The Warm-up Jog
Before pre-workout stretching, have students jog for 5-10 minutes to warm up the muscle groups, prevent straining tight muscles, and mentally prepare for practice.
Maximize Stretching Sessions
Use this time to bring the team together and set the tone for the upcoming practice or race. Try keeping the team engaged during stretching by having a team member lead the stretches or having the team count aloud. Make it fun by counting in a different language, having certain kids do the odd numbers and others the evens, or playing with loud/soft dynamics.
- Encourage fluid breathing during stretching.
- Build from gentle to more vigorous movements within each stretch and throughout the stretching session.
- Use a selection of stretches at each practice that engages all the major muscles used in running. Also include some of the support muscles that provide stability (such as the abdominals, hip adductors, and hip abductors), but don't directly propel the body forward in the running stride.
- Recognize that some runners are more flexible than others and everyone should stretch only as far as they can to feel tension without pain. (A stretch may not look like a good stretch to you, but it might be for them. Stretching to one's limits over time will lead to increased flexibility – new limits.)
- Be encouraging. Offer gentle support when needed to help guide athletes to better stretching technique.
In addition to warming up the muscles and stimulating the nervous system, dynamic stretches also increase flexibility of muscles and joints. This results in greater range of motion, which enables more efficient running. While not directly proven, it may also reduce injuries, such as pulled muscles, as the body has the flexibility to move through a greater range of motion before injury occurs. Additionally, a tight muscle will pull on other muscles, ligaments, and bones which can cause the body to move out of alignment. This can lead to inefficiencies in form and can also cause other areas of the body to compensate for the poor alignment, which over time may lead to injury.
Dynamic stretching may also prevent cramps, which can occur when oxygen supply is diminished, because tight muscles compress small blood vessels that deliver oxygen-rich blood.Close