Do you really need to stretch?
You’ve heard that runners need to stretch. Not only is it important for injury prevention, it’s also critical for performance. But some might not stretch consistently. Why not?
You might not know how important it is in injury prevention. The more you understand, the more likely you are to incorporate stretching into your everyday routine.
Stretching is a vital part of performance enhancement. If you have an office job, your routine might center around sitting at a desk, sitting in a car, lying on the couch — all passive activities that place your muscles in a shortened position.
Over time, that shortened position becomes the resting state of muscles. When it’s time for a run, you then ask these “shortened” muscles to lengthen. However, when you don’t stretch, you neglect to even give them a heads up. This abrupt change can be hard for muscles to react to. In fact, sometimes they even fight back, and you can end up with a strain.
Stretching allows for that heads up. When you stretch, you’re actually deforming the muscle tissue into a lengthened position. Over time, stretching will increase the range of motion at the joints and ultimately lead to overall improved performance.
You can use these five basic stretches below as a starting point to begin your program. Hold these stretches without bouncing for 30 seconds, one to two times per day.
Warm muscles stretch better than cold muscles. When you stretch a cold muscle, you risk tearing the muscle fibers you’re trying to protect. So, before you stretch, perform a short five-minute warm-up. You’ll be surprised how well you feel in about six weeks.
Quads: Stand on one leg and bring the leg to be stretched behind you, holding your ankle with the same hand. Keep your thighs parallel and the involved knee pointed straight to the ground. Push your involved hipbone slightly forward, being sure to keep standing up straight. Don’t lean over – this doesn’t help increase the stretch.
Hip flexors: Kneel on the leg to be stretched with the other leg out in front. Slightly tuck your buttocks in and lunge forward. Try not to arch your back.
Hamstring: Prop the leg to be stretched on a small step, keeping your knee straight. Keep your back straight while you slightly lean your chest forward – hinging at your hips. Do not bend over — this is a less efficient way to stretch and puts stress on your back.
Part 1: Place the leg to be stretched behind you. Lunge forward while keeping your heel on the ground and knee straight.
Part 2: Put a slight bend at the knee while keeping your heel on the ground.
About the Author
Marissa Strehlow, MS, LAT, is an athletic trainer at Aurora Sports Health in Mequon and is the athletic trainer for Nicolet High School.