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Stretching for Runners

Stretching is an essential part of successful running.  A good stretching routine can help to minimize muscle imbalances, prevent injury, improve your exercise tolerance and your running performance  The following stretching program is designed for runners who do not have any current injuries or individual stretching needs.  If you have an injury, or a specific mechanical imbalance that may be holding back your running performance, your West Vancouver Sports and Orthopedic Physiotherapy physiotherapist can design a stretching program just for you.

When is the Best Time to Stretch?

When your muscles are warm and relaxed!  Stretching can be done both before and after your run, but some debate continues about whether or not stretching is of benefit before you run.  It ultimately depends on the type of running you are doing, whether that be a 400m sprint, a light 3 km jog or a 10km hill training run.  Its important to do an active warm up before you run which means performing the type of activity you are about to do, but at a light intensity. Ballistic stretches are dynamic movements that involve swinging or bouncing and help increase your nerve conduction velocity to prepare your muscles for your race or run. Slow static stretches after your run help slow down your nerve firing rate and return your muscle activity back to baseline.

  If your muscles are warm and the stretching is performed correctly, then there is likely to be no harm in stretching before you run.   The stretches shown below will take about 15 minutes to complete.  If you can only make time to complete the program once, then the best time for stretching is after your run.

Rules for Stretching:

Ballistic stretches

  • Warm up the muscles first.  If you want to stretch before you run, this means you'll need to walk or jog for about 5 minutes before stretching. 
  • Actively take your muscles to end range where you feel gentle resistance but no pain, then release (light bounce).
  • Repeat for 20-30 seconds, 3-4 times to actively stretch the muscle. Bouncing should be gentle, not vigorous to avoid a muscle strain.  With each set, you can increase your velocity slightly, working up to the pace of your activity.
    The stretches below demonstrate the static position but can also be done as a ballistic stretch.  Alternately, for muscles such as your quadriceps the ballistic stretch might involve heel kicks to your buttocks, or for hamstrings, kicking you leg up into the air.

Static stretches

  • Slowly take your muscles to the end of their range.  You will feel slight resistance in the muscle, but you should never feel pain during a stretch.
  • Hold the stretch in a static or stable position.  Do not bounce.
  • Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.  Repeat each stretch 3-4 times.
These muscles are your prime movers for running.  You'll need to stretch these muscles each time you run.  Don't forget to stretch both sides.
Hamstring Stretch
Quadricep Stretch

Calf Stretch
Gluteal Stretch

Adductor Stretch

ITB (Iliotibial Band) Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

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