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How stretching can make you a better runner!

Stretching has long been part of the sportspersons' training programme, and over the years there have been various theories as to which type of stretching is the most beneficial to sports performance. Today, we're going to try and outline the current beliefs and provide you with some practical examples to use within your own training.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching is defined as "active stretching movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion". This form of stretching is best done prior to running, and movement patterns often reflect the running motion in the form of drills which mimic specific running actions. The primary focus of this type of movement is on 'active', where the stretch is never held and the movements are done with relatively high velocity in order to prime the body for the running its about to perform.

Dynamic stretches should always form the majority of your warm up before your intense sessions and races. Performing at least 10 minutes of light jogging, followed by your own personal series of dynamic stretches will put your body in the best position to get the very best out of itself during the more intense days of your training and racing. Before your easy runs and steady runs, there doesn't need to be such a focus on the dynamic movements, although if you feel particularly tight it might be a good idea to do a little bit.

Keep an eye out on all the NewEra social media channels as we'll be taking you through a dynamic stretching routine which you can do as part of your warm up!

Static Stretching

Static stretching is defined as "stretches that are held for a period of time with the aim of loosening muscle fibres to improve range of motion and aid recovery". In contrast to dynamic stretching, this form of stretching is best done after running, when the muscles are already warmed up. Research is very clear that you shouldn't statically stretch cold muscles.

Performing this type of stretching after exercise increases the range of motion at the targeted joint, allowing greater movement with less discomfort. Not only this, but holding these exercises for around 30 seconds is effective in helping stretch the muscle fibres back to their 'pre-exercise state' and therefore reducing muscle tension and stiffness. This kick starts the recovery process, ultimately reducing your risk of injury and improving performance. A greater range of motion means greater speed, agility and flexibility. Reduced tension and stiffness means greater force production. What is there not to love?

Not only are there obvious physical benefits to stretching post-run, but combine it with some deep breathing exercises and you've just found a great way of increasing blood flow around the body, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.

Things to consider

- Don't hold a stretch beyond what is comfortable. Forcing beyond what is comfortable will do more harm than good.

- Be patient. Most runners aren't the most flexible people in the world, and the first few sessions can be quite shocking. Keep at it, you'll notice some rapid improvements.

- Consider the timing. After a particularly difficult session or race, it may not be the best time to stretch. Consider stretching after your easy runs so your body is feeling good for the next hard day.

- BREATHE! Deep breathing increases blood flow, helps increase the range of motion and leads to greater physical and mental relaxation.

- Don't stretch everyday. Performing maybe 3 stretching sessions of 15 minutes per week will be ideal to get the desired benefit.

Here's a quick video of NewEra Head Coach Callum taking you through a simple static stretching routine:

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