Runner’s 5K Race Guide Part 2: Why Stretching is Important

Welcome to part two of the Runner’s Guide to Completing a 5K Race! Suppose you have decided to participate in a marathon, or you are looking to add running to your regular fitness routine. In that case, it is crucial to understand the various components of successfully and safely running any race. In part one of this series, we shared tips on preparing and training for a 5K race, which included how to schedule your training, the products that will help you track your time, and how to use your friends and family to keep you accountable. In part two, we will talk about the importance of stretching correctly while training and before running on race day. 

Stretch Coach explains stretching perfectly:

Stretching, as it relates to physical health and fitness, is the process of placing particular parts of the body into a position that will lengthen, or elongate, the muscles and associated soft tissues. Upon undertaking a regular stretching program, a number of changes begin to occur within the body and specifically within the muscles themselves. Other tissues that begin to adapt to the stretching process include the fascia, tendons, ligaments, skin, and scar tissue.

Why do you need to stretch?

Stretching is such a necessity and has several benefits. Here are a few: 

  • Stretching increases and maintains flexibility and mobility
  • Stretching prepares your body for your workout
  • Stretching helps to maintain balance of muscle tension in the body
  • Stretching helps with shortening recovery time and 
  • Stretching can help minimize the stress and tension that tight muscles put on joints
  • Stretching reduces muscle soreness after workouts

If you are a runner or workout regularly, you have to keep your muscles loose, ultimately changing how your body feels and moves positively. 

What are the different types of stretching?

Most of us don’t love knowing we need to do something but don’t know how or when to do it. While stretching is often delivered as a task that should be “easy,” there are different types of stretches, and there are various times we should use the different stretches. 

1. Dynamic Stretches

When to do it: Prep before your workout or run

Dynamic stretches help to improve your performance by putting your muscles through a series of full-range movements which could “open” your body up. Common dynamic stretches are walking lunges and leg swings. 

2. Static Stretches

When to do it: After your workout

Static stretches help to reduce pain while boosting flexibility. You can do active stretches in which the force of the stretch is done on your own merit. Passive stretches are forced and administered by an outside force like a trainer, coach, or a tool like a fitness or resistance band

3. Functional Range Conditioning

When to do it: Various times

Functional Range Conditioning is a new form of mobility training. Developed by movement specialist Dr. Andreo Spina, it is a joint health and mobility training system based on scientific principles and research. You can use the CARS technique (Controlled Articular Rotations) anytime to help with warming joints and increase mobility. You can also use the PAILS/RAILS techniques (Progressive Angular Isometric Loading and Regressive Angular Isometric Loading) daily or during a workout. 

4. PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching

When to do it: After a workout or anytime

PNF stretching improves passive and active range of motion and strength by incorporating the stretching and contracting of targeted muscle groups. An example is slowly engaging in hamstring stretches while assisted by a partner or trainer.

5. Ballistic Stretches

When to do it: Only when assisted

Ballistic stretches are quick repetitive movements mainly used by trained athletes. If you are still a novice runner, it is important to have supervision if you do any of these stretches to prevent injury because they are movements that stretch your body beyond your current abilities and flexibility.

Other stretching techniques

Another technique and tool that coincides with stretching is foam rolling. A foam roller is a lightweight, cylindrical tube of compressed foam and provides a self-myofascial release. When done the right way, foam rolling can help to alleviate tension and active muscle tissues. Check out the Nesfield Performance video on the basics of foam rolling.

We are sure that if you maintain a consistent workout schedule and incorporate routine stretching techniques into your training, you will get your 5K race off to an amazing start. 

Should we deliver a part three of this runner’s guide series? Comment below!


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