You manage to fit in a good run before work, now you have to rush home to get ready. Or after work you manage to log in a good hour long run, now you’re starving, you just want to get home to eat and rest. So, is it justifiable to rush home and skip your post-run stretching? We always have things to rush for in our busy daily life, but in reality, skipping a post-run or workout stretch will do more harm than good to your body.
What happens to the body when we skip stretching sessions?
Think of your muscles as a rubber band, imagine you have a rubber band sitting on your desk unused for a long time. As soon as you try to use it and extend it, most of the time it will snap. Our muscles our comparable to a rubber band, the more we use the rubber band, the more flexible and stronger it remains. Same with our muscles, stretching opens up your range of motion and increases your flexibility. But just like a rubber band, overstretching can also damage the muscles, it is especially frequent when people push themselves during yoga sessions. To stretch properly without pushing too hard is crucial to prevent muscle tears and injuries.
Not stretching regularly reduces the mobility in our joints and muscles, which increases the risk of injuries, especially for runners who constantly place stress on the same muscles. When our muscles and joints are lacking flexibility, the tightness causes a change in our biomechanics or normal function and running form, and it also increases the tension in our tendons. For example, a runner with tight quadriceps who doesn’t stretch will often develop Patella Tendonitis (knee pain), because the tight quad muscle pulls on the tendon attachment at the Patella which increases the tension and leads to inflammation and pain. Most runners have tight hip flexors and hamstrings as well, which can also lead to knee pain. Our IT Band is attached to our hip flexors and TFL (tensor facsiae latae), and to our knee. Once the hip flexors get tight, the IT Band tightens up and pulls on the knee, again causing knee pain.
Every muscle in our body is connected. Not stretching will increase the tightness on the whole body, allowing muscles to pull on joints and causing more pain. Upper neck tightness can cause tightness all the way down to the lower back, which can pull on our sacroiliac joints, then pull on our glutes, which can lead to tightness in the hamstrings and on and on… it is even more important once the weather gets cooler, once our body gets cold, our muscles tighten up and the risk of injury increases.
Include your stretching in your training schedule:
If you plan on running for one hour, make sure you add 5 mins for a dynamic warm up and at least 5-10 mins for a post-run stretching to open up the muscles. When you stretch, hold each stretch for 20-60 secs, according to the muscle tightness. For the very tight muscles, repeat the stretch 2-3 times.
Key muscles to stretch post-run:
Train Hard, Eat Right, and Feel Great!