Which stretch to choose and how to correctly associate it with running activity
Being an aerobic activity, running includes among its benefits the stress and the consequent improvement of cardiovascular and respiratory function.
In addition to an adequate training plan, among the precautions to be adopted for a correct practice, we must not forget to wear suitable clothing, of a technical type: of great importance are the shoes used (which must take into account the weight of the subject, foot support and the training you want to do) and the flooring chosen for the run, both factors that significantly affect the quality of the sporting gesture.
Beyond the training that is performed, in line with the relative state of personal physical preparation, the time dedicated to muscle stretching is necessary to reduce the risk of trauma during running.
- Warm-up: which stretching exercises to choose and how to do them
- Stretching after running
- Stretching exercises before and after running
- Dynamic exercises
- Static exercises
Warm-up: which stretching exercises to choose and how to do them
Before starting to run, muscle and joint preparation is essential to reduce the risk of injury. The most frequent in this activity are tendinopathies, disorders related to the tendon component of the muscle caused by an excess load on a certain joint, or joint distortions, caused by insufficient stabilizing force, or plantar fasciitis, in cases of an inadequate foot support.
Therefore, within the warm-up moment, it is preferable to implement a dynamic stretching preparatory to the athletic gesture. In particular:
- the flexors and extensors of the hip, being in continuous contraction during running, can be activated by placing one leg on a step, and with the other “in flight”, simulating a kick forward and backward;
- Similarly, the knee flexors and extensors can be warmed up by sitting on a high shelf and moving the foot up and down.
Running preparation should not be underestimated: before entering the heart of physical activity, therefore, it is good to dedicate 5 minutes to dynamic stretching (which does not involve maintaining the position but simulates the athletic gesture that will be performed) to prepare and support the muscle-tendon structures in the effort.
Stretching after running
At the end of the race and in general following an aerobic activity, muscle stretching is essential as it allows you to maintain good muscle flexibility and support the efficiency of joint stability and functionality.
In the specific case of running, it is a question of reserving 10 minutes after the activity to obtain an effective lengthening of the main muscles involved. Here’s how to proceed.
- Stand with one leg in front of the other, slightly apart. Bend the trunk forward, seeking support and keeping the rear leg extended with the heel resting on the ground. In this way, a sensation of stretching is felt in the calf. After 30 seconds, switch sides and perform it with the other leg.
- To maintain good hip mobility, it is necessary to work both on flexion (i.e. the movement carried out by bringing the knee towards the chest) and therefore, for example, keeping the legs bent close to the chest with the hands, and on the extension (i.e. the movement in which the back of the thigh approaches the back), alternately stretching the two iliopsoas muscles, the main flexors of the joint.
- In addition to specific exercises for the legs, also include a mobilization of the upper trunk and arms. The dorsal rotation and the movements of the shoulder blades, in fact, although accessories are still important to make running more effective. From a sitting position, crossing the hands on the shoulders, it is possible to carry out a lengthening of the trunk in right and left rotation, associating the exhalation with slow and controlled execution. With the hands gripping the opposite elbows and the shoulders raised to 90 °, a forward pull can be performed with consequent gentle stretching of the dorsal muscles.
In running it is therefore recommended to include two specific moments in the training session, the warm-up stretching before the run and the post-run stretching. The main differences between the two are the methods of execution, the first more preparatory and dynamic and the second more relaxing and static.
These tips, combined with the use of suitable footwear and associated with adequate training, reduce the risk of incurring disorders that can interfere and limit sports activity.
Stretching exercises before and after running
In running, the adoption of an incorrect technique, the use of the wrong shoes and a flooring that is not too linear can cause microtraumas due to overload.
In these cases, in addition to paying particular attention to the choice of these details, it is necessary to devote the right attention to the moments of dynamic and static stretching, with which respectively to start and end the training session. The correct execution of the exercises we see today decreases the risk of incurring muscle, tendon or joint injuries to the legs.
Before you start running, do the dynamic stretch like this.
- Exercise 1: hip flexion-extension stretch on a step.
- Exercise 2: Seated flexion-extension knee stretch.
- Exercise 3: Stretching in the supine position for the right and left rotation of the pelvis.
Each movement should be performed for 1/2 minutes.
At the end of the run, on the other hand, perform the static stretch, maintaining the position for 30 seconds:
- Exercise 1: seated adductor stretch.
- Exercise 2: lumbar stretching, bilateral and unilateral.
- Exercise 3: Calf stretch on a step or with front support.
by Andrea Genta, Physiotherapist