There has been a lot of talk over the years about common stretches:
How should I stretch? When should I stretch? Dynamic or static? For how long? Blah, blah, blah.
When it comes down to it, we know that running while your muscles and joints are “cold” can cause injuries, especially when doing an activity that involves stop and go actions or for endurance type activities such as running. This is why warming up your body is important before exerting your body and muscles to a certain extreme.
Recent studies are starting to show that WHEN you stretch is just as important as HOW you stretch. Static stretching, or stretching while the body is still and at rest, is beneficial but mainly after a run. Dynamic stretching, or stretching while the body is in motion, is beneficial before your run.
Can you get away with not stretching or warming up? Yes, you can.
Does it increase the chance of injury if you don’t? For most people, yes.
So it is up to you whether you want to risk anything, but for those of you who do not, below are some common and easy stretches for runners:
- While holding on to a steady object such as a wall, lift your knee toward your chest and rotate as if you are climbing over a hurdle. Bring your leg down and repeat until loose. Repeat with other leg.
- With a straight leg, swing your leg forward and backward repeatedly. Once loose, swing your leg side to side repeatedly. Repeat with other leg.
- While standing, feet shoulder width apart, circle your hips clockwise multiple times and then repeat but counter clockwise.
- While in the lunging position, slowly push your hips forward until you feel tension. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Relax and repeat.
- Standing straight up, lean to one side until you feel a stretch in your hip. Hold for a moment and return to starting position. Repeat by leaning to the opposite side. Repeat multiple times.
- Using a bench or other higher surface, place your heel on the bench with a slightly bent leg. Slowly bend over until you feel a slight stretch in your leg and then reverse and straighten out. Repeat. Switch legs.
- Begin standing straight up, and taking one step forward into a lunge. Hold for a moment and bring forward your other leg and stand straight up again. Walk across the room this way multiple times until you feel loose.
- Standing straight up, cross one leg over the other. With the rear leg straight, slowly bend over until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Relax and repeat. Switch legs.
- Sitting down with legs out in front of you, slowly bend at your waist and towards your toes. Once you feel tension stop and hold for 10-20 seconds. Relax and repeat.
- Standing on a step with your heels hanging off the edge, slowly raise your body up, hold, and then lower as far down as possible until you feel tension in your calf muscle. Repeat until loose.
- While standing, jump up and down using primarily your calves. No need to jump high, just enough so you are off the ground. If it helps, imagine you are jumping rope.
- Looking directly at a wall, step back with one leg slightly, using your hands for balance on the wall. Begin to press your heel towards the floor until you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Relax and repeat. Switch legs.
- While sitting, grab your foot and push your toes towards your shin until you feel a stretch in your calf. Relax and repeat. Switch feet.
Above is just a handful of exercises that you can do to prepare for your run (and after to help with soreness). Again, make sure to adequately warm up before your run in general.