6 Key Stretches for Runners
Running helps to burn calories, promote cardiovascular health as well as tone and strengthen the legs. No matter why you run, stretching should be part of your fitness routine.
For the best results, running should be combined with both dynamic and static stretches. While keeping this in mind, here is a list of 6 key stretches for runners.
When you stretch before running, this loosens the muscles and prevents injuries. Fitness experts recommend dynamic stretches (those done in motion) before a running session.
The dynamic stretches described below can help you activate all your leg muscles.
1) Walking Lunge
This is a great stretching exercise if you want to hit all the leg muscles – calves, hamstrings, quads and hips.
To perform a walking lunge, begin from a standing position with both hands placed on your hips.
Take a step forward with your right leg while lowering the left knee toward the floor. Don’t allow the left knee to touch the floor. Also, avoid bending the knee placed in front of you past your big toe. Push your weight up from the right heel and step back into the standing position.
Perform another lunge with the left leg and keep alternating to complete several repetitions.
2) Hip Circles
Extensions from the hips help generate the forward force that is required when running.
Therefore, it is important to open up muscles at this joint before hitting the pavement or treadmill. A few minutes of hip circles would help to achieve this goal.
For this stretching routine, stand with feet slightly spread and hands placed on the hips. Rotate the hips in a circular pattern continuously. Count each complete rotation as one rep.
Aim for 30-60 repetitions to complete one set. Switch the direction of rotations to begin another set.
Your calves bear a lot of brunt when running.
Muscles in this area of the leg contract every time your foot leaves the ground. To give these muscles a pre-run preparation, some simple dynamic calf stretches will do the trick.
For this standing exercise, the torso remains upright and feet close together or spread hip-width apart. Simply rise up on your toes and hold the stretch for a moment. Place the feet flat on the ground and repeat the calf raise again.
You can hold onto a wall for balance during this routine.
Post Workout Stretches
Stretching after a run is recommended as well in order to relax hardworking muscles that develop imbalances and tension from repetitive motion.
Static stretches can help you relax tight muscles after a run. Here are a few options you might want to try.
4) Kneeling hamstring stretch and hip flexor
Get down on one knee so that the other leg will be in front of you with the thigh being perpendicular to the shin. While maintaining a straight back, use the foot planted on the ground to press forward while keeping the knee that is on the ground in place.
Hold this position for 10-30 seconds then switch to the other leg.
5) Standing quad stretch
While standing with feet close together, bend your right knee by bringing the heel towards the glutes. Use your right hand to grasp the bent leg and hold this position for 10-30 seconds.
Repeat the same stretch for the other leg. If maintaining balance while standing on one foot is a problem, hold onto a wall using the free hand for support.
6) Calf Stretch
Face a wall standing at about arm’s length. Stretch out both hands in front of you at chest level.
Take a step forward to place the ball of your left foot up against the floor molding at the base of the wall. This will leave the heel of your left foot touching the floor. Lean forward and gently toward the wall to stretch the calf on your right leg without bending the knee.
Hold this position for about 10-30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
Stretching before and after running workouts provides many benefits, which range from warming up the muscles and preventing injuries, to reducing stiffness and lessening delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). So, make sure to add the stretching exercises described above into your running routine.