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The 8 Best Stretches to Do Before Running

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Skipping pre-run stretches or warm-up sessions is a recipe to get a workout injury. Running with muscles that aren’t properly prepped can bring about a muscle strain that keeps you off your feet — and off the road or course — for days, weeks or even months.

Beginning with a five- to 10-minute jog or walk, followed by lively stretching pre-run helps prepare your muscles. Focus on stretching the significant muscle groups you’ll be using — quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors — and do not forget moves that also warm up your abdomen, back and hamstrings.

Static vs. Dynamic Stretches Before Running

Dynamic stretches (ones that incorporate movement and take joints through their full selection of motion) are generally better for pre-run stretching warm-ups than static stretches, which are ones held for extended intervals.

They not only better prepare your muscles for the workout to follow however, might also offer a performance advantage over static stretches, according to a 2006 study printed in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Spend eight to 10 minutes performing the following dynamic stretches before running, states athletic performance trainer Hannah Schultz, CSCS. And save static stretches, which you can hold for 30 minutes to 2 minutes, for after your run to help with recovery, says softball trainer Scott Seamster, CSCS.

The Best Pre-Run Stretches

Ready to run? Listed below are eight stretches to do before conducting that hit on your quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, abs, back and calves. And remember: It is important not to overstretch before your work out. Just spend the stretch to the point where you feel resistance, not pain or discomfort.

1. Walking Lunge

Woman doing walking lunges before her run
(Image: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Not only do walking lunges loosen up the major muscles used while jogging — specifically, the quads and hip flexors — but they also simulate the forward movement of running, which makes them particularly useful as a pre-run stretch, says Seamster.

  1. Stand with your feet together, then have a long step forward with your right foot.
  2. Bend front knee to 90 degrees and the rear knee until it almost touches the floor.
  3. Stay here for a few seconds before climbing upward and take another big step ahead on your left leg to get the stretch on the side.
  4. Continue this manner for about 10 lunges (five on each side).

2. Hip Flexor Stretch

Woman doing Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretches before running
(Picture: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

If you sit at a desk all day, you most likely have tight hip flexors, because they’re constantly in a state of flexion. This causes this pre-run stretch extra important before you work out, says Schultz.

  1. Start in a lunge with your front knee at 90 degrees.
  2. Begin to straighten your back leg, so you feel a stretch across the front of the spine. Keep your front knee aligned over your feet.
  3. Raise your arms over your head and head for a few seconds, then release.
  4. Continue in a dynamic motion, shifting forward as you raise up your arms, then lowering your arms because you come back to the starting place.
  5. Repeat five times on each side.

3. Negative Stretch

Woman doing Side Stretches before running
(Image: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Side stitches are a frequent complaint among runners, but the fitness pro Stew Smith, CSCS, says it is possible to help stop them by doing this chest stretch before running. It is possible to perform this from a standing posture (pictured above), or as Schultz urges, you may add a negative stretch into the hip flexor stretch from the prior stretch.

  1. Bring your arms over your head.
  2. Keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right, bending at the waist.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, and then lean to your left side.
  4. Do this movement dynamically, holding for a couple of breaths on each side prior to shifting.

4. Dynamic Pigeon Pose

Woman doing Dynamic Pigeon Pose before her run
(Picture: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Schultz recommends doing this variation of yoga’s classic Pigeon pose to stretch the glutes and the iliotibial (IT) band that runs along the outer thigh.

  1. By seated, fold your right knee in front of you on the floor so that your knee is pointing out to the right slightly and the exterior of your thigh and shin are on the floor.
  2. Stretch your left leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and the top of your thigh, shin and foot on the ground.
  3. Add a chest twist by bringing your right hand up behind your right ear, then twisting to your left so your elbow comes across the human entire body.
  4. Duplicate five to eight times on each side.

5. Hip Circle

Woman doing Hip Circles before her run
(Image: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Your buttocks bear a great deal of force while you’re running, so opening up the joints and tendons of that area before hitting the sidewalk can help prevent harm. A couple of minutes of cool circles is an easy way to do this.

  1. Stand with your hands on your hips and your toes hip-width apart.
  2. Circle your hips in 1 direction, almost as if you’re hula-hooping. Make the circles wider and wider until you’re working your entire assortment of motion.
  3. To deepen the stretch, on the previous round, pause briefly at the front, back, left and right points in the circle.
  4. Repeat for six to ten rotations in 1 direction, and then switch directions.

6. Around-the-World Lunge

Woman doing Around-the-World Lunges before her run
(Picture: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Warm-up and stretch all the major muscles of your thighs using this lunge variation that gets you to move in all way. “I like to work every plane of motion,” Schultz says. “This helps to keep the buttocks as receptive as possible.”

  1. Start with your left leg rigid and lunge backward with your right foot, holding the stretch for a moment.
  2. Come back to center and lunge forward with your right foot.
  3. Follow with a side-by-side, lunging out to your right and holding for a moment.
  4. Last, at the spinning, do a curtsy lunge — bringing the right leg behind your left leg and bending your knees as though you’re curtsying.
  5. Duplicate this pattern 5 times, then switch sides, lunging with your left leg this time.

7. Calf Raise

Woman doing Calf Raises before her run
(Picture: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Every time your foot leaves the floor in a run, your calf muscles contract to make that occur. Give them some pre-run love by doing an easy, dynamic calf raise.

  1. Stand on the edge of a stair in order that just the balls of your toes are on the stair and your heels are hanging over the edge. (Stand on flat ground in case you don’t have access to stairs.)
  2. Hold onto a stair rail for balance, if necessary.
  3. Lift up on your feet, and then slowly lower your heels so that they come below the stair and you feel a stretch through your calf muscle.
  4. Hold the stretch for a minute before rising up again and again repeating. You might also do the stretch on one foot at a time.

8. Standing Quad Stretch

Woman doing Standing Quad Stretches before running
(Picture: Yolanda Cano/Demand Media)

Open up your hip flexors and quadriceps using a lively version of the traditional stretch. Use a wall for support or challenge your balance by doing the stretch without support.

  1. Bend your right knee and grab your foot or ankle in the outside.
  2. Pull your foot toward your right buttock and hold it there for a count of 10.
  3. Keep your torso upright and your head and shoulders aligned on your hips.
  4. Repeat three to four times before switching sides.

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