Stretches To Do Before Running

Why should you stretch before a run?

A good stretching routine should be an essential pre-run activity if you’re going to avoid injury and perform at your best.

When you’re at rest, your muscles are contracted, or shortened.

When you’re doing physical activity like running, these muscles are stretched.

If you make the shift from shortened muscles to stretched muscles too quickly, there is risk of injury. There is a much lower chance of injury if your muscles are pre-stretched.

The benefits of practicing stretches before running are not limited to reducing the risk of injury. Proper stretching can help increase your range of motion and can increase blood flow – preparing your body for physical activity.

The difference between static stretches and dynamic stretches

Stretching is often misunderstood by many runners at the start of their fitness journey.

Static stretches -the kind where you reach for your toes, or stretch and hold the position for 30 seconds, are actually not ideal ahead of running. Static stretching doesn’t effectively prepare your body for dynamic movements.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, is highly effective in preparing your body for exercise.

Dynamic stretching involves moving your body through a series of motions that increases blood flow, circulation and muscle length. As a result, dynamic stretching is an essential part of any workout routine.

Which stretches do you recommend?

There are so many running stretches you can do to prepare you for your run, it can be hard to know where to start!

The most important muscles to warm up ahead of a run are your quads, gluteal muscles, hamstrings, calf muscles and hip flexors – although it’s important not to neglect your upper body stretches.

We’ve put together our favourite 7 stretches for runners below, that will help you loosen up, lengthen your muscles and avoid injury if you incorporate them into your warm-up routine.

Walking Lunge

The walking lunge stretch is a great way to prepare your body for a run. This stretch helps increase your range of motion and circulation, as well as loosening up your hip flexors, hamstrings and quads.

1. Start by standing with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

2. Put your left leg forward and bend your left knee until your thigh is parallel to the ground.

3. Keep your back straight and your core engaged as you lower your right knee towards the floor.

4. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.

Standing Hip-CAR (Hip Controlled Articular Rotation)

This stretch is also known as ‘opening the gates’, and is a great hip flexor stretch. It takes your hip joint through the full range of motion, and is amazing if you have tight hip flexors.

  1. Start by standing up straight, and lift your left leg up with your knee at a 90-degree bend.
  2. Keeping your knee bent, move your left leg all the way to the side.
  3. Slowly bring your left leg back in, and lower your left foot to the ground.
  4. Repeat for 5 reps, then switch feet.
  5. This time, lift your right leg up, with your knee at a 90 degree bend. Move your right leg out to the side.
  6. Slowly bring it back in, and lower your right foot to the floor.
  7. Repeat for 5 reps. 

Side Lunge

The side lunge stretch is a great way to improve your range of motion throughout your lower body, and engages your quads, abductors, glutes and hamstrings. It can also help improve your balance and coordination.

  1. Set your feet slightly wider than hip/shoulder width, with a slight bend in your knee and both feet pointed forwards.
  2. Place your hands on your hips and make sure your weight is evenly distributed.
  3. Keeping your back straight, take a large step to your left and move all your body weight over to your left side.
  4. Return to your starting position, and repeat for five reps
  5. Switch sides – moving over to the right.

Arm Swing

Arms swings are a great dynamic stretch to engage the upper body.

  1. Stand tall, keep your core engaged, with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms.
  2. Swing them round in a circle starting off moving them in front of you before swapping to moving them behind you. 
  3. Do this for 30 seconds in each direction. It also helps to engage your shoulders and upper back and will help with your arm swings when running. 

Bent-Knee Forward Swing

This is great for feeling a stretch in your glutes, upper hamstring, quads and hip flexors.

  1. Hold onto a wall or fence (or fellow runner) for support. Plant your feet so you are stable when you lift one leg. 
  2. Lift a leg in front of you at a 90-degree angle and drive your knee up to your chest, before moving it out behind you as straight as possible.
  3. Keep your body upright so you don’t lose balance. 
  4. Repeat this ten times before switching legs. 

Floor Sweeps (Hamstring Stretch)

This is one of the best stretching exercises to work your hamstrings.

  1. Standing straight, place one foot in front of you.
  2. Touch one of your heels to the ground and point your toes up. Keep your other leg straight, but do not lock your knee. 
  3. Bend your body at the hips and move your hands forward as if to sweep the floor. 
  4. Try and walk forward whilst doing the sweeping motion.
  5. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg. 

Calf Stretch

The calf stretch is a basic, yet essential stretch for runners.

While it may seem like a simple stretch, the calf stretch actually targets several key muscles in the lower leg, and can help to prevent common injuries.

To perform an effective calf stretch:

  1. Find a wall, fence or fellow runner to lean against
  2. Placing your hands on the wall for support, slowly bend your left leg and step back with your right leg – keeping the right leg straight.
  3. Push down with the heel on your right foot, until you feel a stretch in your calf.
  4. Switch your front leg and back leg, and repeat.
  5. Do at least 5 reps on each leg.

Stretches like these before running are a great way to get everything warmed up and flexible, especially the joints.

It’s also a good way of getting all the different muscle groups working together before you set off.

Most running coaches will advise to start stretching around 5 minutes before a run to help prevent pain throughout your workout.

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