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5 Reasons to Stretch Before You Go Running

5 Reasons why you should stretch before you go running!

Stretching Before Your Morning Run

Advice seems to keep changing with regard to how to warm up and stretch prior to aerobic exercise, with some questioning whether it should even be done.  All in-the-moment fads aside, however, most health trainers and medical centers including the American Heart Association agree that it is important to do some basic stretches before pounding out a vigorous workout such as running or jogging.  Think back to watching any track and field event, and you will remember the characteristic scenes of athletes stretching their quads and hamstrings as they await the start of the race.  Here are five reasons why you too should include a stretching routine before your morning run!

Feeling better

Everybody knows how running can make you feel worn-out and sore, especially if you aren’t at the peak of fitness yet.  Doing some stretches before hitting the road, however, can help you out by improving your muscles’ flexibility, which will reduce stiffness and soreness after exercising.  Stretching also stimulates your blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles and decreasing the buildup of lactic acid in muscle tissue, which will help with stitches and muscle fatigue for longer periods of running.

Enhanced performance  

A good stretching routine revs up your cardiovascular system before working out.  Your core temperature rises slightly, your heart gradually starts to pump faster, and blood flow and oxygen delivery to your muscles is increased.  Longer muscle spindles and better joint flexibility from stretching increases the capacity for motion, enabling a more efficient stride.  A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that regular stretching can increase power and speed during activity.  Doing some stretches first may provide a “neuromuscular warmup,” re-engaging the connection between your peripheral nerves and muscle fibers and improving coordination.  All this together will help you run faster and longer, and look like a pro doing it!

Decreased injury risk

The flexibility provided by stretching prior to running lowers the chances of pulling or tearing a muscle, tendon, or ligament from strenuous use.  Dynamic stretching, in which you rhythmically move your joints through their greatest range of motion, also helps to lubricate joints and muscles, further lowering the risk of injuring them as you run.  Stretching may also help scar tissues align properly and help build tensile strength in currently-healing injuries.  Many trainers consider this the most important reason for including a pre-run warm-up in their routine.

Heart health 

Along with your muscles, warming up your cardiovascular system before working out is also important.  Slowly increasing your heart rate as you move from resting through stretching to running, rather than jumping straight into it, gives your heart a chance to build up its performance and helps prevent heart injury from sudden intense demands.  Likewise, the warmup helps increase blood flow, increasing the oxygen reaching your heart muscles and getting them prepped to pump harder before setting off on a run.

Getting more out of your effort  

Your goal for going for a run involves something along the lines of burning calories, strengthening your muscles, improving your heart health, and increasing your endurance, right?  Maybe you are training for a marathon or just jogging a lap around the block to raise your fitness level a bit.  Either way, including a pre-run warmup routine will help you get the most bang for your buck.  As mentioned above, stretching helps to enhance your performance as you exercise.  This in turn gets your muscles moving more, increasing the strength building exercise they receive and burning even more calories than if you were performing below your peak efficiency.  And since the stretches will allow you to feel better and run farther, your heart gets a better workout as well!

Doing a pre-run warmup that includes stretches can be a way to reduce the risks and maximize the benefits of a running routine.  If you want to try this out, it might be a good idea to work with a physiotherapist to choose the stretches that would work best for you. They can also make sure you are doing them correctly, especially if you have any existing injuries or medical conditions.  In general, you should stretch the joints and muscles you will be using during your exercise, stretching rhythmically with each breath to hold a position for 15-30 seconds on each side.  Make sure you don’t let yourself cool-down before setting off on your run.  

If you're suffering from chronic or acute pain related to running, golf or other sports, come see us at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation located at 541 Main Street #203 Weymouth, MA, 02190. We specialize in sports therapy and often work with professional athletes at all levels, so give us a call today at (781) 340-1480 to book an evaluation with one of our licensed physical therapists in Weymouth, MA. 

Be safe & happy trails!