5 dynamic stretches to do before you run - and why warming up is so important
- You should stretch before
runningto increase blood flow to muscles, which will reduce your risk of injury and enable muscles to work most effectively.
- To stretch before running, create a five to 10-minute warm-up routine that includes dynamic stretches like high knees, butt kicks, and lateral lunges.
Warming up before physical activity can reduce your risk of injury and improve your performance.
Here's why you should stretch before every run and how to stretch properly.
Why you should stretch before runningStretching before a run ensures your muscles are adequately warmed up and prepared for the motions you are about to perform, says John Gallucci, Jr., DPT, CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy in New Jersey.
Performing a dynamic, or active, warm-up helps get the blood pumping to your muscles, which decreases the risk of muscle tears.For example, a small 2019 study found that dynamic stretching - including 10 sets of warm-up exercises with 15 repetitions each - reduced hamstring muscle stiffness and increased range of motion. This reduces your risk of hamstring injuries, Gallucci says, one of the most common injuries in athletes.
You should stretch before every run, even if you don't plan to go far or are heading out for a light jog. Stretching every time increases mobility, allows for joints to move through their full range of motion, and enables muscles to work more effectively.
How to stretch before a runThere are two main types of stretching: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching is better to do before a run than static stretching, Gallucci says. Dynamic stretching uses movement to lengthen and warm up the muscles - such as high kicks, lunges, and jumping jacks - and increase the blood flow. Static stretching is performed as a stretch and hold, and should be done as part of a cool down to help muscles relax.
You should stretch for about five to 10 minutes before running, says Kevin Pennington, manager of athletic training and sports performance at Northwestern Medicine. You should also make sure to do the same stretching exercises on both legs or both sides of your body for consistency and balance.
"You don't want to strength train on only one side of your body, so you shouldn't stretch just one side either," Pennington says. For example, if you warm up with lunges or leg swings, do the same number on each side.
Stretches to do before runningHere are some examples of the best dynamic stretches to perform before running.
Straight leg kicks
- Stand up straight and place both arms out in front of you parallel to the ground.
- Kick each leg up trying to reach the height of your hands.
Perform for 10 repetitions on each side, three times.Targets: Hamstrings and hip flexors
- Start standing and slowly jog in place.
- Kick each leg behind you, bringing your heel to your buttocks.
Perform for 30 seconds and repeat two times with a 15-second break in between.Targets: Quadriceps, hip flexors, ankles, and knees
- Stand up straight and place both arms slightly in front of you at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly jog in place, bringing each knee up to make contact with your hand.
This stretch is a good option if you are running outside or on an uneven surface as it helps improve coordination and agility.
- Stand up straight and place one foot out in front of you with your heel touching the ground and your toe pointing up.
- Bend over at the hips and try to sweep your hands on the floor.
- Walk while performing this
exerciseand alternate legs.
Targets: Hamstrings, glutes, and calves
Lateral (side) lunges
- Start by standing with your feet slightly farther than hips-width apart.
- Lunge to the right side without letting your knee go over your toes.
- Return to your starting position and repeat on the left side.
Properly stretching before a run can help you avoid injuries like hamstring strains or plantar fasciitis - and even improve your performance. Stretch for five to 10 minutes before running, focusing on dynamic stretches that get your blood pumping and raise your body temperature to warm up your muscles.
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