Running uses several different muscles in your legs including your hamstrings, calves, quads and hips. Stretching the different muscles before and after running helps to prevent injuries.
Static stretching is stretching a muscle in one position for several seconds. Dynamic stretching includes repetitive motions of multiple muscles to increase the range of motion.
Static stretching is done before and after running while dynamic stretching is done as a cool down after running and oftentimes the day before a big race or workout.
Here are a few common stretches for runners. Check out the websites at the end for additional stretches.
Standing Calf – Place the ball of your foot up against a wall, your heel should be touching the floor. Gently lean into the wall and feel the stretch in your calf.
Standing Quads Stretch – Stand on the right foot, use your left arm to pull your left leg behind you, and steady yourself (it helps to stare at a particular spot on the ground or use the wall to steady yourself) for 10-30 seconds. Then switch and stand on your left leg, use your right arm to pull your right leg behind you and hold for 10-30 seconds. Also, known as the “Stork Stretch.”
Groin Stretch – While sitting on the ground hold on to your feet bringing them into your body. Gently use your leg muscles to move your knees to the ground. Keep your back straight and hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. Also, known as the “Butterfly Stretch.”
Hip Flexor Stretch – Lunge forward keeping your hips squared and your upper body vertical. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds.
Dynamic Stretches and Form Drills
Leg Swings – Using the nearest fence or wall to steady yourself, stand on your right leg and swing the left leg forward and backward. Then switch, stand on your left leg and swing the right leg forward and backward.
High Knees – Run in place while lifting your knees. Alternate lifting both knees in the air. Touch your right knee to your right elbow and your left knee to your left elbow. Remember to keep your arms at 90-degree angles.
Butt Kicks – Run in place alternating lifting your right foot and left foot up behind you and gently kick your butt with your heels on each stride.
Grapevines – Facing forward, skip your right leg over your left leg and then your left leg over your right leg. Also, known as “Cariocas” or “Karaoke”
Walking Lunges – Lunge forward with your right foot as you take a step. Then switch and lunge forward with your left foot as you take a step. Alternate between right and left.
Tips for Stretching
Do warm up and cool down – Warming up before you stretch helps to get your blood pumping and loosen those up muscles. Cooling down helps to prevent lactic acid.
Don’t move around – While static stretching, you shouldn’t be bouncing around or doing any other movement other than the stretch.
Do stretch before and after you run – Stretching before you run helps to loosen muscles and stretching after your run helps.
Don’t stretch through pain – Pain generally means that a runner is not stretching correctly or might be injured.
These websites provide helpful photos and tutorials for common stretches:
Runners World’s Complete Guide to Stretching
Mayo Clinic Stretching Slideshow
5 Key Stretches for Runners
Monica, a former Center Grove High School runner, participates in 5K, 10K and other races.