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Best Stretches Before Running to Warm Up and Cool Down

Pre-run stretches may seem unnecessary, but trust us when we say, they’re not. Doing stretches before running – and after – not only help you have a better workout but also reduce your risk of injury. Read on to find out why stretching is so critical to your running warm-up routine. Plus, find out what dynamic stretching is and how to do it yourself.

Stretches Before or After Workout?

The question we see all the time is whether or not we should be stretching it out before or after a good run? The answer is both. Stretching before your run will help to warm up your muscles and limber them up. This will make it much easier for you to run longer. Plus, it will give your muscles some more flexibility before you run.

After your workout, your muscles may be tender. Stretching after your workout can help you give the muscles that have tightened during your run a little more flexibility. This will help your muscles recover from the workout without causing them harm. You can count on reduced muscle soreness and tightness after a good stretch, too.

Why Do We Stretch?

Stretching is essential to your muscles for several reasons. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

  • Keeps muscles strong and flexible
  • Helps maintain a range of motion
  • Strengthens muscles so they can withstand your workout
  • Prevents injury
  • Improves posture
  • Makes it easier to workout

What Is Dynamic Stretching?

Dynamic stretching is different from static stretching. Static stretches involve pulling an individual muscle. Dynamic stretching involves completing a movement to get a full stretch. Ideally, it’s usually a variation of a movement you would use in the exercise.

If you’re planning on running, you may want to do stretches that mimic the movements you make when running. This will provide your muscles and joints a full range of motion similar to what they are about to experience during your run. This better prepares the muscles for the activity to come.

Stretches Before Workout

Here are a few reasons why stretches before workouts are so critical:

  • Improves performance
  • Increases flexibility
  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces back pain
  • Provides more range of motion for each muscle

Here are some ideas for great dynamic stretches to consider before running:

  1. Leg Swings: This involves holding onto something stable, like a wall or a tree outside. Grab hold with your right arm and begin swinging your right leg out and up. Swing your leg all the way forward and as far back behind you as you can comfortably swing it. Aim for at least 10 reps and repeat on the left leg, as well. This also helps provide flexibility in the hip flexors, as well.
  2. Ankle and Calf Mobilization: This dynamic stretch is basically like walking or running in one spot, without lifting your toes from the ground. Stand with your feet together. Then lift one foot from the heel, keeping your toes firmly planted on the ground. As you lower your foot again, bring the opposite one up. Repeating this motion will warm up your ankles and calves for the pressure of your run.
  3. Piriformis Walk: Start by pulling one leg up behind you to your glutes. This will stretch the quad. Then release it and step forward. Then you will take the opposite leg and begin it up in front of you, placing your foot on the opposite leg. Then release and step back. You can continue this pattern 10 times. Then switch legs to ensure both legs are stretching out both the quads and the hip flexors. This activity mimics the motions you will do when you run and gives flexibility to the muscles you need for a successful run.

Stretches After Running

Stretching after your workout is equally as important and here’s why:

  • Improves blood circulation
  • Minimizes risk of injury
  • Boosts energy
  • Prevent pain during the muscle recovery process
  • Improves muscular coordination

Here are some examples of the types of stretches that can be helpful to your body after a run:

  1. Calf Stretch: After your run, you can stick to more static stretches to help with muscle recovery. Stretching out the calves is a great one as your calves have just worked out really hard. Lean against a wall or a stable tree with your arms fully extended. One leg should be placed as far behind you as you can comfortably place it when standing straight without bending. Then lean forward and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Complete at least five reps and repeat with the opposite leg extended.
  2. Quad Stretch: Standing upright, pull one leg up behind you to your glutes. This is the same as the first step in the Piriformis Walk pre-run stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat five to 10 times on each leg.
  3. Lower Back Stretch: If your back is a problem spot, running can help. But proper back stretches afterward are absolutely essential for you. Lay down on your back and place one leg on the floor. Your foot should be completely flat and pulled towards you so that your leg looks like an upside-down letter V. Pull the opposite knee towards your chest and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on both legs for at least five to 10 reps each.

The Takeaway

Exercise is very important for your overall health. However, proper stretching is also important. It can help you maximize your workout and maintain your body. Injury not only sets you back in the exercise department, but it can lead to other lifelong health issues. To be safe and get the most out of your workout, you simply must make sure to prioritize stretching.

Proper stretching will help preserve your muscles and make your workout count even more. Think of it as buying an expensive car. You can buy the fastest car on the market, but if you don’t change the oil, you won’t get to benefit from what that car can really do. So before and after your run, make sure to do proper stretches to help you rev that engine!

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