Stretching before and after your run can add a lot of benefits to your exercise routine. It allows you to warm up your muscles and safely progress into your run and also provides your body time to cool off and continue to activate your muscles. It’s important to set aside a couple of minutes before and after exercising so you can make sure you’re taking proper care of your body.
There are some conflicting schools of thought in regards to whether or not you should stretch and what the benefits of stretching are. Even if you don’t think stretching contributes to your safety while working out, stretching is extremely important for other facets of health such as flexibility, stress relief, improving blood flow to muscles, and more.
Similar to most workouts, there are always some injuries that could occur while running: sprained ankle, pulled hamstring, a tweak in your back. While some accidents can happen out of your control, a good warm-up and cool-down is a way that helps minimize injuries. Stretching can be one of these solutions and is simple and easy!
Pre-run stretches are all about getting the muscles moving before starting your run. Whether you do a couple dynamic stretches or you start off with a light walk or jog, the important thing beforehand is to build up to your full run.
Some standard pre-run stretches include:
Walking High Knees: Take one step and grab your knee, pulling it gently toward your chest. Release and alternate knees with each step.
Walking Lunges: Take one lunge forward, making sure to keep your front knee is in line with your front toes. Release and alternate legs with each step.
Hip Circles: Standing hip-width apart, rotate, and circle your hips (like a hula hoop). You can start off with small circles, making them wider as you go and after a couple of reps you can switch directions.
Calf Raises: You can do this on the ground or on a step with the back of your feet hanging off the edge. Lift up on the ball of your foot and activate your calf, holding for a couple of seconds before coming down.
Because a big focus in your pre-run should be getting your body warmed up, it’s important to add more movement in your stretches at this time. Stationary stretches don’t quite activate your entire body and are typically used more post-run.
I know it can be easy to stop your run or workout and just move on to the next thing you have to do that day, but taking the time to stretch after running is just as important as doing it beforehand. To some, it is even considered to be more beneficial. At this point your body is completely warm, making it an opportune time to stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Some pre-run stretches can be used post-run as well. A couple of additional stretches that are more stationary are:
Thigh Stretch: Bend one knee and grab the same foot behind you by your buttock. Hold for 15 seconds and switch legs.
Hamstring Stretch: Stand with one leg more in front of the other, lean forward with your legs straight, and point your lead toes upward. Hold for 15 seconds and switch legs.
Buttock Stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent and cross one leg over the other. On the leg that’s behind, loop your hands around that leg and grab the back of that thigh. Hold for 15 seconds and switch legs.
Whether you believe stretching pre and post-run makes a difference or not, just knowing these stretches and movements can add many benefits to your routine. There are many more stretches out there, so you can find different ones that work best for you.