Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stretching After Running

There's an endless number of runners who seem perfectly able to squeeze in many hours of running every week but who just don't seem to have the time to stretch for five or ten minutes before and after. Find the time.

Stretching is important during your warm-up, before you run, because it increases blood flow to the muscles. But stretching during your cool-down may be even more important. "After running, stretching helps to remove lactic acid from the muscle, which in turn reduces muscle soreness," says Pitchford. "That promotes better flexibility." Stretching afterwards also will help you relax.

While stretching can promote flexibility, stretching too far actually can damage the muscles—particularly if you’re recovering form an injury. "A healthy muscle can elongate up to 1.6 times its length," suggests Pitchford, "but generally doesn’t respond well to that much stretching." By overstretching, you create an automatic myotatic reflex that actually will cause the muscle to recoil to protect itself from tearing and injury. Also, don’t bounce while stretching. Holding your stretch in a static position works best.

Stretching after you run is a biggie. Always stretch after your run. Light stretching is a good way to cool down after running. And it gives you a chance to strengthen some important running muscles.

To see the benefit of stretching, try running without stretching afterwards and then next time take time out to do a 10 minute warm down of stretches. Compare how you feel after doing both and you'll notice the benefit of stretching.

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