If you don’t know how to stretch properly yet, we show you how here.
This is the first (and surely the most important) question we have when it comes to stretching. Were those exercises we learnt in PE class when we were kids—where we stretched “up and down”—counterproductive? The answer is yes. Let’s analyse that.
Long-distance runners should stretch gradually, with no bouncing and “all at once”, without lengthening and shortening the muscle. That is how we make our tendon sheaths longer and more flexible. We are not interested—or, at least, not mainly interested—in making our muscle tissue very “explosive”, we just want it to be resistant and, above all, toxin-free.
So, when we stretch, we should do so gradually, without forcing too much and without contracting at any time. As time goes by, we will become more flexible, but it is important that we work on stretching calmly, patiently and without forcing our tendon fibre too abruptly – to avoid microtraumas.
HOW SHOULD WE STRETCH?
Proper stretching should last 10 to 20 seconds and, the more we stretch, really the better. Of course, it is not a matter of spending 2 hours on flexibility (we are not professional athletes and we most likely won’t have that much time) but if we can stretch for twenty minutes instead of ten, that’s great.
Lastly, as we recommended at the start of this article, we do not advise bouncing while stretching. This kind of stretching has a greater effect on the capsule where the muscle meets the bone (at the end of the tendon sheath) and that is not where we most want to guarantee the stimulus but all along the tendon.
It is really after running for a long time when we feel readier to look inwards and take on the task of stretching, as our muscle system is warmed up after the continuous running and our state of mind is more relaxed for exercises that, amongst other things, may also be helpful to us as relaxation therapy.
Before running, we advise dynamic movement exercises, but gently, as the muscle will be very cold and, if we force it suddenly, we are at risk of tearing the fibre, even if only slightly.