Stretching is important component of self-care for any athlete, and can be beneficial in post-workout recovery and injury prevention.
Each type of stretching comes with its own benefits and optimal uses. Learn which type of stretching can benefit you the most, and when to use it!
Some of us were taught by gym teachers and coaches to perform a series of static stretches before a workout or game — bend over and touch your toes, hold your arm across your chest, and so on. Others taught us to loosen our muscles with skips, leg and arm swings, and other dynamic motions.
So what’s the correct way to stretch? Here’s what we recommend for best times to use static and dynamic stretching, and the benefits of each:
Static stretching can be beneficial for athletes after they have run. This form of stretching, which involves holding static positions for a certain amount of time, works to lengthen muscles and improve flexibility, and it can also improve balance.
Stretching after a run can help increase your body’s range of motion, and prevent soreness and tension from forming in various muscles.
Some experts advise against using static stretching before a run. This has been shown to relax your muscles rather than prepare them for activity, thereby reducing performance. Additionally, pushing your body into a position that extends the muscles before you are warmed up could result in injury. Thus, it’s best to save static stretching for after your run.
Dynamic stretching works incredibly well before a run to prepare your body for exercise, and it can also be used after your workout is over.
Dynamic stretching involves movement through different motions and positions that help increase your body’s range of motion. Examples include power skips, walking lunges, and arm swings.
This form of stretching works to activate your muscles, warming them up and helping to prevent injuries. Both effective and safe, dynamic stretching can be used before a run to warm up both your muscles and mind, or after running to help your body cool down and release tension that has formed in your muscles.
While stretching can aid in recovery, making sure you have the right running or walking shoe can help with injury prevention and support you for your best performance!
Many athletes use tools to aid in stretching to target specific muscle groups or to loosen especially deep, tight areas. Foam rollers and The Stick both work to relieve muscle tension.
Foam rollers can be used pre-run or post-run to help with injury recovery and prevention. A form of myofascial release, this technique uses the application of body pressure to large foam tubes in order to help relieve muscle tension. Athletes can roll these tubes over various parts of their body, working out soreness and knots.
Foam rollers are great not only for soothing sore muscles after a workout, but also for helping runners warm up, improving blood circulation and preparing the body for different forms of stretching. The rollers are relatively inexpensive (most range from $10 to $40) and are easy to use at home or in a gym. However, because of their shape and size, they are generally more difficult to travel with.
The Stick is a small,roller covered device that can be rolled across various muscles with your hands, facilitating myofascial release. Like the foam roller, they can be used both before and after a run. Some find that The Stick works very well for relieving general muscle tension, but may be slightly less suited for highly concentrated points of tension, known as trigger points.
The Stick is highly effective at relieving tension in the hamstrings and calves. Sticks are available in various lengths, and their smaller size (in comparison to foam rollers) makes them very convenient for travel.
The Stick is part of our Runner's Toolbox — we love it!