Both warm-ups and cool-downs are important for long-term running health, and today I’m going to talk about two different types of stretching. We’re going to look at dynamic stretching for warm-ups, and static stretching for cool-downs.
Ideally, I’d love to see a half-mile very easy run to warm-up before starting dynamic stretches. Think of your muscles as pieces of plastic. Bending a cold piece of plastic will cause it to snap; however, a piece of plastic that has been allowed to warm up is pliable and bends. Our muscles work the same way – the more oxygenated blood we get pumping through our bodies, the more warmed up we’ve gotten our muscles, and the less likely they are to snap or tear.
Dynamic and static stretches are very different. Dynamic stretches utilize momentum to stretch particular muscle groups, and static stretches elongate the muscle group through a slow movement while the body is passive. In static stretching the stretch is stopped and held for 20-30 seconds when the muscle reaches its elongated state, but in dynamic stretching the body keeps moving.
It’s a lot easier to show you how to do each dynamic stretches visually, and since I don’t have videos made up of these exercises I’ve found them on YouTube for you. All of the dynamic stretches in these videos are great, but I’ve marked the point at which you can find the stretches I highlighted in my list above. Do about ten to fifteen of each movement.
- Lunges – Demonstrated at :06
- Crossovers – Demonstrated as crossing behind at 1:07 (I crossover in front with a high leg swing)
- Airplanes – Called standwaage and demonstrated at 5:38
- Leg Swings – Demonstrated at :47
- Toy Soldiers – Called hamstring flexibility and demonstrated at 5:22
- Hacky Sacks – Called figure four stretch and demonstrated at 4:31
Most likely the stretches you’re used to doing after your runs (and hopefully never before) are static stretches. Please keep in mind that static means static, not bouncing. I see so many people bounce when I have them stretch.
You should go into your stretch, elongating the muscle to about 90% of it’s maximum stretch. Don’t go into a full “painful” stretch or your stretch reflex will kick in. The human body is an amazing machine, and has wonderful built-in protective mechanisms. If it senses overstretching, stretch reflex causes the muscle to constrict to prevent overstretching and possible injury, thus being counter productive to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Hold each stretch for approximately thirty seconds. If during that time you feel like you can safely go into a deeper stretch, you can do so for another thirty seconds or so.
To demonstrate each move, I’ve found pictures of the static stretches I’ve listed above. Please don’t limit your stretches to these muscle groups only. I’ve simply included them as the major muscle groups used when running.
Stretching can be a great time to reflect on your run or workout. Use you stretching session as a time to relax, unwind, and enjoy your quite time before returning to your hectic day.
- Have you tried warming up with dynamic stretches?
- Be honest – do you stretch regularly?
- Do you practice yoga?