Stay Injury Free With These Proven Running Stretches

Running stretchesToday I want to provide some instructions on stretching for running as a part of the warm up and cool down routine.  While you may not think this is an exciting topic, hopefully you do understand the importance of stretching for running.  Before I talk about the stretches, let me remind you of the routine that is done before and after the run.

Warm-up Routine
Before you run, it is a good idea to warm up your muscles first.  I will say that the experts disagree on whether to stretch or not during the warm up.  I usually do a few light stretches after I walk a few minutes.  Then I will start off in a light jog for a minute or two.  After that I run at the desired pace for that day.

Running Cool-Down
The cool down is basically the warm up in reverse.  After you are done running jog and/ or walk a few minutes to let your heart rate drop and your muscles cool down. Once you are somewhat cool and relaxed, do some more stretching and perhaps some more walking.

A Proven Stretching Routine
Most experts agree that stretching is an integral part of the cool down process.  And I think it is also important to do some light stretching before the run as well.  Of course, it is best if you warm the muscles up by walking and jogging some before you stretch them.  I have a few stretches that I like to do either before and/or after I run.  Some of the stretches are similar to others.  I may not do both of them each day, but rather, I will mix it up a little. Here are some of the stretches that I recommend.  If you are not sure which ones to do, then pick the ones that I have marked with an asterisk (*).  I would do these before and after the run.   The others can be used for variation and to get a better stretch.

Note you may need to get approval from your physician before doing some of these stretches, particularly those that place the head and heart below the waist.

It is recommended that each stretch be held in place for 30 seconds each.  Take your time and allow the muscles to loosen up.  The idea here is to gently stretch your muscles, not to pull something.  Go easy on your muscles, but do try to give them a light stretch.

* Split Leg Hamstring Stretch
With one leg in front of the other, bend over and touch the toes.  Keep the leg straight.  Switch legs and repeat the stretch on the other leg.

Sitting Toe Touch
From a seated position, keep the legs straight and try to touch your toes with your fingers.  If you cannot touch your toes that is okay, just do the best you can.

Standing Toe Touch
From a standing position, keep the legs straight and try to touch your toes with your fingers.  If you cannot touch your toes that is okay, just do the best you can.

Lying Glute (Buttocks) Stretch
This is one of my favorite stretches.  Lie on your back, and cross one leg over the other.  Then grab the knee of the supporting leg toward your chest.

* Quad Stretch
While standing, grab one foot and gently pull to the buttocks until you feel a slight stretch in the quads.  Repeat with the other side.

Cat Stretch
Get onto the floor on your hands and knees.  Arch your back upward.  Then arch your back downward.

* Runners Stretch
This one is easier to show in the picture than to describe.  Extend one leg in front, in a bent position, with the other leg straight extended to your rear.  Try to stretch the groin of the leg extended to the rear.  Switch legs.  You can also do a similar variation of this by placing one leg on a table or ledge, and the other on the floor.

Plow (or downward dog)
This is a stretch I learned from the P90X routine.  It is good for stretching the calf muscles and hammies.  From a pushup position, push your buttocks to the sky, while keeping your legs straight.

Cross-Leg Stretch
There may be a better name for this stretch, but this is what I am calling it for now 🙂  This stretch is great for the lower back.  From a lying position, with both legs straight,  cross the left leg over the right leg while grabbing the toes of the left leg.  Extend the left arm out for balance.

* Ankle Stretch
This is more of a warm up move than a stretch.  While standing on one foot, extend the toes down, up, left and right for a few seconds.  This will stretch out the ankle muscles and can help prevent injury to the shin and the achilles heel.  A variation of this is to spell your name with your toes.  Also, you can use a towel and add some resistance.

What do you think?
Do you have a stretch that you recommend?  Which of these stretches do you like the most/ least?

Take Action
Pick a few of the running stretches listed here, and start stretching before and after you run.

3 Responses to “Stay Injury Free With These Proven Running Stretches”

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  1. tanya says:

    Thank you for this great information on beginning running. I was wondering if you can tell me how to avoid -shin splints? I even get them when walking. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!!!

    • Andy says:

      Glad I could help!
      I am sorry you are having shin splints. I have had those in the past as well, and I know it is tough. Some things that may help include:

      *Having the right shoes. If you haven’t done so, make sure you have been measured and have shoes based on your ‘pronation’ tendency. You may even need orthotics…
      * Stretch out – As this article notes, make sure you stretch, espescially your calf muscles.
      * Make sure your strides are not too long.
      * Make sure you build your mileage slowly . Never increase more than 10% per week.
      * Run on flat surfaces, and soft surfaces such as grass.
      * Consider compression sleeves for your lower legs
      * eat more calcium
      * Massage the area and use ice for 20 minutes at a time and 2-3 times per day.
      * Consider cross training with swimming, cycling, and weight training
      * Do toe-raises with weights to strengthen your calf muscles.
      * Depending on the intensity, and with adequate treatment, it should go away within two to three months.

      If the pain becomes so severe that you cannot run, it could be serious, and you will want to consult a doctor.

      Hopefully you can get those shins pain-free soon, so you can get running again.



  1. […] you should continue to warm up and cool down before and after each exercise, which includes proper running stretching and stretches.  Next, try to increase your intensity and duration no more than 10 percent per […]

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