How to stretch before and after a big race

By Dr Brad McIntosh, physiotherapist, Managing Director of Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions and Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Expert.

When it comes to stretching, there are two main types: static and dynamic. Both of them have their place when it comes to preparing your body and allowing for recovery when performing at a big fitness event.

6 pre-event dynamic stretches

Static stretches are holding stretches that are good for flexibility and post-exercise relaxation, but rather than helping your performance, there is evidence to suggest they may actually hinder it. When done before training or exercise, static stretching may actually decrease strength and power production.

On the flip side, dynamic, or moving, stretches help increase your muscle core temperature as your body is continuously moving while stretching — and they can “switch on” muscles ready for action, which is exactly what you want pre-run.

Here’s what you should do before your big race:

  1. Calves — Drop your heels off a step, moving up and down.
  2. Tibialis anterior (front of the shin) — Walk on your tip-toes.
  3. Hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings — Lunge-walk while maintaining good pelvic alignment.
  4. Quads — Kick your heels to your butt, one at a time.
  5. Hamstrings — Perform high knee marches, raising your knee to your chest.
  6. Arms/shoulders/trunk — Swing your arms while standing and maintaining control of your trunk.

4 post-event static stretches for recovery

To cool down after the event, static stretches that target the specific muscles you’ve just used will be beneficial to aid recovery and reduce DOMS (delayed-onset-muscle-soreness). With static stretches, always hold a light stretch and gradually increase the intensity within comfortable limits.

  1. Quads — Hold your heel against your butt, tail tucked under. Feel the stretch in the front of your thigh.
  2. Hamstrings — Place your right foot up onto a step with your knee slightly bent. Bend forwards, maintaining a straight back. Feel the stretch in the back of your thigh only.
  3. Calves — Facing a wall, lean against it with your hands and extend one leg back behind you with the heel on the ground. Feel the stretch in your calf.
  4. Glutes — Lying on your back, take one knee into your chest and across your body towards your opposite shoulder. Add a little rotation by drawing the ankle in towards you. Feel the stretch in your glutes only.

Perform stretches on both sides.

For added support for your muscles, you can consider taking a reputable magnesium supplement that contains easily absorbed forms of magnesium, which can help to relieve muscle cramps and spasms due to low magnesium levels.

For more information to help support you on your journey, or to register for the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival on 17 September 2017 (it’s not too late!), visit sydneyrunningfestival.com.au and Run.Blackmores.com.au.