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Useful Tips to Prevent Running Injuries (Part 2)

4. Stretching

Stretching is a very important part of your training. It teaches you about your body, can help aid recovery and lowers the risk of injury. You should think of stretching as being part of your fitness regime and not just something that you do quickly before and after exercise.

Tight muscles can affect the biomechanics of your body. For example, tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of the hips) can pull the pelvis forward leading to excessive arching of the back and lower back pain. Tight hip flexors can also shorten your stride length thus affecting running performance.

Often people don’t realize that stiff muscles can contribute to joint pain as well as muscle pain. Muscles not only contract to produce joint movement; they also act as shock absorbers during impact, for example when you land on your lead foot during running the leg muscles absorb the impact. If your muscles become stiff, they lose their ability to absorb impact as efficiently which means more forces are transmitted to the bones and joints. Imagine a car with wooden wheels and no tyres. It would make for a very bumpy ride and wouldn’t take very long for the car to start to fall apart.

TIP 1: APPLY STRETCHES PROGRESSIVELY.

This term describes a process whereby the muscle is progressively made longer over a period of 20 to 30 seconds. Place a muscle in a position where you feel a stretch but not pain. After a few seconds you should feel your muscle ease slightly. When it does, gently increase the stretch and hold the muscle in its new position. Repeat this process over the duration of the stretch. Remember the aim of a stretch is to bring about a change in the muscle i.e. increase flexibility and increase elasticity. If you force the stretch or apply it too quickly you will not have the desired effect on the muscle.

TIP 2: STRETCH ALL YOUR MAJOR MUSCLE GROUPS.

To make sure you don’t miss any one part of the body it’s a good idea to start from the bottom and work your way up. Simply break down your body into the following sections:

  • The back of the lower leg
  • The front of the thigh
  • The back of the thigh
  • The front of the hip
  • The back of the hip
  • The trunk
  • Chest
  • Neck

TIP 3: USE STRETCHING TO BALANCE YOUR MUSCLES.

Pay attention to how your muscles feel when you stretch them. You may notice that one side feels tighter than the other or your muscles feel tighter than they did the last time you stretched them. If this is the case it is advisable that you spend a little extra time stretching your tight muscles. For example if the back of your left thigh is tighter than the right, apply an extra stretch to that area.

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