Most runners have similar wishes: to minimize injury, run faster, enjoy their runs, and to progress as a runner over time. Fortunately, you don’t need a genie in a bottle to have a chance at these wishes, but some habits can’t be ignored. Let’s cover one of those habits: dynamic stretches for running.
Dynamic stretches for running are an important part of your warm-UP. That’s right, to be done before you run. They require motion and momentum, whereas a static stretch is holding a pose for ~10-20 seconds. (Static stretching is best NOT to be done before running when muscles are cold and less pliable. Studies show that static stretches can negatively impact running strength and power.)
Most likely, you don’t pound out jumping jacks as soon as you get up from bed in the morning. Intuitively, you know it’s too much, too soon, for your rested body. Apply the same logic to pre-running dynamic stretches. You’re about to engage in a physical, demanding activity. Shouldn’t you give your body (and mind) a little warning?
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And, “warning” your body will pay dividends for that particular run, plus over the long haul. Dynamic stretches benefit you by increasing your heart rate, respiration, and warming your muscles. Plus, they aid in improving your range of motion, promote blood flow in the extremities, and lubricate your joints/ligaments/tendons.
Dynamic Stretches for Running – A Primer!
Think of dynamic stretches as a running primer. Muscle strains happen when a muscle is forced into a movement it’s not ready for; an active warm-up with dynamic stretching lessens that risk. Plus, it’s a ritual that prepares your mind, your lungs, for the task at hand (or at foot?).
Here’s the good news. It takes about five minutes. Seriously. Personally, I never start running without dynamic stretches. I equate it to driving without my seatbelt. Not worth the risk.
Here’s some tips and recommended pre-running dynamic stretches to include in your routine. Note, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will cover the vast majority of muscle groups prior to your run.
Tips for Running Dynamic Stretches
- Start each movement more slowly with a focus on form.
- As the movement gets easier, pick up speed and increase the range of motion.
- Ensure your core is tight and your posture is strong while doing the stretches.
Descriptions of each move are provided below in writing, but for you visual learners, click on the youtube video here:
- Warms up the calf muscles while actively stretching the muscles in shin area
- Walk forward and backward on your toes for at least 10 steps each leg
- Warms up shin muscles while actively stretching calf muscles
- Walk forward on your heels for at least 10 steps each leg
- Activates the many muscles/tendons/ligaments in your feet
- Walk on outside of foot for 10 steps each leg, than do the same, but walk on the inside of your foot (as if trying to press arch into the ground)
- Activates hamstrings/glutes, while actively stretching quad muscles
- Kick up foot behind you as if you’re attempting to strike your butt with your heel. 10x each side.
- Activates quad muscles, hip flexors while actively stretching hamstrings
- Walk forward, and with each step, bend at the hip/knee so the knee comes up high while bending your leg. 10x each side.
- Activates your hip flexors & quads while actively stretching your hamstrings/glutes
- Walk forward with a fairly straight leg, attempting to touch the toe w/ the opposite hand. 10x each side.
Bent Knee Forward Swing
- Activates hip flexors, glutes, and hip stabilizer muscles.
- Stand tall and swing one leg forward/backward with the “swing leg” knee bent. 10x each side.
Lateral Leg Swing
- Warms up adductor/abductor muscles while actively stretching opposing muscles simultaneously
- Stand tall. Swing one leg out to side, then back towards center and slightly past midline. Keep trunk and pelvis aligned. May be helpful to hold onto something for stability.
- Activates most of the glutes and piriformis muscle while actively stretching the inner thigh muscles (adductors).
- Lift your left leg up, bending the knee so it points out. Try to tap the inside of your left foot with your right hand without bending forward. 10x each side.
- Between both movements, you activate your core, glutes, quads, and inner/outer thigh (while simultaneously stretching the opposing muscle(s)).
- Lunge one leg backwards, and the return foot to start position before lunging out to the side with the same leg. 5x each side.
Once you’ve started incorporating dynamic stretches before running, you’ll notice it truly doesn’t take much time. Plus, that first mile will seem easier to settle into, and you will enjoy your run (and likely the next!) even more. It is by far one of the best time investments for your running progress.
Are there other running dynamic stretches that you routinely include before your runs??