Thinking back to grade school calisthenics, where toe touches, windmills and torso twists ruled the day, it's hard to imagine that the subject of stretching could spawn debate. However, research seems to show that stretching, especially static stretching (holding muscles past the point of tension for twenty or more seconds), may actually make athletes more prone to injury [source: Burfoot].
Dynamic stretching, which uses controlled movement to improve range of motion, increase heart rate and loosen up muscles, seems to be a better alternative. Runnersworld.com has video of a good run-specific dynamic stretching routine, which includes:
- Butt kicks. Kick your heel up and try to get it to touch your rear as you walk. Repeat 10 times.
- Toy soldier. Walk forward kicking each leg straight out front of your body like a goose-stepping soldier. Do 10 reps on each leg.
- Pike stretch. Drop to the ground in the pike position (like doing a push-up, but your rear is high in the air) and gently press the heel of your right foot into the ground using the toe of your left foot. Repeat 10 times for each side.
Once you're stretched out, it's time to put one foot in front of the other and get moving. If you find yourself adding extra stretches just to postpone your run for a few more moments, our next tip offers ways to psyche yourself up.