Hang on a sec...I thought stretching was a good thing!?
Stretching the hamstring in this position, you are actually making the hamstring weaker and sending confusing mixed messages to the brain about what the function of the muscle is.
Anytime your brain is confused, it's going straight into fight-flight mode and will want to tighten everything up to protect it.
Intuitively stretching feels good and it often does give some short term relief.
But in the long run, with continued stretching, the hamstring becomes weaker and more likely to become overloaded and tight. Then you've got yourself into a real pickle.
The hamstring, once locked down, becomes an inefficient blob that hampers everything you try and do.
Our first step in making friends with the hamstring is to stop pissing it off, so no more stretching.
By the way, as an added bonus, your lower back pain and sciatica will thank you as the standing hamstring stretch has a good way of irritating it.
*If you desperately feel the need to stretch, then you can apply heat packs or use the foam roller/spiky ball directly on the muscle.
To reset the hamstrings, I recommend first releasing the muscle with 3-4 sessions of deep tissue dry needling and myo-fascial release massage. This is like pushing re-set on your muscle tone and creating a fresh slate to work with. After a few sessions, the muscle will release and then we can move onto the final step.
It's important to get a twitch response that stimulates the blood flow and releases the chemicals in the muscle that have been holding it tight.
Be prepared for some significant post-treatment soreness for a 1-2 days. Months/years/decades of tightness ain't going down without a fight!
Check out more about dry needling here and see how it can get your healing on the fast track.
3. Build 'Em Back Up.
The biggest issue around the hamstring is it's near universal lack of strength.
When was the last time you did a specific hamstring strengthening exercise?
Most of us tend towards an excessive quads/hip flexors vs hamstrings ratio due to excess sitting, walking and running.
Quads are strong, hammies weak.
This imbalance is perceived by the hamstrings as threatening.
Powerfully contracting the quads during the running and kicking motion could potentially damage the hamstring.
How does the brain / muscle respond to threat?
You guessed - it tightens up.
Graduated Strengthening Program For Hamstrings:
The best long term strategy to make friends with your hamstrings is to build capacity so they can perform their job of eccentrically controlling the foot in landing.
If the hamstrings can happily do their job, they'll most likely start to feel safe, protected and will naturally start to release all on their very own.
Trust me, I'm a Physiotherapist!
It will take time (3-6 months) to build strength, so listen to your body and take it easy at the start. If you can only manage 2-3 reps in the beginning, that is fine. No rushing!
The goal is to push the hamstring to fatigue (feeling some hamstring soreness the following day is a good sign) and then allow it to adapt, recover and get stronger.
Make sure you create the right environment for healing via eating well (protein + vegies), drink plenty of water and get enough sleep.
Aim to do these strengthening exercises twice per week.
How many reps?
If you figure every 10k your run is approximately 5,000 steps on each side, then the hamstring needs a fair amount of endurance capacity. I would keep gradually increasing the reps until you are not feeling any pain on your walks and runs.
Quick note: avoid the hamstring curl machine at the gym. This exercise strengthens and shortens the hamstring, which is what you don't want.
Step 1: Bridge