Is It Ok to Run With Tight Hamstrings?
Running is one of the most popular forms of aerobic exercise. There are a multitude of health benefits associated with running that include: cardiovascular health, disease prevention, weight maintenance, mood improvements, and so much more!
The more you run, however, the more likely you are to experience the tightness, soreness, and the occasional injury that comes with challenging your muscles in this capacity. Because hamstrings are constantly being used when running, you will probably have times when you experience extra stress on your hamstrings.
So, the question is… Is it ok to run with tight hamstrings? You don’t want to get behind on your training schedule, but you also don’t want to push yourself beyond your limits and end up with a severe injury. We totally get it. It’s important to know a little more about the hamstrings, their limitations, and warning signs of an injury before making this decision.
What is the Hamstring?
Before we dive into hamstring tightness, let’s explore what they are. Hamstrings are the tendons that connect the posterior thigh muscles from behind the knee to your backside. The “posterior thigh muscles” are a group of three different muscles, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. In other words, the hamstring is behind your thighs and plays a crucial role in your movement by connecting your knees and rear end to the above muscles.
What Does the Hamstring Do?
Hamstrings are essential to walking, running, jumping, and any other physical activity that requires leg movement in which we need knee movement. It is so crucial because all three of the hamstring muscles work together to help the knee bend and the hips extend. This is especially useful in more intense, faster movements like running and jumping.
It’s also important to note that the muscles of the hamstring connect on both the inside and the outside of the knee. Because of this, they only work when they are working together, making the hamstrings not only help the knees to flex and rotate but also stabilize. If one muscle isn’t working properly, you’re bound to experience even more struggles down the line.
For many, it’s actually an underrated area to work out and build strength. People focus on the more “showy” muscles like biceps and calves when they should really emphasize building stronger hamstrings.
Because it is an often overlooked muscle group, the hamstrings are a very common injury among athletes. Since they are so instrumental in big movements, these injuries can have a lasting effect and can be painful. While most injuries are minimal in severity, it is important to understand just how severe a hamstring injury can become if left untreated. There are actually three different levels of hamstring injuries…
Grade I hamstring injuries usually only take a few days to recover. Mostly, this injury is a minimal to mild strain or muscle pull with little pain. It will feel tight and you’ll know that something isn’t right. However, the injury isn’t severe enough to take bigger actions for recovery.
A little more severe than Grade I, this grade of hamstring injury is a partial tear, requiring more recovery time and treatment. Typically, with a Grade II hamstring injury, your walking will be altered. You may notice overcompensating on your uninjured side and even a limp of sorts. Your strength, flexibility, and mobility are greatly reduced, but not restricted.
Grade III hamstring injuries are the most severe because they involve total tearing of the muscle(s). You may even notice a lump of muscle tissue gathered and some bruising where the tear is. This injury requires a great deal of recovery time, typically months, and treatment. In the most severe cases, surgery may be the only option for recovery and rehabilitation.
Whether you experience a Grade I, Grade II, or Grade III injury, a good way to speed up the recovery process is by utilizing the RICE method. The RICE method stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. Following this guideline along with a doctor’s recommendations will help with recovery tremendously. If your hamstring injury has progressed to a Grade III, you may even use the RICE method after surgery if it’s warranted.
Hopefully, you will never have to reach a point where you must use the RICE method with your hamstrings. One of the best ways to keep your hamstrings healthy is to take preventative measures!
How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries
There are many ways to prevent hamstring injuries, but the best way is to warm up your hamstring before a workout and incorporate strength training into your workout regime.
Whether you do a dynamic stretching sequence or a yoga workout, preparing your hamstrings by warming them up for a strenuous workout will allow them to be ready to go, and reduce the risk of injury! Typically tightness occurs when you the muscle constricts from being asked to perform too much too quickly. So, make sure you always get a good warm up in no matter what!
Incorporating strength training is another highly successful preventative measure to take. The stronger your hamstrings are, the more they can handle more pressure, weight, and movement.
Is It Ok to Run With Tight Hamstrings?
Even with proper prevention, with strength training and adequate stretching, there may still be times when you start your run and your hamstrings are still tight. So what should you do? Is it ok to run with tight hamstrings?
Well, some running is fine with tight hamstrings, but definitely don’t overdo it! For example, don’t jump right into a sprinting workout if you’re noticing some tightness. The strain from those fast movements may quickly lead to an injury.
If you’re still feeling tight after a normal warm up, consider focusing on an extended warm up and taking more time preparing and walking before jogging. Or slow your pace or implement a walk/run alternation for your workout. If you want to continue with your workout when you’re experiencing hamstring tightness, it’s always best to lower the intensity on the muscle group.
Just make sure you’re listening to your body. The last thing you want to do is make a tight hamstring worsen into a more severe injury by aggravating it!
How to Relieve Tight Hamstrings
Whenever you are experiencing tight hamstrings, there are several things you can help relieve your symptoms before it advances to a more severe injury. Here are just a few…
Whether you’re experiencing tightness, definitely consider investing in a foam roller if you haven’t already! Foam rolling is an amazing way to ease soreness and help with muscle repair and tension! By specifically targeting the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors, this will allow you to not only get a nice massage but also ease the tightness. Now, doesn’t that sound like a win-win?
Yoga & Stretching
As mentioned above, stretching and yoga is a great preventative for hamstring tightness, but it is also a great way to relieve the tightness you’re already experiencing as well! You can find all kinds of yoga practices both virtually and in person that will even focus on your legs and lower body.
To get in the habit, you could try implementing a stretching or yoga routine every evening before you go to bed. It’s a great way to calm the mind, prepare for sleep, and aid in muscle recovery! Just 5-10 minutes a night can make a world of a difference!
By strengthening your hamstrings and glutes, you’ll also be able to prevent and ease all sorts of muscle tightness and tension. The stronger your muscles are, the more they can handle in terms of cardio such as running, jogging, and sprinting.
Adjust Running Form
If you do these things listed to prevent and relieve tightness, and you’re still experiencing it to the degree that it interferes with your running, look into adjusting your running form. Many people don’t realize the impact your form can make on everything from your recovery to injuries. It’s interesting what a few alterations to your form can have on your overall performance and wellbeing.
Combining all the tips and tricks we’ve explored through this article, you should be able to tackle all hamstring tightness. In deciding “Is it ok to run with tight hamstrings?” comes down to you listening to your body and using these strategies within your workout routine.