Posted in Blog.
To Stretch or Not to Stretch
We get a lot of questions from our patients about stretching.
Should we stretch before we run?
Why am I even stretching?
Why should I even stretch?
Great question. The latest evidence on the benefits of stretching states that stretching has the biggest benefit on the neuromuscular system – by applying a stretch to a tired muscle, it helps to send a signal to the brain to turn that muscle off. This is why that long, static stretching is best saved for after a run – it can be counter-productive to shut off a muscle that is trying to be primed to work hard. Dynamic stretching combined with a term called “self-myofascial release” – better known as “foam rolling” can be very beneficial pre-workout. See, stretching is more involved than you think!
The goal should be to help open up our own individual tight spots, which can vary from person to person. We don’t need to stretch every muscle in our body every day. Staying loose is good, but overstretching can actually put you at greater risk for a running related injury.
It’s very important to keep stretching COMFORTABLE. Otherwise, you risk causing the body to tense even more as it goes into protection mode, which can be counterproductive. This is especially applicable to a strained, pulled, or super inflamed muscle. Oftentimes, the stretch feels good, but the affected area feels worse after a deep stretch. If a muscle is torn, the last thing you want to do is tug at those torn fibers more. Instead – try heat and some gentle rolling.
Pre Run Stretching:
A dynamic approach is best for pre run, as it both increases range of motion as well as increases circulation to the working muscles, getting your body ready for the work ahead. A dynamic approach is one that utilizes a gradually increasing range as your body begins to warm up. Try putting tension on the muscle, holding for a couple seconds, backing off, then repeating but going just a little farther every few “pulses.” A nice way to try a dynamic warm up like this would be to give our 3D Common Lunge Matrix Stretch a try.
A great example of when it is a good idea to stretch before a run would be If you tend to have tight calves that sometimes lead to shin pain. In this case, it’s wise to make sure you’ve foam rolled (see previous tip) and stretched out those calves before today’s run!
Post Run Stretching:
After a run is the best time for some gentle, longer hold stretching. Post run static stretching is beneficial for muscles that tend to tighten up on you over the course of a run. For a lot of us, this is our hip flexors (try the 3D Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch!) our calves, or our hamstrings. Work into it gradually, and don’t force a muscle to reach a certain length every day. Our bodies are different each day so make sure to tune in to how you are feeling. What counts is that you gave your muscles a chance to lengthen back out after a long run of contracting and working. Always good to do before sitting back down on the subway, couch, car seat, etc. It will leave you feeling better right off the bat for tomorrow 🙂
photo credit: Melissa Holtz