We have long heard that stretching before doing any type of physical activity is the best way to prevent injury. Stretching for runners is very important, but the type of stretching and whether it is best to do it before or after the run has been a source of debate in recent years.
Dynamic Stretching Versus Static Stretching
Static Stretching is what we have all learned to do from a young age. Whenever we did any type of physical activity in school or as part of a sports team, it always started with static stretching. Static stretching is when you hold a position to stretch a certain muscle or joint.
When it comes to running, static stretches beforehand are not the best idea. Here are a few reasons why you might want to reconsider doing this type of stretching before your run:
- Your muscles are not warmed up, they are still tight. If you push the stretch too much, you risk injury by pulling or tearing a muscle.
- You may run slower. Studies are showing us that those who do static stretches before running often do not perform as well as those who don’t do the static stretches.
- You may feel tired quicker. Doing static stretches before your run may make you feel tired when running sooner than if you wouldn’t have done them.
Dynamic Stretching, on the other hand, is what you want to focus on before running. As the name suggests, dynamic stretching involves movement when stretching as compared to holding one position. This will improve overall performance, motor skills, and really help warm up your muscles before your run.
When Is the Best Time to Stretch?
The type of stretch you plan on doing is what determines when you should do the stretching. As previously mentioned, static stretching is not very beneficial before running, but can be helpful after a run.
Because your muscles are now warmed up, doing static stretches will really help you improve the flexibility of your muscles. It will also give you a great feeling. After running your muscles can feel tired but stretching will provide you with a sense of relief.
Now, this is not to say that you should not stretch before running. The type of stretching before you run is what is important. This is when you want to do dynamic stretches.
5 Examples of Dynamic Stretching Exercises for Runners
The Lunge and Hamstring Stretch
This stretching exercise will work the hamstring while engaging your glutes, core and quads.
- Stand up straight with your feet together.
- Lunge forwards with your right leg, bending it a 90-degree angle.
- Shift your weight to your right leg and raise the left leg behind you.
- Return to standing position.
- Repeat the same exercise with your left leg forward.
For this exercise, you will want to do 10-12 reps for each leg. Make sure to engage your core by keeping your spine straight.
This exercise is great for getting your entire body ready for running. It will warm up your upper body, lower back, core, glutes, hips, and hamstrings.
- Start in the plank position as if you were going to do a push-up.
- Lift your right leg straight up then kick towards your butt.
- Bring your right leg back to the ground.
- Do the same with your left leg.
For this exercise, you should also do 10-12 reps for each leg.
The leg swing is great to warm up the lower body by stretching most of your leg muscles at once.
- Start by standing up and holding something for balance. You can use a wall, or even a tree or post of you are outside.
- Lift the opposite leg and swing it in front of you then behind you in one movement.
- Do 10-12 reps on this leg before switching to the other leg.
Note that when you are switching legs, the hand that is holding you up for stability will need to be switched to the other one as well.
This is another great exercise for your lower body before running as it works on the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and inner thighs.
- Start by standing up with your feet shoulder-width apart and your feet at a 45-degree angle.
- Put your left leg out bending your right knee.
- Return to starting position by pushing with your right heel.
- Switch legs and continue doing this for 10-12 reps on each leg.
This dynamic stretch is great for your lower back and core, while also warming up your glutes and hamstrings.
- Start by lying down on your back with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Maintaining your feet flat on the ground lift your hips so that they are aligned with your shoulders and knees.
- Hold for two seconds and come back down.
- Do 10-12 reps.
Static Stretches After Running:
As previously mentioned, those static stretches we have been doing our entire life before exercises are best to be done after your run and will help with your flexibility and give your muscles a sense of relief. Here are some static stretches that you can do post-workout:
- Quad Stretch: this is where you stand up, feet hip-width apart and bring one foot towards your butt, grabbing it with your hand.
- Hamstring Stretch: while seated, stretch one leg out and bend the other. Reach forward with your hand and try to touch your foot.
- Calf Stretch: stand facing a wall with both hands on it. Put one foot back with your heel firmly on the ground and bend your front knee towards the wall.
Running is a great source of exercise for many people. Some people enjoy running outside while enjoying fresh air and nature, but sometimes weather does not make it comfortable to do this. Here you can find a list of treadmills to help you on those days when you would rather do your workout indoors.
Whether you choose to run outside or inside, stretching and ensuring that your muscles stay healthy and free of injury is very important. But remember, dynamic stretches before, and static stretches after.