It’s what you do after a run, not before, that makes the biggest difference where recovery is concerned.
As big a part of my life as the IT world is, it’s not the only thing I think about. I also happen to be an avid fitness enthusiast! I believe exercise and wellness are big parts of leading a happy, healthy, and successful life, and I’d like to pass that on to you.
In this series, I’ll share simple and effective tips and insight for leading a healthier life. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be surprised by how soon you feel a difference!
This week I’ll be sharing a few of the reasons why post-run stretching is better for you than stretching before a run.
The concept of warming up before a workout makes sense. Easing your muscles into strenuous activity seems like a great way to avoid sprains and strains, especially when you’re about to head out on a run. But stretching cold muscles can actually do more harm than good.
There has been a bit of a debate as to whether or not stretching at all is actually beneficial, and while the conversation around post-run stretching is ongoing, one thing experts have been able to agree on is that stretching first is a bad idea. That added muscle pliability you’re going for isn’t something you’re going to get from static stretching – the series of muscle-testing movements you most likely picture when you think of stretches. Basically, these are the stretches that pull your muscles to their fullest extension and hold them there anywhere from a few seconds to a minute.
This is a risky move pre-workout since cold muscles are prone to the types of injuries you’re trying to avoid. Especially if you stretch them just a little too far. While overstretching is always a concern and a good way to hurt yourself, waiting until after you finish a run to do static stretches has a few great benefits to offer on top of being better for your body.
A good post-run stretch of your hamstrings, quads, and hips feels great because it has the intended effect on your now warmed-up muscles – it loosens you up. The tension that builds up during a long run is what leads to that stiff and achy feeling the next day, and it’s the reason stretching afterward is so important. Plus, post-run stretching can help to increase your flexibility, which is always a good thing.
Extra flexibility is what most people are going for by stretching before a run, and there are things you can do to improve your range of motion that won’t risk painful muscle strains. Moves like lunges and hick kicks focus more on your joints than your muscles, making them an acceptable addition to your pre-run ritual. But anything more than that can have a negative impact on your performance once you head out to get your miles in.
Think of it like this – static stretches have a lot in common with yoga poses. Yoga is a workout in and of itself, with relaxation being a huge part of the end result. It’s meant to be a more focused and mellow type of physical activity, which should be a pretty good indication that yoga or yoga-like activities aren’t a great choice for a warm-up before something more strenuous.
The way you approach your post-workout recovery is just as important as the way you approach your fitness routine itself. Recovery aids have been the topic of a few of these blog posts now, and for good reason. Giving your body what it needs to bounce back, build muscle, and improve your overall fitness level is crucial. Not only does the right post-run routine help you get more out of your workout, but it also helps you stick with your fitness regiment and continue to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. It also helps keep you active.
Avoiding injury should always be a priority regardless of the type of physical activity you’re about to jump into. Aside from the obvious preference to not be in pain, injuries can easily sideline you for days, weeks, or even months. There is nothing more frustrating than having to give up on your fitness goals because you physically can’t do anything until your body heals, especially when you’re training for a marathon. No amount of effort can make up for weeks of lost training time, and pushing yourself to try is a great way to wind up injured all over again.
Keeps stretches in your post-run cooldown. Your body will thank you.