“Should I stretch before or after I run?” This common question is the center of the heated controversy “To stretch or not to stretch?” However, new research is emerging giving us a clear answer. The answer is YES, but with a catch. Long static holds during stretches prior to running may actually slow you down. The key to avoiding this slowdown is to stretch DYNAMICALLY.
Static vs. Dynamic Stretching
There are two main types of stretching: dynamic vs. static. Dynamic stretching occurs with active movements that mimic the activity you are going to perform to help to improve range of motion. This type of stretching is best used as a warm-up before an activity. Dynamic stretching has been shown to increase heart rate, improve blood flow to your muscles, and oxygenate your tissues. A dynamic stretch is generally held three to five seconds in duration and performed at a higher frequency of fifteen to twenty repetitions (1).
Static stretching is most likely what you are more familiar with. This is the standard thirty to sixty-second hold which is designed to elongate muscle tissue to improve flexibility. Static stretching is best performed after completing an activity when your muscles are warmed, increasing their extensibility. Static stretching will cool down the muscles and inhibit nerves, making it an excellent choice for a cool down (1).
Calves, hip flexors, and the iliotibial (IT) band are three of the most common muscles to tighten while you run. Would you like to know how to stretch these muscles to best fit your running?
Check out the video below!
1. Tollision, T. (2007) Static vs. Dynamic Flexibility https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni43a4.htm