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Beginner's Running - An Illustrated Guide To Stretches For Warm Ups And Cool Downs.
To stretch or not to stretch?
There’s a lot of controversy in the running world, on forums and in magazines, about stretching. To stretch or not to stretch.
The theory behind stretching is to prevent injury and maintain a certain amount of flexibility and improve performance. But there’s a growing body of research showing that certain pre-exercise stretches don’t actually achieve this.
Dynamic and static stretches for running.
What most experts agree that dynamic stretching is better than static stretching.
What is static stretching? Static stretches are the ones you’re probably familiar with – bending at the waist to touch your toes, standing quad stretches etc.
What is dynamic stretching? In dynamic stretches you move the body as you stretch.
An example is walking lunges – taking large steps forwards and bending the front knee so that you’re near the ground and could rest your chest on your thigh (don’t, keep the body upright). Hold for a second or 2.
Then push up through the bent leg, take a step forward with the other leg and repeat. See the picture.
2. Trunk rotations
Other dynamic stretches to include in your stretching routine are:
1. Trunk Rotations: Repeat 10 times.
Stand tall and extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Turn slowly all the way to your right and back to your left.
The video here shows the rotation against a weight, but this is an extra option for strengthening - the description above is for warm ups.
3. Leg swings.
Leg swings: Forward/backward and Side-to-side
Stand tall and tighten your core muscles. Holding onto something sturdy, stand on one leg keeping the knee soft but straight; swing the other leg forward and back. Repeat 10-15 times.
Then swing the same leg from side to side in front of the body and repeat 10-15 times.
Each swing should build until your leg is close to its full range of motion. Change sides and repeat with the other leg.
4. Walking knee hugs
Walking Knee Hugs
Standing tall, step forward onto your left foot and hug your right knee into your chest. Release.
Step forward onto the right foot and hug your left knee to your chest. Release.
Repeat for 15 steps alternating legs.
5. Skipping forward
This is skipping like you did when you were a child. It’s a basic running step but you bring your knees up higher than normal – ideally above your waistline.
Push off from the right leg and bring your left leg forward. Your right arm should swing in front of your body with the elbow bent 90 degrees. Your left arm should swing back with elbow bent at 90 degrees.
Aim to keep your feet moving with your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders facing forwards.
Repeat for 15-20 skips.
Warm ups and cool downs.
Do dynamic stretches 1-5 before your run. They will help to increase the blood flow to the muscles and fire up the nervous system and heart rate.
Do 1-3 after as a cool down after your run.
Happy running and stay injury-free.