For runners, stretching needs to become a daily habit.
It helps you warm up and cool down, as well as keeping muscles and joints feeling flexible and supple. This helps reduce the risk of injury and improves overall joint mobility. This improves your running performance and ensures you don’t pick up frustrating injuries during any runs or races.
From running, to cycling, to even just walking, stretching helps prepare your body for any moderate or intense movement and exercise.
So, what kind of stretches should you consider if you’re embarking on a run?
We’ve outlined our favourite stretches below. These are all ideal for anyone just getting started, as well as experienced runners. For anyone joining our virtual running challenge this month, try integrating some of these stretches into your daily routine and see how it helps boost recovery, aid better movement and keep you feeling refreshed and ready to go!
Best Stretches for Runners
As a general rule of thumb, static stretches are usually better post-run and help reduce the risk of injury and aid recovery. Dynamic stretches are usually better before a run and help prepare your muscles for any exercise or movement.
- Leg Swings
Leg swings offer a fantastic dynamic stretch to help get the blood flowing and the muscles moving.
Standing in an upright position, ideally holding onto a wall for support, swing one leg at a time from side to side. You want to swing your legs right across your body, keeping your legs straight, or only very slightly bent. Your current flexibility will likely impact how high you can swing your leg. Don’t try and overswing as this could lead to injury.
Swing each leg 10 times from side to side.
You can also swing your legs back and forth, adding another dimension to this warm-up stretch.
- Standing Calf Stretch
Tight calves are one of the most common ailments for runners. Luckily, stretches like a standing calf stretch help combat this and will keep your calves feeling loose and relaxed.
Stand next to a wall with one foot flat on the ground. With your other foot, place your toes on the wall and your heel on the floor. This should immediately stretch your calf.
You can also achieve the same result on the stairs, by leaning one foot off a step.
Depending on how sore your calves are, you can hold this for as long as you feel your body needs to. This is also an exercise you can do throughout the day. There are even boxes you can place under a desk to achieve the same result – stretching your calves while you’re sat at work.
- Walking Low Lunges
Walking lunges are a great stretch to engage your glutes, quads, hamstrings and pretty much your whole lower body. Lunges also help practice better balance too, a useful skill for all runners.
Walking lunges will also stretch your hip flexors, which can be really important for the overall range of motion in your lower body.
Keeping your upper body straight and upright, slowly lunge one leg in front of the other. When lunging, try and get as low as possible. This will stretch more of the muscles.
- Butterfly Stretch
The butterfly stretch will really stretch your groin, inner thigh and hips.
Sit on the floor and bring your feet together, bending at the knees. Push your feet as close to your body as feels comfortable.
For an added dimension, lean forward slightly.
Hold this position for as long as needed.
- Quad Stretch
The quad stretch is one of the most common lower body stretches and for good reason. It helps loosen up this big muscle in your leg, helping reduce the risk of unwanted injury.
Standing in an upright position, grab one foot and pull it behind you, bending at the knee. This should end up close or touching your glutes. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
You can also do quad stretches laying down, following the same methodology, just on the floor. Both styles work in the same way (although standing up will also help improve your balance too).
Benefits of Stretching for Running
Stretching provides a wealth of benefits – not just for runners, but for anyone.
Activities like running are incredibly important for improving our overall health and fitness but our muscles and joints can become tight from such activities. Stretching simply helps loosen these tight muscles and joints, helping promote better flexibility, range of motion and blood flow.
Tight muscles are a runner’s worse enemy when it comes to picking up little aches and pains. Tight hamstrings for example, can not only lead to problems in your legs but is often a leading cause for lower back pain. This means keeping all your muscles relaxed and feeling flexible will ensure you benefit from an increased range of motion and don’t fall victim to tight muscles holding you back.
Regular stretching can also support better posture and reduce stress. It can become a daily ritual – even just 5 minutes a day in the morning or evening could make a world of difference to not just your running performance but also your overall wellbeing and quality of life.
Stretching can’t heal all injuries so if you are feeling sore, or suffering from a long-term injury, it’s always worth seeking professional advice, either from a GP or sports physiotherapist.
Get Started with Race At Your Pace
Here at Race At Your Pace, we’re passionate about rewarding you with more than a sense of achievement for getting outdoors, keeping active and feeling great.
Our virtual runs encourage you to keep fit by running in a way that fits around you and your lifestyle. You can complete the runs at your own pace, wherever you are in the world. Everyone who completes the event will get a prestigious medal that you can hang in your home and be proud of.
As well as running challenges, we also have walking, cycling and swimming challenges to keep you busy!
To learn more about us and our community, get in touch with us today or follow the adventure on Facebook.