It is advisable to spend a few minutes after each run, while you are still warmed up, doing a few stretching exercises. It also essential to incorporate stretching exercises into your warm-up routine before racing or workouts. These can help in the following ways:
Maintain flexibility. A muscle is like a rubber band. The more flexible a rubber band is, the further you can stretch it and the greater the speed and power when you release it from the stretch. This assists in the speed of movement of contractions of your leg muscles and hence helps your speed.
Prevent injuries. If you do a few stretches after you warm up for a race, you are much less likely to pull any muscles during the race. As you run more and more and your leg muscles become stronger, they also tend to become a bit tighter as well. Stretching keeps them flexible and less likely to tear.
Flush waste products into the bloodstream and speed up recovery. When you run hard, a waste product called lactic acid is formed in the muscles. Going for a warm down jog and spending a few minutes stretching can help flush the lactic acid into the bloodstream where it is carried away.
Some simple stretches are illustrated above in the diagram. You should stretch everything, not just what feels tight or sore. The idea is to maintain body flexibility.
NOTE: Each stretch must be done gently and slowly. Stretch the muscle and count to six slowly, holding the muscle in a position where it is not hurting but you can feel the stretch. Then release it slowly and relax the muscle. Repeat a few times only. Do not spend too much time on stretching. A few minutes after each run is plenty. It is easy to overdo it and hurt yourself.
When by training by yourself, you should try to incorporate the same stretching routine as we do in Captain’s or team practices.