If you’re an athlete, a large part of your training consists of warming up and cooling down. Whether you’re a gymnast, weight lifter, runner, or enjoy a lifestyle prioritizing physical excellence, you know the importance of running regularly to help balance your exercise routine. It’s also important to be mindful of the importance of performing stretches before running.
No matter what level of athlete you are, what sport you play, or how often you run, stretching before your run is vital. This guide takes a closer look at why stretching is important, where you should stretch, and which stretches to do before your run so you can make the most out of your cardio.
Why Is Stretching Before Running Critical?
Warming up might not be your favorite part of an exercise, but it’s essential to making your workout and run count.
Below are just a few reasons.
Warms up Your Body
Stretching helps engage your muscles slowly before your run. Neglecting your pre-run stretch is like taking your muscles from zero to 60 miles an hour, which could lead to discomfort and a poor-quality run. When you perform the right stretches before you run, you give your body time to adjust, warm up, and get ready to beat your personal best.
Warms Up Your Mind
If you’re an athlete who doesn’t love to run, preparing your mind beforehand can make a big difference in how you feel during your run and how well you perform. Stretching before running gives you time to engage in deep, intentional breathing and prepares your mind for a physical challenge.
Protects Your Muscles
Failing to stretch before you go on your run can also result in a greater risk of injury. When our bodies are relaxed or sitting down, our muscles shorten in position. When we stand up and move, especially during a run, our muscles lengthen.
If this transition is too fast, your muscles may become injured. So, stretching provides a time to slowly acclimate muscles to this lengthening and reduce the risk of injury.
Other Benefits of Stretching
Here are a few other benefits of stretching:
Promotes range of motion for muscles and joints
Improves overall physical performance
Supports muscles so that they work as efficiently as possible
Prevents injury, pain, or discomfort while running
Increases heart rate, boosts circulation, and prepares the body to burn more energy
Where To Stretch
Different athletic pursuits call for different types and amounts of stretching. Before running, whole-body stretches are the most ideal. Instead of focusing on just the legs, arms, or torso, it’s important to stretch everywhere.
How To Stretch
As research has learned more about the importance of stretching and how the muscles work, we’ve also learned the best way to stretch before running. This type of stretching is known as dynamic stretching.
The stretches most people are familiar with are known as static stretches. These require one position that you hold through the duration of the stretch. For instance, you pull your foot up to your back, stretch your thigh, hold the same position for 30 seconds, or bend down to touch your toes. Static stretches don’t require any movement during the stretch.
Dynamic stretching is different. It involves moving while stretching. Instead of staying in the same position, you would perform gentle motions. These promote circulation, fluid movement, and help your muscles lengthen without risk of injury. For instance, you may go into a stretching motion by gently swinging your arms or legs. Dynamic stretching is the best way to stretch before your run.
Try These Stretches Before Running
Now that we’ve explored why stretching before running is so important, here are a few stretches to try before your next run.
Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Balance on your left leg and bring your right ankle to rest horizontally on your left knee. It will look like you’re crossing your legs.
Hold your ankle and lower yourself until you feel a stretch in your glutes and piriformis muscles. Hold the position for three to five seconds.
Repeat on each side for 10 repetitions. You can walk while you perform this stretch and alternate legs to engage more movement.
Stand up straight next to a wall or handle for balance.
Lift up one leg so that your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
Begin swinging your leg forwards so your knee is parallel to your hips and backward so your leg extends out as much as it comfortably can.
Repeat these movements 10 times on each leg.
Standing next to the same wall or handle, place one hand on the wall and the other on your hip for balance.
Swing the leg furthest from the wall across your body so that it goes toward the wall, and then swing it back outwards.
Repeat these movements 10 times and then switch sides.
Side Lunge Stretch
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart so that both feet are pointing straight ahead.
Bend your right knee and lower your body into a side lunge position. Your bottom and hips should go backward and down.
Keep your back straight by engaging your core muscles.
Stand up and repeat on the left side of your body.
Perform 10 repetitions on each side and rest as needed.
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Swing both arms in the widest circle you can, keeping your elbows straight. Be sure to move your arms in the same direction as opposed to opposite directions. Your movements should look like a windmill.
Keep your back and core engaged during the stretch.
Perform this stretch for about 30 seconds.
We get it. Stretching isn’t always the most exciting part of your workout routine. If you’d rather get right into your run rather than spend time stretching, check out a few tips to make the process more enjoyable for you.
Have the Right Gear
If you don’t feel comfortable in your running clothes, you won’t feel comfortable in them while you stretch, either. If your clothes are uncomfortable, it may be because they aren’t stretching with you.
Look no further than the Bradburry Jogger for a four-way stretch that’s soft, light, and will follow you comfortably as you warm up and run. Plus, it’s water repellent, so you can enjoy running no matter what the weather.
It’s a bonus if you can find a comfortable tee to go along with your run, too. The Pivot Tee is an excellent piece of gear to wear while you run. Made with custom pivot tech fabric, this tee not only moves comfortably with your body but helps wick moisture and body odor. .