Dynamic or Static Stretching? Are your stretches working?
Running has seen an increased in popularity in Ireland in recent years. Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise, just put on your trainers on and go, right?
It’s not quite that simple if you intend to keep running long term. A fitting warm up and cool down routine is key to staying injury free, so you can keep pounding the path.
A warm up is important because it prepares your body for activity. It should increase your heart rate, speed up your breathing and increase the blood flow to your muscles. Stretching before exercise matters because it can help prevent muscle soreness and stiffness after your run. There are two types of stretches one can do; dynamic and static. Coaches recommend dynamic stretching before a workout and static stretching as part of your cool down. Dynamic stretching involves controlled movement of major muscle groups (hamstrings, calves, quads and hips) .This is designed to wake up the muscle group . Examples of this would be exercises like leg lifts, hip swings, leg lunges and kicks. They warm the muscles and stimulate blood flow to the areas that will be working hardest during your workout.
Once you’ve finished your dynamic stretches you’ll be ready to start the active stage of your warm-up. The duration of your warm up and what this entails depends on how far you intend to run. Try to keep it varied, so you don’t get bored and potentially a little lazy with your execution. Choose a gentle jog one day then a brisk, longer walk the next.
The purpose of the cool-down is to bring your body back to a resting state as efficiently as possible. Doing so promotes quick and complete recovery so your next session will be without difficulty.
Transition from running to stretching with an easy jog and then a walk. The length of time you take cooling down depends on the length and intensity of your run. For example, after a half-hour jog, slow your pace for three to five minutes. After a harder run, cool down for five to ten minutes. Add some stride drills as part of your cool down. Drills include lifting your knees high with each step, kicking your feet up toward your butt with each step and swinging your arms high while skipping. Perform each drill two to four times for at least 30 yards.
Finish up with 5 to 10 minutes of static stretches, stretching out your quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles and your upper body. Stretching post run will help to improve flexibility, re-establish a normal range of movement for your body and reduce the potential of any stiffness or soreness by beginning the process of realigning the muscle fibres.
Creating the time for warm up and cool down in your routine will deliver great long term improvements to your running skills. If you want some help with this or you just want to make sure you are performing your stretches correctly join Ciarán Aherne for his Runners workshop, where you can get some great hands on advice about developing your routine.