We were asked by the Children's Hospice South West to write an article for their marathon runners newsletter on why stretching is so important. So if you're a keen runner and want to know some more about the importance of stretching, read on...
Nothing beats a morning run in the sunshine. The mixture of endorphins and vitamin D are a perfect blend to set you up for the day. But if you forget to stretch, then you're setting yourself for an achey end to the day.
We work with a lot of runners in our line of work, with some preferring to stretch out with a relaxing yoga session and others preferring to have their tight muscles ironed back out with a massage. The one thing they all have in common is tight leg muscles.
While shin splints can be a problem with running for long periods, especially in ill fitting and unsupportive shoes, often runners mistake extremely tight shin muscles, including the tibialis anterior for shin splints. By ensuring you get into the habit of properly stretching before and after running you can rest assure that your muscles will thank you and you will be spared that burning hot feeling of overworked and tense leg muscles.
There are plenty of benefits to exercising outdoors, namely sunshine and fresh air. The same applies for stretching; simple yoga exercises performed outside, whether that's your garden, a park, or a stretch by the harbour, can really benefit your running.
We often start yoga practises with a sun salutation, which allows us to wake up all the muscles in our body, while honouring the sun. In terms of a set stretching routine, it would then be beneficial for runners to focus on a series of hip openers, quad and hamstring stretches and those that focus on the shin and calf muscles.
One of the most important things to remember in both stretching and running is to breathe deeply and fully. Breathe deep into your stomach and work with the breath to help muscles relax properly. You will notice you will be able to further your stretches when breathing slowly outwards. Deep breathing is also a great way to ensure your muscles are getting enough oxygen when running; another reason for aching muscles is lack of oxygen while running.