Stretching is one of those subjects that divides opinion. Some runners love stretching, others hate it. Some people can run their whole life without stretching and remain injury-free. Others find they can’t string together two weeks of uninterrupted training unless they stretch regularly. The bottom line is that you have to find what works best for your body.
It is a good idea to try and establish some sort of regular body maintenance routine based on what works well for your body. It might be stretching, it might be foam rolling, or yoga, or Pilates. The key to it working successfully will be performing it frequently.
If you spend extended periods of time sitting down (work, travelling, lazing on the sofa etc) then your body will begin to adapt to that position, and you will gradually become stiffer in your hips, lower back, ankles and knees.
If you try to rely on a single Yoga/Pilates class each week to satisfy all of your stretching requirements, then you will not be getting the best possible results for your body. Think of it like this: If you wanted to run 50 km in a week, would you do the whole lot in one go, then rest for the next 6 days to let your body recover?
It would be easier on your body and more beneficial to decide to commute to and from work each day and spread the 50km’s over 10 runs. If you go to Yoga/Pilates on a Tuesday night, chances are that you will be stiff again by lunchtime on Wednesday after sitting in your chair at work for 3 – 4 hours. Make sure you top up the class with some other regular body maintenance work.
Think of your body maintenance routine as reversing the effects of sitting down all day rather than reversing the effects of running. The truth is that it will be helping with both, but a lot of people make the mistake of stopping their stretching/rolling routines when they are not training hard.
If, for example, your training reduces because you have a very busy week of work and there isn’t enough time to run, then in my opinion you should stretch/roll more rather than less to try and keep your body supple after all of that sitting time.
Exactly which stretches or exercises you get the most benefit from will vary from person to person. The following videos discuss and demonstrate a few exercises and stretches that we at The Body Mechanic have found to be very beneficial for most runners bodies.
Repetitive calf muscle strains are a very common issue for runners, especially if you are over the age of 35. Watch this video to learn two stretches that can help with this issue.
If you are suffering with calf pain, read this article for advise on how to self diagnose your calf pain
Two of the most common muscle groups that tighten in runners, are the calf muscles and the gluteal muscles. Watch this video to learn three easy stretches to help reduce calf and gluteal issues.
If you don’t feel like your body responds well to stretching then you might benefit from foam rolling. The quadriceps, ITBs and calf muscles are three of the easiest and most beneficial muscle groups to roll. This video will show you how.