There are many types of running stretches, and many ways to perform them. Below I have listed a few key running stretches that I do before, and then after my run. But first, I'm going to tell you the benefits of each type of running stretch:
- Dynamic stretching. This form of running stretch allows the muscles to stay warm, and is the logical way of warming up. They get your body moving, and allow you to keep warming up whilst stretching, thus allowing more blood to flow to these muscles, as well as helping to prevent any sudden pulls or tears
- Static Stretching. This form of running stretch is used in cool downs and as general flexibility exercise. It offers a large amount of stretch, and is performed over a couple of minutes whilst remaining still. It helps ease out any knots in your muscles, and prevents them from becoming tight, therefore helping reduce risk of pulls or tears in the future.
Running Stretches to do before your run
Before my run, I always go for a quick warm up. This gets the blood going, and your muscles get eased into the workout. I do a 5 minute light jog, and make sure I ease my legs out. I then do a few exercise such as skips, progressively getting higher and higher, and a few leg shakes. This again just eases the muscles into action. After that, I perform Dynamic running stretches. This keeps the muscles warm whilst allowing the muscles to stretch, and again, eases the legs into your approaching workout, helping to prevent pulls and tears. The running stretches I perform are:
- Calves - To perform this running stretch, use a kerb or a step. Stand with both feet on the kerb, then put the ball of one foot over the edge of the step. Keeping your back leg straight, push down through the heel of that foot, stretching out your calf. Don't hold this stretch. As soon as you get the stretch feeling, come back up onto your toes, then repeat. Go for 10 repetitions on each leg, getting progressively further and further down through the heel
- Quads and Hip flexors - Everyone will have seen this running stretch. I do a set of 10 forward lunges on each leg, switching legs each time. However, importantly, you need to make sure that every joint in your legs is at 90 degrees, and your chest is nice and tall. Keep your glutes switched on, so that your pelvis is pushed forwards, and you should get a nice stretch down the front of your leg. Try and get your knee an inch or so off the ground every time.
- Hamstrings - Often an overlooked running stretch, you can use a tree or a fence (or anything stable) if you need to balance, But you stand on one leg, and keeping the other leg straight, swing it backwards and forwards, getting your foot as high as possible on each swing. If need be, come up onto your toes on your standing foot on each swing to get maximum stretch. Your foot should get higher each time. Again, perform 10 on each leg for this running stretch.
- Groin - Again, another overlooked running stretch. Keeping your feet parallel, and your weight through your heels, step out to one side, and bend that knee so that it stays over your toes. You should stick your bum out, so that your knee never goes in front of your toes. Keep your trail leg straight, and you should feel a stretch in the groin of the straight leg. Step back up, and go the other way. Again, 10 repetitions on each side will suffice.
- Chest - Possibly the most overlooked running stretch, this one allows for efficient action of your arms, and therefore allows a lot more momentum to go forward in your running direction. To do this, put your arms out straight in front of you, with your thumbs up. Now, relax your shoulder blades down and back, and move your arms into a Y position. Then bring them back to the middle, and go for a T position. Then, once they are back in the middle, go for an alternate one way (one up, one down) and then again, back to the middle, and alternate the other way. This is one set, and I always perform 4 sets.
Once I've finished those stretches, I again start slowly, then get into my proper running session.
Running Stretches to do after your run
After I have finished running, I perform another 5 minute cool down, which is basically my warm up but in reverse, so with the skips, get progressively lower, and then shake your legs out. Then it's time for my static running stretches. I perform these immediately after my cool down, and at least once a day to keep flexibility up. These are similar to the dynamic running stretches; however you need to get to the point of stretch, then hold for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, the stretch feeling should be fading. Once this has happened, push the stretch further until you get the stretch feeling back. Hold for another 30 seconds, then once the feeling has gone, go once more for 30 seconds. The static running stretches I perform are:
- Calves - This running stretch is exactly the same as the dynamic stretch, however, like I have previously mentioned, you hold it, rather than keep it moving.
- Quads and Hip flexors - Similar to the lunge we did earlier, but this time you put your knee on the floor, and push your pelvis forward. Again, hold for 30 seconds, then push further. If need be, you can lift the same arm as the leg you are stretching to increase this stretch.
- Hamstrings - This one is completely different. Lie flat on your back, and bring your knee up so that your hips and knee are at 90 degrees. The, take your hands, and hold onto the tendons just behind your knee. Keep you upper leg where it is, and just move the shin so that you are straightening your leg. You'll feel this in your hamstring. Do not pull your leg towards you, only straighten your leg.
- Groins - This running stretch is exactly the same as the side lunge done in the dynamic warm up. However, again, rather than keeping moving, hold this one for 30 seconds, then push a little further.
- Glutes - To perform this running stretch, sit down with both legs straight. Then, bring one leg up so that your foot is just beside your knee. Then, cross your leg over, and using the opposite arms, pull your knee into your chest and twist out towards your free arm.
- Chest - Using a doorway, put both arms up at 90 degrees, and lean into the doorway. You'll get a stretch across your chest
- Back - To perform this running stretch, get down on your knees and put your left hand palm up in front of your right shoulder. Then place this hand on the floor in front of you. Put your other hand on top, and then try and sit back without moving your hand. You’ll feel this stretch on the same side that your palm up hand is. Swap sides once you have performed 3 sets of 30 seconds.
They are the running stretches I perform after every run, however, if I feel tight anywhere else, I address that area too. For help on stretching specific muscles that are not listed here, let me know via the Contact Us page, and I'll help in any way that I can.
For now though