**This post is one of several in an excerpt series from the book, Be a Better Runner by Sally Edwards & Carl Foster**
11 RULES OF STRETCHING
All runners know they should stretch, but hardly anyone really knows how to do it right. Here’s how to get the most out of stretching.
1. WARM UP FIRST
Before any stretching, do a few minutes of easy running to make sure your muscles are appropriately warmed up. Stretching cold, tight muscles is probably worse than not stretching at all.
If possible, stretch passively, meaning stretch while lying down on the floor, not standing. Relax the muscle by taking it out of a weight-bearing and/or body stabilization position prior to the stretch. Generally, it’s harder to relax a muscle while it is under tension.
3. TOSS THE TOE-TOUCH
Never reach over to touch your toes from a standing position. The lower back is concave; this move makes it convex. “Your back ligaments are already stretched out by cycling, and they don’t need to be stretched more,” Carl Foster said. “A guy with a discectomy isn’t finding enlightenment.”
4. TAKE IT SLOW
Use the subsiding tension principle. Move slowly into the stretch and allow for tension to register before adjusting your intensity. Rapid stretching can stimulate the muscle to tighten up rather than lengthen. Hold stretches for fifteen to thirty seconds.
5. BREATHE EASY
Be in a position in which you can breathe slowly and rhythmically while holding your stretches. Exhale slowly as you extend to the endpoint of the stretch. As you exhale, your diaphragm and thoracic-cavity muscles should be relaxing, thus promoting a more effective relaxation of
the target muscles.
6. FEEL NO PAIN
Stretch to the limit of movement, not the point of pain. This is referred to as the endpoint of the stretch. If the stretch yields pain, back off the movement and make sure the stretching technique is correct. It may be necessary to try another position or a different stretching exercise (or method).
7. FOCUS ON ONE MUSCLE AT A TIME
Focus only on the muscle or muscles involved in the stretch, minimizing the movement of other body parts. Systematically stretch each major muscle and muscle group. Don’t try to rush by attempting to stretch several muscles at once. You’ll get a substandard stretch and you’ll risk injury.
8. ALTER THE ANGLE
Stretch the muscles in various positions, as this may improve the overall range of movement at the joint. For example, to stretch your hamstrings from different angles, switch hands; first, grab your right toe with your right hand, and then switch and grab your right toe with your left hand. This will give you more of a cross-body movement that will stretch the hamstring more on its lateral side, along with the IT band.
9. HIT ’EM ALL
Stretch all of your major muscle groups as well as the opposing muscle groups. For example, after your biceps, hit your triceps; do the same with your abdominals and lower back, and quads and hamstrings.
10. DON’T BLOW IT OFF
Stretch after each vigorous workout.
11. DO IT ANYTIME
You can stretch before you work out, after you work out— indeed, any time of the day or night.
Before: Stretch right after you warm up, and within forty-five minutes of a workout or race.
After: Try to stretch within forty-five minutes after a workout, while you’re warm, to aid circulation and recovery, and correct gross imbalances. The simple rule is to keep the total stretching to fifteen minutes, and probably no more than sixty seconds for any one stretch.
Anytime: Bob Anderson likes to stretch before he goes to bed, which promotes a functional remodeling of connective tissue to create a stronger infrastructure. But make sure to be warm and supple before you stretch.
More to come ..
Keep your eyes peeled as we continue to release excerpts throughout upcoming weeks. If you fall in love with these tips from our excerpt series, make sure to stop in and grab a copy of Be a Better Runner from our online store, and keep it on your shelf at home to reference and share with others!