The Effects of Stretching on Long-Distance Running

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Proper training helps long-distance runners avoid fatigue. As a long-distance runner, you must pay special attention to your running posture and the strides you take in order to prevent injuries. Like many sports activities, long-distance running requires some stretching; which stretching exercises you do and for how long may determine the quality of your run.

Stretch When Not Running

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Stretching and strengthening certain muscles helps prepare you for running, and stretching also plays an important role on the days you don’t run. On the days you aren’t running, for example, you can strengthen your quadriceps, the muscles at the front of your thighs, to improve your leg extension. Squats help build your quads to promote flexibility as you stretch one leg and keep the other stretched behind you during the exercise. Strengthening your legs through aerobic exercises works in tandem with stretching exercises. Since runners tend to experience shortening of the major muscles of their legs; performing stretching exercises like those found in yoga will lengthen your quads, hams and calves.

Static Stretching

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Certain types of stretching right before a running event may hinder your performance, according to a Florida State University study. Static stretching before an endurance event may end up lowering performance and rob you of energy while running, the researchers report in the September 2010 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.” The study focused on 10 male collegiate runners who each performed treadmill runs on three different days, sometimes after stretching and sometimes without stretching. The subjects performed 16 minutes of static stretching in the major muscle groups of the lower body, stretching a muscle to its maximum length and holding it. The runners were asked to run as far as they could. After stretching, the average running distance was 3.4 percent less than when the subjects ran without stretching. The effects of static stretching before running reduces endurance and increases energy cost, which could affect competitive performance in long-distance running, the researchers conclude.

Dynamic Stretching

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Dynamic stretches help loosen up your leg muscles as you prepare for a run. Leg swings, in which you stand on one leg and swing the other leg forward and back, activate your leg muscles before a run. You can also use walking lunges by taking a step forward with one leg, bending the knee and pushing back upward for dynamic stretches to loosen up your leg muscles. Use static stretching after a run.

Stretching Prevents Tightness

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Stretching helps avoid muscle tightness, which occurs when you build up your muscles during long-distance running and training. If you stretch muscles before they have been warmed up, you increase your risk of injury. After your run, perform static stretches to loosen your tight muscles. Strength training complements stretching to increase joint stability and improve endurance during a training program for long-distance running, according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School. Squats and lunges help with both strengthening and stretching your muscles.