Question by one of our regular reader’s
Sir, I am preparing for my first half marathon. My progress is good but I am confused if I should stretch before the run or after the run? Please guide
Answer by our Fitness Expert Capt Jitu Harjai
I will divide the stretch into two categories, Static and Dynamic. A static stretch is in which you load a muscle and hold the position for a prolonged time. This type of stretch increases strength and improves the efficiency of muscles in terms of fuel used. Dynamic stretches involve contracting and expansion of muscles, ligaments, tendons. It also increases heart rate faster.
A static stretch is a big NO-NO before the run. This is because muscles during this phase consume their stored fuel (carbohydrates). So when we run, muscles have depleted their fuel and hence ask for fuel from other sources. This will slow us down and may also affect the distance we may like to run. Static stretching is appropriate to cool down as they help muscles to relax, realign and re-establish their normal range of motion. Each stretch should be held for 10- 20 seconds with at least 2-3 repetitions.
Dynamic stretch on the other hand is important. It takes the myofilaments into the cycle of contraction, expansion, and relaxation. Thus it gives the muscles a feel of an upcoming run. Also, it increases heart rate quickly leading to the circulation of fuel reserves. Our brain too gets a message and prepares for the run well. (Watch the video)
A warmup and dynamic stretch of about 15 to 20 minutes are strongly recommended before a run. This will improve efficiency and prevent running injuries.
A Word From H2F Care
It is normally seen that athletes ignore static stretching after a run or training, which can be detrimental. Both dynamic stretching before a workout and static stretching after the workout are equally important. One helps to increase the body temperature and increase the speed of oxygen and fuel transfer to the muscles while the other helps to restore normalcy afterward.