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Stretching

Stretching before and after exercise is very important for all runners.
On this page, we describe five essential stretches for different areas of the body.

WHY STRETCH?

The benefits from stretching are that you may prevent injury, bring the shortened muscles back to their original length and to reduce or avoid post exercise stiffness.
When you stretch you are trying to increase the range of movement around a joint or group of joints. This helps to strengthen the joint and to increase the flow of blood into the muscles around the joint.

Before exercise, in the warm up, you want to prepare the muscle for activity. The best time to stretch is just after a short easy jog and to hold each stretch for 10 seconds. It is especially important if you intend to start an intense activity such as sprinting or speed-work.
After exercise, in the cool down, you want to bring back the muscles used to their original length. During activity the muscle shortens, you notice this when the muscle gets tight and hard. To reduce or even prevent post exercise muscle stiffness you are now trying to lengthen the muscle back to its pre-exercise level. You should hold the stretch for longer - 30 seconds.

Below are stretches we recommend should be done as a minimum before and after running.
There are many more good stretches, but these five exercises will be a good start to prevent injury.

Five Essential Stretches

Calf - Gastrocnemius

Lower calf - Soleus


Hamstrings


Iliotibial Band

Quadriceps and Hip-flexors

Ten tips on how to stretch


 1. Move slowly into the stretch
 2. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down)
 3. Breathe and relax while holding the stretch
 4. NEVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax
 5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it
 6. You may be able to breathe in and push the stretch slightly further half way through the stretch. This is most important during      cool-down
 7. Move slowly out of the stretch again
 8. Remember to stretch both sides
 9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase      circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle
10. Do more stretching than just warm-up and cool-down. A lot of gyms offer stretching classes where the aim is to permanently      and progressively increase your flexibility