4 Dynamic stretches before running
Dynamic stretches before running – Flexibility boosts performance, improves posture and reduces the chances of getting an injury. Gerald Smith investigates how and why you should stretch.
In addition to the 4 dynamic stretches before running this article also includes:
- Five after running stretches
- Five yoga stretches for running
Dynamic stretches before running – Finding time to train can often be difficult. With the precious time we do have we want to turn up, run and go.
However, you are missing a key part of your work out, if all you do is run. Flexibility training has been shown to:
- improve posture
- range of motion in your hip
- prevent injuries
- aid in recovery of lactic acid
- prepare the body for exercise
There are research papers that question the value of stretching for injury prevention, but there are also some universally accepted facts on what type of stretch to perform before and after running.
Although stretching may add extra time to your work out there are ways that you can maintain the balance in your muscles throughout the day, which could save you adding time onto your work out.
What could happen if I don’t stretch?
Flexibility, performance and posture are all interlinked. Posture can be altered by your day to day activities.
For example, if you work at a desk all day you may find that you get lower back pain from sitting down on your bum all day.
This can cause your:
- gluteus muscles to switch off and become weak
- your hip flexor muscles to become tight
- hamstring muscles lose range of motion and become tight
- your abdominal muscles to become weak
This type of muscle imbalance can lead to a type of bad posture known as hyper lordosis and can lead to lower back during your runs.
Sitting at a desk can also cause poking head posture.
Poking head posture is caused when your head pokes forward. Poking head posture is caused by shortening of the muscles in the:
- intercostals (breathing muscles)
- rectus abdominus
- latissimus dorsi
These muscles are at the front of the body and they pull the head forward. When this posture is developed it can be bad for your running form for a few key reasons.
Poking head posture. This picture shows the alignment of your ear in relation to the centre of your shoulder. The second picture is ideal alignment; the ear is perfectly in line with the centre of the shoulder. In the first picture the ear is 3-4 inches forward causing strain on the muscles of the neck and upper back, and restricting shoulder movement.
The first is that it reduces the blood supply to the brain, which affects your concentration.
Katherine Watkins who is a physiotherapist (www.watkinsphysio.com) also believes that your breathing will be affected due to the impingement of key nerves supplying the diaphragm.
This is because the tightness in your chest brings your shoulders forward, as well as the head and the nerves that run through this region to your brain are restricted.
The affect poking head posture has on your breathing is particularly significant because it causes the breathing muscles attached to your rib cage to become shortened and tight.
These muscles are called the intercostals. Katherine mentions that when your intercostals or breathing muscles are tight, your breathing is restricted during your runs.
How to do warm up stretches for running
Over the years athletes have migrated to using dynamic stretches in their warm ups in favour of performing static stretches.
This is because many studies have shown that static stretching as part of your warm up has no affect on performance.
Dynamic stretching is when you take the joint through a large range of motion quickly like when you perform a high kick.
The large range of motion places a stretch on the muscle and because it’s performed at the speeds similar to how quickly you move during running it acts as a more functional stretch compared to static stretching.
The research into dynamic stretching shows that it is important for speed events, but dynamic stretching is still functional for distance runners.
Should I do after running stretches?
Although dynamic stretching is the best type of stretch to perform at the start of the work out.
Static stretching is better for changing posture and developing range of motion, so it should be performed at the end of a work out.
Static stretching is when you take a muscle to its full range of motion and hold for 15 seconds to over one minute.
An example of this is bending over to touch your toes, and as you feel that burn in the back of your legs you hold that position.
Key muscles to stretch
To prevent poking head posture you should stretch the:
- latisimus dorsi
You will have a greater range of motion, and improved posture as by stretching these muscles.
- The hip flexors
- IT band
These muscles are also important to running performance.
If you sit at work all day you are likely to get short, tight hip flexors which are going to place more strain on your lower back, because you’re hip flexor connects from the top of your leg into your lower back.
I haven’t got time to stretch, how can I fit this into my day?
“If you can concentrate on your posture continually during the day, you will go a long way to maximising the benefits of all your core and flexibility training” says Katherine Watkins.
She also says that “Performing pelvic tilts at work will help improve your core stability”.
Shoulder setting exercises are also great to address shoulder strength and the imbalances caused by sitting at a desk.
If this is combined with the simple stretch routine I have sourced in this article, you should greatly reduce the risk of injury and see an increase in your performance.
This isn’t a stretch, but its something that can be performed while seated at work to retain the balance between your chest and back.
Keep your head back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull them downwards. Perform this as often as you can during the day.
Here are four Dynamic stretches before running you can do!
1) Dynamic hamstring stretch
2) Windmill hamstring stretch
3) Running dynamic hip abductor and adductor stretch
4) Dynamic hip flexor stretch
5 running cool down stretches
5) Warrior one
6) Revolving triangle
8) Pigeon pose
9) Psoas stretch
I hope these stretches will help you with your running. Here are 5 more running cool down stretches.
5 easy yoga stretches for running
If you run regularly, you probably are familiar with the aches and pains that you get in your legs from running long distances.
They can come if you have had a hard week of training or if you have had a particularly gruelling session. It is important to try minimising these aches and pains so that you can focus on your running.
You may not think about yoga and running as a strong partnership, but they really do complement each other.
This is due to the amount of flexibility and strength challenges that you face as a runner. Running works the same muscles over and over again.
The repetitive shortening and lengthening of the same muscles eventually can lead to overuse injuries and muscular imbalances that can impair performance.
With regular yoga stretching, you can identify weak spots and imbalances on your body. It may be that one leg is stronger than the other, or maybe you can rotate better on one side compared to the other.
These are all signs that your body is out of sync, and these yoga stretches will help solve these problems.
The yoga stretches that I will share with you will help to restore balance and symmetry, which will perfectly complement your running.
They will strengthen and open up many different muscles throughout your body, which will help you become a better runner.
Here are some of the benefits of these yoga stretches for running
These yoga stretches will help you to understand your body more deeply.
It builds a mental awareness that helps you to detect when your body is out of alignment so that you know that you are more likely to get injured. With this knowledge, you can make adjustments to your training to hopefully avoid these injuries.
The improved alignment that you will get from these stretches will improve your running form and decrease injury risk.
The improved breathing you get from yoga has health benefits.
You will achieve better oxygen supply to all your organs, and you can apply the deep breathing techniques into your running for greater relaxation and economy.
There are other benefits as well, like reducing stress levels.
This is one of the strongest benefits for running as greater flexibility decreases injury risk and can help improve your running technique.
Makes you a stronger runner mentally
Yoga can improve your mental state and concentration. One of the great things about running is that it helps you clear your head.
Using these yoga stretches and using some of the principles from yoga is like a double whammy for your mental state.
Easy yoga stretches for runners
- Downward dog
- Low lunge with rotation
- Half pigeon
- Seated folded
- Reclining cow face
- Reclining spinal twist
- Childs pose
Here are the 5 easy yoga stretches for runners
Low lunge with rotation
Areas targeted – Hips, hip flexor, obliques, lower back, groin, quadriceps and calves
What to do – Start in a standing position and step one leg forward into a lunge position. Make sure that your right knee is at 90 degrees when you lower yourself down.
Your ankle should be directly under your knee, and your hip should be parallel to your knees.
Your left leg should now be positioned so that your knee is touching the floor and the souls of your feet facing upwards.
Place your left hand next to your right foot, making sure that it is inline with your left foot. Rotate your right arm so that your hand is facing the ceiling. Hold for 10 deep breaths and then change side.
Areas targeted – Hips
Start with your hands and knees on the floor. Draw the right knee as close as you can towards your right wrist, then try to get your right ankle towards your left hand.
You want to try your best to ensure that your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Once you have your right foot in position, try to stretch your left leg as far back as you can.
The further away you can push your left foot back the greater the stretch will be in your hips. Lean your body forward and stretch your arms out as far as you can.
Hold for 10 deep breaths. Switch sides when complete.
Areas targeted – hamstrings, calves, and shoulders
What to do – The start position is on your hands and knees. Ensure that your wrists are under your shoulders and that your knees are above your ankles.
Spread your finger as wide as you can to increase your grip and press your palms into the floor. Spread and tuck your toes and then lift your knees from the floor until your bum is in the air.
Try to keep your legs straight and push your heels down towards the floor. Hold this position for 10 deep breaths.
Reclining cow face
Area targeted – hips
What to do – Lie down on your back with both of your knees bent and crossed. Your feet should be out to the side.
Hold on to your left foot with your right hand, and grab your right foot with the opposite hand. If you find it uncomfortable holding your ankles you can grab your shins instead.
Hold this post for 10 deep breaths and then change legs.
Reclining spinal twist
Areas targeted – upper and lower spine as well as the glutes.
What to do – To transition from reclining cow face into this stretch lower your legs and then twist to your right side with both of your legs crossed.
You must keep your opposite shoulder on the floor while you twist. Turn your head in the opposite direction that you are twisting in and extend both of your arms.
Hold for 10 deep breaths and change sides.