Avoid injury and fatigue, learn how to stretch properly.
WHO Should Stretch? Anyone and everyone who regularly runs, walks, hikes, bikes or participates in other physical activities.
WHAT/WHERE Should You Stretch? The major muscle groups used for your activity. Runners for example need to stretch their legs and glutes. It is also important not to neglect shoulders, upper back and arms, as they get fatigued during longer mileage runs..
WHEN Should You Stretch? After warming up, and after your run. Stretching cold muscles risks injury caused by tearing muscle tissue. Start your run at a slower pace, stop after 5-10 minutes and stretch if necessary. Then continue training, and take the time to stretch after your run. This routine consists of static stretching exercises. Dynamic stretching such as bounding, grapevines, butt kicks, and skipping are good pre-workout choices.
HOW Should You Stretch? Slowly and gently. Hold your stretch still, never bouncing, for a maximum of 30 seconds. If you feel the need to stretch the same muscle a bit more, release after 30 seconds and repeat. If it hurts – STOP! Proper stretching should feel good.
WHY Should You Stretch? To prevent injury, aid your recovery after a workout, and maintain flexibility.
Calf (Gastrocnemius) Stand facing a wall, tree or fence, 3-4 feet away. Lean into the wall and lunge so that your left leg is in front and bent at the knee. Make sure that both feet are facing 12:00 and heels are on the ground. Lean into the wall until you feel mild tension, but no pain in the leg and calf. Hold up to 30 seconds and change legs.
Lower Calf (Soleus) Using the same position as the previous stretch, bring the back leg forward a bit, and bend at the knee. Make sure that both feet are facing 12:00 and heels are on the ground. Lean into the wall until you feel mild tension, but no pain in the lower calf and back of the leg. (Be careful not to stretch your Achilles tendon. This tendon does not stretch, so if you feel the stretch at the lower leg/ankle area, lean up on your stretch so that you feel it in the mid calf.) Hold for up to 30 seconds and change legs.
Shin (Tibialis Anterior) Holding on to a wall or other object for balance, cross one leg in front of the other at the upper thigh. Point the toes of your front foot straight down so it is the only part of the foot making contact with the ground. Push the knee of your back leg into the calf of your front leg and push your weight forward. Hold for up to 30 seconds and change legs.
Front Thigh (Quadriceps) Once again stand near a wall, tree, etc. so you may use your free hand to hold on for balance. Use one hand to pick up the opposite foot. Bend down so that your hand can help you to pick up the foot and bring it up as high as you may comfortably do so. Maintain upright erect posture. Your knee should be pointing towards the ground. (If it is difficult to hold on to your foot, grab your ankle or sock instead.) If you are not feeling the stretch, or would like to intensify, stand with a slight pelvic tilt. Hold for 30 seconds and change legs. If you cannot lift your leg to this position, you may place your leg on a step or bench. Back up to the step and place your leg on the stair height that is most comfortable. As you become stronger and more flexible you should eventually be able to do this stretch picking up your leg.
Back Thigh (Hamstrings) #1 Place your left leg straight in front with toes slightly elevated. Put your weight back behind you as if you are attempting to sit down in a chair. Balance yourself by placing both hands on your bent leg. You should feel the stretch in the hamstring of the straight leg. Keep your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds, change legs.
Back Thigh (Hamstrings) #2 Cross one leg in front of the other. Then take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, bend forward at the waist, keeping a flat back. Drop down as far as you can comfortably stretch. You should feel the stretch in the hamstring of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds and reverse. This stretch is intense. Do not do this stretch if your heart rate is still elevated after your run, as bending over may cause dizziness.
Hip/Down Outside Leg (Iliotibial Band) Stand sideways next to a wall or supporting structure. Place one hand on the wall. Cross your feet so that the leg next to the wall is in front. Pushing your weight on your hand, lean away from the wall so that your body is curved like a banana. You should feel the stretch down the side of the leg closest to the wall. Hold for 30 seconds and change legs.
Hip Flexor (Abductor) Stand with feet widely separated. The back leg should be straight with the foot pointing to 12:00, and the heel is on the ground. The front leg is bent and the foot is turned in slightly for support. Do a slight pelvic tilt. This stretch should be felt in the upper middle quadriceps of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds and change legs.
Inner Thigh (Adductor) Sit on the ground and bring your feet together in front of you with the soles touching. Bring your legs only as close in as comfortable. Hold feet at ankles while sitting up straight and tall. If this action is not enough for you to feel the stretch in your inner thighs, you may use your arms to press down on the thighs, gently pushing them to the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.