Did you know how useful stretching is? When we were children, we thought that stretching in PE was only needed to warm up the muscles. But what if we told you that thanks to the increasing number of exercises, your sports life would become more accessible?
Many professionals now propose a mix of dynamic and static stretching, so in this article, we’ll look at:
- Dynamic vs. static stretching: When and why should you employ dynamic and static stretching as part of your training?
- Running stretches: Recommendations for specialized dynamic and static stretches for runners.
The Difference Between Dynamic and Static Stretching
Dynamic stretching is active stretching (also known as functional stretching) that simulates running movements to boost your heart rate, elevate your body temperature, and warm up your muscles and tendons in preparation for your run. When you perform a dynamic stretching practice, you are always in motion.
Static stretching is the reach-and-hold approach that most of us are accustomed to. Static stretching keeps a position for 30–60 seconds to stretch and relax muscles.
When Should You Stretch?
Stretch dynamically before running: We recommend dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for running. Allow five to ten minutes before your run to perform a vigorous stretching practice.
Static stretching, such as a protracted hamstring or calf stretch, should be saved for after exercise. Following a run with a practice of static stretches can help develop flexibility and comfort tense muscles.
If you want to learn more about how to train for running, check out this article.
Running Dynamic Stretches
Here are five active stretches to get your running muscles going:
1. High knees (glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings)
For 30 seconds to one minute, jog in place while raising your knees to the level of your waist.
2. Butt Kicks (quads, hip flexors, hamstrings)
Kick your heels up toward your butt while jogging in place or going forward. Warm-up your hamstrings slowly and gently at first. Perform 10–12 repetitions on each side.
3. Skipping (calves, glutes, shoulders)
This is similar to the skipping you did as a child, but with a little more force to move your body up and forward — warm up your shoulders by skipping with your arms swinging. Choose a 15-yard-away spot and skip down and return.
4. Swinging Legs (glutes, calves, lower back, hamstrings)
Hold onto a tree, railing, or wall with your right arm extended out to your side to support yourself. Swing your right leg forward and back as straight as possible. As you move, engage your core and maintain your trunk upright. Perform 10 reps with the right leg, then 10 with the left.
5. Circles with the arms (shoulders)
Begin by lifting your arms to shoulder level and extending them straight out to the side. Circularly move your arms with your palms facing down, like you’re forming 6-inch-diameter rings with your fingers. Do 30 seconds forward, 30 seconds back. This exercise will help to release the muscles in your shoulders.
Running Static Stretches
Move softly and evenly when practicing static stretches, and remember to breathe. Don’t bounce, as this might cause a muscle to overstretch and injure itself. It’s OK to experience a deep stretch with some tension, but don’t push yourself too far.
1. Calf Flexion
Running sharply uphill encourages you to run on the balls of your feet, putting pressure on your calf muscles. Place your arms out in front of you, palms up against a wall, and face a wall. Bend your left knee and extend your left leg forward, leaving your right leg straight back. Both feet’ soles should be flat on the floor. By leaning against the wall, you may stretch the calf muscle of your right leg. Hold for 30–60 seconds before switching sides. Rep three times more. While extending your calf, slightly bend your knee to progress the stretch. This strains the soleus muscle, part of the lower leg’s posterior complex. This change can be held for 30–60 seconds and done three times.
2. Stretch your hamstrings
A simple hamstring stretch may be performed by standing with your feet together and folding forward at the waist until your hands touch your toes. For a somewhat different time, spread your legs a few feet apart and fold at the waist, striving to touch the floor with your fingers. Both stretches should be held for 30–60 seconds. Rep three times more.
3. Quadruple Stretch
Because your quadriceps provide a significant portion of your running force, it is essential to stretch them after a run. Stand on your left leg and lift your right heel toward your buttocks. With your right hand, grasp your right ankle and slowly lift your foot up and in. Torquing your knee is not recommended. Hold for 30–60 seconds before switching sides. Rep three times more.
4. Runner’s Lunge (hip flexors)
Running hills and leaping over sidewalk curbs may put a considerable strain on your hip flexors. Kneel on your left knee and position your right foot on the floor in front of you, forming a 90-degree angle with your knee. Lean forward when you feel a stretch at the front of your left hip. You can keep your balance by using your arms or placing both hands on your right knee. Hold for 30–60 seconds before switching sides. Rep three times more.
5. Figure-Four Stretch in a Reclined Position (gluteus medius)
Moving from side to side to avoid potholes, rocks, and roots on the route can cause tight and aching glutes. Stretch your glutes by lying on your back in a figure-four posture with your right foot resting on your left knee. To stretch your right glute, interlace your fingers on your left leg and draw in toward your chest. Hold for 30–60 seconds before switching sides. Rep three times more.
6. Stretching the Iliotibial Band
A tight IT band, sometimes known as “runner’s knee,” can produce discomfort and soreness on the outside of the knee. Bend forward at the hips and cross your right foot over your left until your fingers contact your toes. Try to bring your feet closer together without moving them while in this posture. The stretch should be felt around the outside of your left leg. Hold for 30–60 seconds before switching sides. Rep three times more.