Stretching: Is it Really that Important?

Don’t take it for granted! Stretching is one of the most critical parts of a runner’s routine, but we all sometimes think it is fine to skip over. I’ll admit it, I got a little cocky after running the Flying Pig Half Marathon last year and when I got back into training for my fall half marathon, I’d find myself thinking, “eh, it’s only a five-mile run, I don’t need to stretch afterward, I’ll be fine,” and then I hurt myself. Also, LOL at the idea that there’s such a thing as “only” a five-mile run. I had never completed a mile without stopping until I was 33! 

So don’t skimp on the stretching, whether you’re running, doing strength training, or just trying to work through some of those daily aches and pains. I reached out to Yasu Inoue, PT, at The Christ Hospital Outpatient Physical & Occupational Therapy Centers, for some tips:

What are some good stretches for runners?

The most common running stretches are quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocs, IT-band, piriformis, psoas, groin and back.

Sample stretches:

There are debates about the benefits of static stretches before running, can you clear that up?

The best stretch is accomplished when the muscles are warm and the core body temperature is higher, so stretches should be done after warming up. Jog for five-minutes first, then stretch before the run.

What are the ideal warm-up and cool down stretches?

Same as above. The most common running stretches are quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocs, IT-band, piriformis, psoas, groin and back.

Can stretching be its own workout routine?

Absolutely, several studies have shown that stretching alone is more beneficial to prevent injuries than strength training only. However, people should stretch and do strength training for muscle balance. 

How long should I hold each stretch?

A good stretch consists of a 20 second hold for three to five repetitions.

How important is breathing while stretching?

Take deep breaths, breathe from your nose and exhale through your mouth frequently. Good breathing technique relaxes muscles for better stretch benefit.

How about your form?

Proper form and technique are important to prevent injuries and to stretch the muscles that you are targeting.

What's a good sign that I've gone too deep into a stretch? I don't wanna hurt myself!

Pain is not good. Slight discomfort only; if you can't hold the stretch for 20 seconds, back off a little bit. 

Any routines you recommend for runners to avoid injury?

Good nutrition and hydration, good core and leg strength, and a good flexibility program.

Good nutrition is still one big hurdle for me, since I still get in the mindset of “well I just ran 10-miles, I can eat anything!” but again, it’s the little things that you don’t think about that are going to wind up catching up with you. 

The good thing about stretching though is it’s not some massive lifestyle change, it’s something quick you can work into your day when you wake up, while dinner is in the oven, or for me, just hanging out in the studio! It’s just a matter of remembering to do it.

This ties back to what we were talking about last month: having that support system in place to have people you’re accountable to. Whether it’s eating right, properly stretching, or just making sure you get out there to put the miles in, it always helps me the most to have people by my side. 

Learn more about the services available at our Outpatient Physical & Occupational Therapy Centers.

​If you listen to Mix 94.9, you've probably heard Ray Anderson on air from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In 2016, Ray took up running and completed his first 5K with the help of the app Couch to 5K. Later that year he completed his first 10K. Ray is now busy training for his first 15K and half marathon. Ray is happy to partner with Healthspirations to share his running journey and what he's learned along the way.