When it comes to stretching there is a lot of debate about which stretches are best for runners and when is the best time to do them. Some argue that it’s more important to stretch after than before a run, then there is the theory that static stretching isn’t good for runners and dynamic stretching is where it’s at. I think the biggest thing to remember no matter which side you’re on is to take the time and do some stretching. Below are 5 Stretches for Runners that I think are important. They are a combination of both dynamic and static stretches and are ones that have helped me stay relatively injury free, assuming I take the time to do them.
Pre-Run Stretch #1: Leg Swings
Leg swings are a great dynamic stretch to do before you head out for your run. They help to loosen up your legs and hips and activate the leg muscles before you start running. To do a leg swing, stand on one leg and hold onto something for balance. Then simply swing your leg back and forth about 15-20 times.
Pre-Run Stretch #2: Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are another great dynamic stretch. You are not only stretching and loosening up the hips and thighs, but you are warming up your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glute muscles as well. When you do walking lunges it’s important to keep your knee aligned with your ankle. Here is a video showing proper form, there is no need to use weights while doing this for a pre-run stretch.
Pre-Run and Post-Run Stretch #3: Standing Calf Stretch
Calf stretches are one of the most important stretches for me. I tend to get very tight calves when I run and it has caused several running injuries for me, the worst being 14 months of plantar fasciitis. Keeping your calves loose can help prevent common running injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and calf strains. I like to stretch my calves both before and after I run, focusing more on the stretch after running. I usually hold the stretch for about 20 seconds on each leg and repeat it 2-3 times. Here is a video to show you the proper form to have while stretching your calves.
Post-Run Stretch #4: Standing Quad Stretch
This quad stretch is a static stretch and is perfect for after runs. Performing this stretch not only loosens the muscles but also helps to prevent post run soreness. Leaning into the stretch slightly can also stretch the hip flexors as well. Here is a video showing proper form and different ways to do a quad stretch.
Post-Run Stretch #5: Hip Flexor Stretch
It wasn’t until a couple months ago that I became very aware of how important it was to stretch your hip flexors. In the beginning of December I started having a lot of pain in the front of my hips while I was out running. My times were getting slower and slower and running hills, which is basically all I have to run around here, became almost unbearable. Lifting my legs to climb up and down the stairs or raising them getting in and out of the car was a joke. After doing some research and ruling out a pulled groin or stress fracture, I narrowed it down to strained/tight hip flexors. For the past two months I’ve been mostly confined to running on my treadmill since I can keep the incline flat at all times. I’ve been incorporating lots of strength and stretching exercises into my workouts and focusing on loosening and strengthening my hip flexors. Needless to say it’s been frustrating, but things are finally starting to improve. I have definitely learned my lesson about the importance of not only keeping my hip flexors loose, but making them strong as well. Here is another video demonstrating how to stretch your hip flexors.
Hopefully you have found these stretches helpful and can start incorporating them into your pre and post-run routine. Stretching may not seem all that important and it’s easy to brush it off and not include it in your workout. Sooner or later though, not properly stretching will catch up with you and more often than not will result in some sort of imbalance or injury.