How to Stretch Before Running

Updated: Jun 23


What was called pedestrianism in the late 19th century today is called running, and since the 1970s running frenzy, this recreational sport has transformed into a way of life. There are numerous benefits linked to running just 10 miles per week, from reduced body fat and triglyceride levels to a lower risk of coronary heart disease. The psychological benefits of running are undeniable, as well. Take up a daily running routine, and you will experience mood elevation, an increase in good cholesterol levels, and a confidence boost. Sounds good, doesn’t it?


While running keeps muscles and bones in good shape and improves joint strength, stretching plays an essential role in maintaining muscle flexibility. Enhanced flexibility allows muscles to reach full-motion potential, ultimately improving the quality of movement.


Whether an experienced marathon runner or a beginner looking to improve physical fitness, stretching should not be overlooked. Poor muscle flexibility can result in joint aches, soreness, and muscle tension, undoubtedly leading to poor physical performance.


Before or after


Is stretching better to do before or after a run? An absolute beginner to this question could find himself overwhelmed with the results of just one google search. On the other hand, countless studies provide a reason to side with either approach.


One study shows that stretching after a run will not alleviate muscle soreness, whereas another shows flexing muscles before a run may weaken performance.


If left without an answer to this question, you should try listening to your body and letting it decide which option is best. Although one thing is sure, stretching should be paired with any form of exercise.


Benefits of stretching


A road to improved physical fitness is paved with stretching routines. However, poor muscle flexibility can lead to bad posture, muscle cramps, and lower-back pain. In addition, insufficient flexibility may be an underlying reason for minor and major injuries, which could take time to recover from.


Some benefits of introducing daily stretching routines are:

  • Improved physical performance

  • Increased blood flow to tissues

  • Improved movement quality

  • Reduced risk of injuries


How to stretch properly as a runner


Few things are as practical and undemanding as running and stretching, which you can start doing immediately and soon enough experience great benefits. While running enables our brain to release hormones associated with mood elevation, stretching enables our muscles to reach full-motion potential and therefore plays a vital role in overall physical health.


The recommended type of stretch has also evolved. Dynamic stretch performed with movement has replaced classic static stretching. But whether a stretch is done by combining velocity and momentum or performed without movement, safety can be compromised if done incorrectly.


When stretching, start with large muscle groups such as the neck, shoulders, and lower back. Also, the focus of the stretch should be on specific muscles used for running, such as the hamstrings, calf muscle, and gluteus. Hold a stretch for 30 seconds and 60 seconds if stretching a problematic area. Consult with a professional if you don’t feel comfortable stretching on your own, and remember that stretching shouldn’t be painful.


The 3 most effective stretches for a runner


Hip flexor stretch


The Group of muscles responsible for flexing the hip is called hip flexors. The primary hip flexors are collectively called iliopsoas, major movers of the hip joint.


Start a hip flexor stretch from a standing position, then put the right foot behind the body, and put your right knee on the floor. Meanwhile, both hands should rest on the left knee.



Hold this position for 30 seconds, return to the standing position, switch legs, and repeat.


Standing quad stretch


Another stretch intended to stretch the quadriceps, the muscle that is heavily used when running, is the standing quad stretch. This is a static stretch done fully in a standing position.


Stand on one leg, bend your right knee, and bring your heel toward your glutes, ensuring tight pelvic muscles. Reach and hold your ankle, keeping the knees next to each other.



Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, release, switch legs, and repeat.


Toe touch


Some would be surprised at how potent the classic toe touch stretch is, and how hard it can be for a beginner. Toe touch stretch improves flexibility of hamstrings, lower back, and calves, which are all engaged when running.



This stretch starts in a standing position, with feet together or shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips, and lower the head towards the knees, keeping the back straight. The goal of this stretch is to reach your toes with your fingers or even with your palm. Do this stretch slowly, and hold from 10 to 30 seconds.


Conclusion


While running is a great way to improve physical and overall health and experience a wide variety of benefits over time, it doesn’t go without risk. The best way to reduce the risk of injury is by incorporating a light stretching routine before the run.


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