Friday, March 21, 2014

Loosen Up! Stretches For Runners

I have received quite a few requests about creating a post on proper stretching before and after running. Stretching is so incredibly important to both loosen and lengthen the muscles in your body, especially when you are participating in an activity like running that requires quick and straining muscle movements. So today, I thought that I would share some of my key stretches for runners. However, before we get to that, I wanted to mention theses important reminders about proper stretching, found on the Runners World website:

  • Don’t stretch cold muscles. It’s far better to stretch after a run than before.
  • Do stretch lightly before speedwork, after a 10-minute warm-up jog.
  • Ease into each stretch: don’t bounce or force it.
  • Before speedwork, hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds.
  • After a run, hold each stretch for 30 seconds; repeat once or twice on each leg.

For me, when it comes to stretching, I do a quick stretch prior to my run and a longer (deeper) stretch afterward. (I focus much more on a slow warm up at the beginning of each run so I have a very simple pre-run stretch routine.) Here are some of my favorite movements before and after each run.

{Photo Disclaimer}
 #1. Don't judge my sweet backdrop of white blinds...I know, they're awesome. But in the midst of us packing, this was the only open space in our apartment right now that was not covered in boxes. It's all I got, people. :)
#2. I don't know how to pose in these photos. 
#3. Enjoy! 

Pre-Run Stretches:

The Shortened Runners Lunge
(Keep your knee stacked over your ankle, heel back toward the floor. You can take this stretch deeper and further out into an actual runner's lunge but I typically use this pose as my quick stretch to open the hips, quads and hamstrings.)

Quad Stretch 
(Pull your foot back toward your bum. You should feel this stretch in the large muscle in front of your upper leg, also known as, your quadricep muscle)

Spinal Stretch
(Bending forward slowly, reach toward the floor, you should feel this stretch in your back and possibly your hamstrings as well.) 

Leg Swings
(Lateral Swings--While utilizing a wall or a chair to stabilize your posture, swing each leg out and behind your body to open up the hip flexors.)

(Forward & Back--swing legs forward and back in the hip socket, try to keep your torso upright, do not let your upper body sway with your swinging leg. Use support if you need additional support) 

Post-Run Stretches:

Calf stretch 
(Once again, utilizing a stable wall or chair, flex foot against the wall and lean into the stretch, hips toward the wall. For a deeper stretch, lean forward even more so at a slow pace. You should feel this pull in your calf muscle.)

Hamstring Stretch
(In a "V" shape, tuck one leg in and the other out. Reach for your toes (however close you can get, but DO NOT force your body to reach your toes if you cannot yet reach them easily) You should feel a nice lengthening feeling in the hamstring of your straightened leg.

Quad Stretch 
(Lying on your back, bring both legs up and in a 90 degree angle. Cross one of those legs over the other as if one leg is sitting in a criss-cross position. Interlace your fingers behind the knee cap of the bent leg. Pull the leg underneath closer to your body for a deeper stretch in the quad muscle)

Groin Stretch 
(For a deeper stretch in the groin, lean forward with a flat back. But do this carefully, you could easily pull a muscle if you do this too quickly.) 
(my "I dont know what to do with my face while youre taking the photo" face)
Iliotibial Band Stretch 
(Legs crossed, one over the other, lean forward slowly to get a nice stretch in the IT band)

Hip Flexor Stretch 
(Refer to my yoga post for this hip flexor stretch/pigeon pose. This should relieve some pressure, aches and pain in the hip socket and outer side of the muscle.)

I do each stretch on both sides for at least 30-60 seconds. For the areas that are feeling particularly tight and sore, I do one of two things: either an extra set of that particular stretch or hold the stretch for a longer period of time as I get deeper into the muscle tissue. It is extremely important to listen to your body. If you aren't feeling these stretches in the areas they are meant to target, chances are, you're doing them incorrectly. Consult your doctor before attempting any of these stretches if you have any prior injuries, aches or pains. 


  1. Wow nice demonstrations. Very thorough - way more flexible than me. Nice blog too by the way - very cute!

    1. Ha! Thank you Sara! (That flexibility is due to many years of ballet and dance experience) :) Thank you for the kind words about my blog as well!

  2. this is so helpful! i never really stretch before running, as i've always heard the "don't stretch cold muscles" thing, but i might try a few of these!

    1. Good Brittney! I'm glad you found these movements helpful. I hope that you are able to use them in the future.

  3. I always forget to stretch my calves post-run, thanks for the reminder!

    1. You're welcome Janelle. Yes, and it's a muscle that really needs it too! This stretch is pretty simple, you just need a wall! :) Thank you for stopping by!

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