Home > Start Running > Stretching Exercises and Why They are Vital

Stretching Exercises and Why They are Vital

By: Mike Kiely BA (hons) - Updated: 29 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Stretching Calf Thigh Achilles Tendon

It doesn’t matter whether you are embarking on your first or your five hundredth run: you’ve got to pay attention to stretching exercises because otherwise you won’t get far down the road or track before you are pulling up.

The muscles and tendons particularly at the back of the legs, need to be coaxed into taking on the extra work involved in running, otherwise they are likely to suffer damage that could leave you nursing an injury for days, even weeks.

Quite simply, the normal physical manoeuvres of every day life do not prepare your body for the heightened demands of moving at speed. Think of a rubber band that is of normal length. Take the two ends and gradually and progressively ease them further and further apart until the band is twice as long as it was originally. Contrast that with trying to achieve that extra length by means of a sudden and violent pulling action: that is what you would be attempting if you set off on a run without first stretching. Sounds like a bad idea, doesn’t it?

Keeping Your Foot Flat

Stretching does not require any specialist equipment. For example, for loosening the lower back, lean against a wall and gradually move your hands down until your torso is at a right angle to your legs. The wall, or a tree if you are outside, can be used for a range of other areas, too. For example, with the upper calf muscles, lean against the wall and extend each leg in turn backwards, keeping your rear foot flat on the floor and taking the weight on the opposite leg. You will feel the pull on the back of the calf as it begins to extend.

For the lower calf and Achilles tendon, the same routine is used but with the knee of the extended leg slightly bent in order to make the lower half of the leg do the work.

For the quadriceps, or the muscles at the front of the thigh that extend and straighten the knee joint, put your left hand against the surface, lift your right leg and gripping it with the right hand pull it back and up, touching your bottom with the heel. Repeat this procedure with the other leg.

Shaking Away the Tension

Another important area, the hamstrings, can be stretched by lying flat on your back, raising one leg and pulling it back towards your chest using both hands and holding the position for 10 seconds, again repeating the procedure for the opposite leg. Other areas that require attention include the hips and outer thighs, and don’t forget to loosen both the arms and chest, shaking away the tension that can build up from, for example, sitting at a desk and using a computer.

Stretching exercises are simple and easy to learn, but they must be executed correctly. If you enrol with a running club or gym prior to beginning your routine, ask one of the instructors to run through the exercises with you. If you are a self-starter, look in the Yellow Pages and find a freelance fitness coach with whom you can book a session. While running manuals often illustrate the basics, there is no-one there to tell you if you are executing a particular stretch correctly. Once you have mastered the basics, make sure you follow them both before and after every run. You will feel the benefit, and so will your body.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Jackie
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    I would really like to get fit and am interested in joining the running club. I live in Swansea area and am a beginner . Please…
    18 November 2017
  • Kitkat
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Hi I'm looking to join a club in the bassaleg or newport or cardiff east side area...ive previously (make that 3 years ago!!) Done…
    1 November 2017
  • Scooby
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Looking for a beginner running club for adults in jarrow
    15 October 2017
  • Karen
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Hi I'm looking for meet up with anyone in the Alfreton area of Derbyshire. I want to be able to run with other women in the…
    8 September 2017
  • EmmsB
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Hi, I'm looking for a ladies only running club for fun with the possibility of working towards a race or 2 in the Daventry,…
    20 August 2017
  • Tracey
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Looking for beginner running club in exeter
    30 July 2017
  • Bev
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    Hi . Looking for a beginners group in Swansea on a Wednesday. This is for two ..
    5 July 2017
  • Sandra
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    I live in Thornhill in Cardiff and wonder if any of your groups meet in Cardiff or Caerphilly which is next town to me. Thankyou
    5 July 2017
  • I don't have one
    Re: The Women's Running Network
    I would like to find out more about joining a women's running clun/net9work for company and to motivate me to run more.
    11 June 2017
  • tina arthur
    Re: Joining a Running Club
    Hi Sue, I live in neath and I know it is a way from Swansea but I have set up my own running groups, one is couch to 5k which I undertake…
    17 April 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the RunningForFun website. Please read our Disclaimer.