You had a long day at work. You just put in a good hour logging miles. Now you’re starving, ready to get home to eat dinner, unwind from the day, and get a good night’s rest. So it’s totally justifiable to jet home after your workout, right? Wrong.
We’ve all been there; we’ve race home after a workout to get other to-do tasks crossed off our lists. But in reality, skipping a post-run stretch will do more harm to your body than good. Anna Munoz, Lead Product Specialist at DJO Global explains what happens to your body if a stretch sesh is skipped.
“Imagine a rubber band that just sits on your desk unused. The minute you go to try and extend that band it almost always snaps in half. Our muscles are comparable to a rubber band,” explains Munoz. “The more you use the rubber band the more flexible and stronger the band remains.”
Stretching opens up your range of motion and increases flexibility; not stretching drastically reduces mobility in the joints and muscles, which increases your risk for injury—especially for runners, who constantly place stress on the muscles.
“Reduced flexibility in the muscle and joint leads to a change in biomechanics or normal function and contributes to increased tension at the tendon. For example, someone with tight quadriceps will develop Patella Tendonitis because the tight muscle pulls on the tendon attachment at the patella creating increased tension, inflammation, and pain,” Munoz explains. Just 5 minutes after a workout is needed in order to stretch out the quadriceps and surrounding muscles to prevent Patella Tendonitis.
Many runners have tight hip flexors and hamstrings, explains Munoz. Forgetting to stretch these muscle groups can lead to knee pain too. “A patient will be prescribed exercises to both strengthen and lengthen the quadriceps, hip flexors and hamstrings.” These muscles continuously pull on the Patella. If they are tight, it will pull and cause more pain than good. This is especially important as the weather cools down. Once your body gets cold, your muscles tighten up, increasing your risk for injury. Keep your muscles loose and limber with a good stretch’ this will help prevent pain when you go to work or head home to unwind for the day.
Every muscle is connected. Not stretching will only increase tightness in the body, allowing muscles to pull on joints, causing major pain. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time to stretch. After every workout, give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to cool down and open your muscles. Make sure you do not bounce when stretching. Bouncing while stretching may tear muscles—which can lead to scar tissue, tight muscles, decreased flexibility and increased soreness. When you stretch, hold each stretch for 20 to 60 seconds and repeat three times.
Key Muscles to Stretch After a Workout
- IT Band
- Hip flexors/groin
Here’s some stretches for those key areas: