For far too many runners, warm-ups and cool-downs are an afterthought. They’ll give you all manner of reasons as to why they don’t bother with them, only to find themselves plagued by injury, and hobbling around after a particularly hard run. But if you're running stretches are a must.
Stretching should always feature in your cool-down routine, as it increases your joints’ range of movement (ROM), improves performance, and reduces the risk of soreness or injury.
There are two types of stretching: static and dynamic.
Static stretching involves moving a limb to the end of its ROM and then holding that stretched position for 15 to 60 seconds – these are the types of stretches shown below. Dynamic stretching involves controlled movement through the active range of motion for each joint – you can see examples of it in this pre-run warm-up routine.
Static stretching involves moving a limb to the end of its range of motion, then holding that position
According to a recent scientific paper, dynamic stretching has a greater positive effect on performance when used prior to exercise, as it primes both the muscles and nervous system.
Static stretching, however, belongs in your post-run cool-down, as it can increase your ROM. Here are the only three you really need.
1. Quad stretch
Hold onto something (or someone!) for balance. Stand tall and hold your foot in the position shown above. At the same time, squeeze the glute (bumcheek) of the leg being stretched to maximise the stretch. Hold for 15-60 seconds.
(Weird-but-handy tip: if you've got nothing to lean against and you're wobbling a little, try holding your earlobe with your free hand. Seriously!)
2. Hamstring stretch
Keep one leg straight – this is the leg that is being stretched. Place hands onto your supporting leg as shown above and push your hips back until you feel a stretch in the hamstring of your straight leg. Hold for 15-60 seconds.
3. Calf stretch
Get into a press-up position, and place one foot over the other as shown above. Push your hips into the air and push your heel down towards the floor to feel a stretch in the calf. Hold for 15-60 seconds.
And bam – you're all done!