roller
Quadriceps on foam roller
1/ Start by lying face down with your legs resting on the roller just above your knees.
2/ Support your weight on your hands, then lower the body down almost like a press-up allowing the roller to roll up along the quad. Then return to straight-arm position, allowing the roller to go back to the start position. Repeat.