What’s your pre-run routine like? Do you have a cup of coffee and a small carbohydrate-based snack, lace up your running shoes, and stretch your muscles to loosen them up?
If you are doing static stretching before your runs, you may want alter your routine. Static stretching before a run can increase your risk of injury and dampen your running performance.
Static Stretches before a Run: Friend or Foe?
You would think that static stretching would loosen the muscles and prevent injury; according to this survey on Runner’s World, not stretching enough is what runners cite as the number one cause of injury. However, quite the opposite is true. No research supports the myth that static stretching prevents injury.
Static stretching involves holding a position at the end of your range of motion (i.e. fully extending your hamstring and touching your toes) for 30 seconds to one minutes. Static stretching attempt to increase flexibility by lengthening the muscles and tendons. When done to a muscle that has not been warmed up, you risk stretching too far hyperextending the muscle. Additionally, overstretching before a run can throw off your stability, which can lead to various running injuries.
Not only can static stretching possibly lead to injury, it can also negatively impact your performance during that workout. Static stretching before a run decreases your running economy by decreasing your your power output. Essentially, static stretching before a run increases the energy cost of running at the same pace. You’ll fatigue earlier and have a higher perceived exertion than you would without stretching before the run.
Dynamic Stretches for Runners
So how should you warm up for a run if you’re not supposed to static stretch? Rather than holding a stretch at the end of your range of motion, dynamic stretching relies on momentum to gently move your muscles throughout your range of motion. Dynamic stretches prepare your muscles, particularly your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes, for the movement of running without risking injury.
I perform these dynamic stretches for runners each day before I head out on my run. This seven move routine takes under five minutes and requires no equipment, so there’s no reason to skip it!
Arm Circles: Extend your arms directly out from your body and parallel to the floor, so that they form a T with your torso. Slowly rotate your arms forward, so that you trace a small circle with your fingertips. Do ten repetitions, slowly increasing the size of the circle, and then reverse for ten repetitions.
Forward Leg Swings: Stand with your legs hip-width apart. Slowly swing your right leg forward so your foot comes off the floor and then squeeze your glutes to swing your leg behind you. Keep your knee soft as not to hyperextend. If needed, stabilize yourself by resting your hand on a wall or chair. Do ten to fifteen swings on the right legs, slowing increasing your range of motion as you go, and then repeat on your left leg for ten to fifteen repetitions.
Lateral Leg Swings: Bring your right leg slightly in front of your body, swing out to your right side, and then swing across your body. If needed, hold on to a wall or chair for stability. Do ten to fifteen repetitions and then repeat on the other leg.
Hip Circles: Stand in a neutral position with your hands on your hips. Slowly circle your hips to the front, around to the right, back, and to the left. Repeat ten times, and then reverse the motion for ten repetitions.
Half Squats: Stand with your knees hip-width apart. Squeeze your glutes and lower down and back into a slight squat. While keeping your glutes engage, return to standing. Repeat for ten to fifteen repetitions, increasing your range of motion as you progress.
High Knees: Stand with your knees hip-width apart and your arms bent at right angles by your side (as if you were about to start running). Slowly raise your right knee up to hip height, return to start, and repeat with your left knee. Repeat for ten to fifteen repetitions for each leg.
Butt Kicks: Stand with your knees hip-width apart and your arms bent at the elbows. Raise your right foot up and back, as if you were going to kick yourself in the butt. Lower down and repeat with your left leg; repeat for ten to fifteen kicks for each leg.
Questions of the Day:
How was your Labor Day?
How do you warm up for a run?