“For how long should I hold each stretch?” is another common question. In this article I’m going to give you a simple set of rules to follow so you can avoid asking yourself these questions and even help your fellow runners out whenever they ask these questions.
As I was saying above, just like there are different types of runs that serve different purposes there are also different stretching techniques which are applicable in different situations. When running, long runs serve the purpose of increasing the distance you’re able to run without increased risk of injury, tempo runs increase the total amount of time in which you can run at a desired pace (usually at a higher pace than usual), and easy runs allow you to simply rest from hard training sessions (like the ones I’ve just mentioned).Stretching can be split up into three different types of stretching intensities which also serve different purposes. For example:
Relaxation - As the name indicates, this type of stretching causes a relaxing sensation and allows you to feel less tight and slightly looser after a run. Stretching at this intensity can be done for long periods of time without feeling discomfort. The flexibility provided by this type of stretching is minimal and lasts for a small amount of time but it can provide immediate relief and the risk of injury is very low. Because of that, it’s the best technique to use at the end of a running session.
Stretching - This level of intensity means stretching to a point where you feel discomfort. This discomfort will be sustainable for a relatively long period of time and will yield minor flexibility gains. This type of stretching should be done a few hours after a run or an intense activity, but not immediately after.
Flexion - For maximum flexibility gains, flexion is the best stretching technique to use. Flexion means ‘deep stretching’ in which you will be stretching so far that the discomfort can only be held for around 30 seconds. There is a higher risk of injury because of the high intensity, therefore, the runner attempting this should have heightened body awareness in order to preserve osteomioarticular integrity. This should only be done on rest days.
In conclusion, just like different running techniques are employed to improve different aspects of your running, stretching can also be used strategically to provide flexibility gains or to simply provide a feeling of relaxation after a hard run!
I hope this clears up some of the confusion behind stretching, when it is supposed to be done and how!
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