It seems runners are divided on whether stretching is good or bad. Those against stretching have told me things like “studies have proven that stretching does nothing to improve running or reduce injuries and it can even make your muscles weaker.” In fact, for the first 15 years of my running career, I was very much against stretching. I was so sure it was a waste of time, I convinced my husband to stop his daily stretching routine!
These days, I’m a huge believer in stretching post-run. Though my life is busier than ever, I always make sure I do a few stretches every day within a few minutes of finishing my workout. My change in attitude started by listening to elite runners, and watching what they do. I don’t know any great runners that don’t do some sort of stretching routine. I’m sure they are out there, but I don’t know any. Second, I’ve had every running injury imaginable and since I started doing just a few stretches a day, I’ve been injury free (knock on wood!)
Stretching doesn’t have to take up much time at all! I see a huge benefit with just 4 stretches a day. On the rare occasion that I skip my stretching all together, I definitely notice a difference.
If I’m really pressed for time, I do just two dynamic stretches that work wonders for my hips and hamstrings:
Linear and Lateral Leg Swings – this link will take you to the Running Times website and the stretches I do are #14 and #15. I first started doing leg swings while training for the steeplechase for one season during college but stopped doing them after that season. I revisited this stretch after watching a video on the Coach Jay Johnson website. I usually do 15 linear and 15 lateral on each leg.
If I have a little more time, I also do my own version of the pigeon pose. I’m not an expert on yoga, but I like this one. The final stretch I do is downward dog. Again, I’m no expert, but I feel like downward dog is great for realigning and stretching every part of my body. I hold these stretches for approximately 30 seconds.
Hope you find a stretching program that works for you!