The following is a guest post from writer and running ethusiast Miranda Hanson, research blogger at Runner Click.
Running is one of the best and most effective exercises out there. Yet, many runners, especially those just starting out, neglect an important part of training: the warm up and cool down. Incorporating stretching as part of your pre and post run routine can help keep you feeling great mile-after-mile.
While you can focus on different types of running workouts, don’t neglect these stretching techniques that can make a tremendous difference and help your performance.
Dynamic stretches, meaning stretching that incorporates active movement, helps warm up your muscles before you head out the door for your next run. However, be careful with excessive running and overdoing your stretches, especially if you have knee pain. A good pair of running shoes for bad knees is a good safety measure.
Here are a few pre-run stretches to help warm up your large muscle groups:
Piriformis and glute activation
This pre-running exercise is especially important if you’re suffering from runner’s knee or piriformis syndrome. First, stand up straight. While maintaining balance and good posture, slowly bring your foot and ankle up and place it across your opposite leg, just above your knee. Keep active movement by slowly bending the knee on your standing leg. You should feel a light stretch in your glutes. Alternate your legs and only hold each movement for two to three seconds.
If you’re suffering from with hamstring tightness, then this exercise is right for you. Stand with your feet slightly staggered and press the heel of your front leg into the ground. Keep your front leg straight, bend your back knee and sink your bottom toward the ground like you’re going to sit somewhere. Try to do 3 sets — keep active movement by holding each stretch for no more than 2 to 3 seconds.
You can incorporate the dynamic stretches listed above to your post-run routine too, changing them to static stretches by holding each position slightly longer.
Here are a few post-run stretches to add in after every run:
Stretching your quadriceps is extremely important, especially if you often run up or down hills. To stretch your quads, stand straight and pull your leg behind with the same hand (e.g. left leg with left hand). Then, tuck your pelvis and pull your shin gently towards your thigh. Be sure to keep your knee pointed to the ground to protect your knee.
Stretching the muscles that run along your spine is especially important for those who run on hard surfaces, like concrete sidewalks. You can select some of the best yoga poses for runners and immediately notice a huge difference and relief. For a gentle post-run stretch, lie down on your back. While keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee close to your chest. Slowly take your bent right knee across your body while keeping your upper body flat on the floor. Hold this posture for ten to twenty seconds, then release and repeat on the opposite side.
Lower back stretch
To gently stretch your lower back, lie on your back and gently pull both knees up towards your chest. Hold for 20-30 seconds, adding a gentle rock back and forth if it feels good. This exercise is a great way to stretch before bedtime as it can help your body relax and prepare for sleep.
Whether you’re a beginning runner training for your first 5K, or an experienced marathoner looking for your next race, taking care of your body should be a top priority. Incorporating these stretching exercises into your training routine should help keep you healthy, happy and on the road to reaching your next running goal.