As with any exercise, it's important to stretch before and after a run. Here are a few of the best stretches for runners.
Whether you're hitting the trail or navigating the concrete jungle, the repetitive movements of running can take a toll on your body.
The key to running endurance isn't just strength, though--it's flexibility. The more range of motion your muscles have, the more freedom they have to support you on your next run.
The thing is, many runners don't know how to stretch properly, or how to stretch to cover all the requisite muscle groups.
This list of stretches for runners is not exhaustive, but it will give you a few great stretches to incorporate into your routine to ensure you hit major muscle groups and a few small (yet essential) supporting muscles.
1. Pyramid Pose
Pyramid pose comes to runners through yoga, where traditional yogis know it by its Sanskrit name, parsvottanasana. This is a deceptively simple yet deep standing stretch that works to strengthen the legs even as it stretches the legs, hips, and back.
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, with both feet facing forward. Then, step your right foot back about one arms-length, facing out at a 90-degree angle from your left foot. If you feel you're balancing on a tightrope, you can widen your stance, but keep the angle of your toes at 90 degrees.
Place your hands on your hips and micro-bend both knees to avoid locking them. Then, bend forward from the hips, keeping your balance by evenly distributing your weight in your feet. Try to keep your back as straight as possible--engaging your core when you fold will help.
You can keep your hands at your hips, rest them on the floor, hold your elbows behind your back, or place them in reverse prayer (only if it's comfortable for your wrists, shoulders, and elbows).
When you're done, repeat on the other side.
2. Lying Spinal Twist
The hamstrings tend to get all the attention, but your back and core do just as much work to keep you upright and mobile. This stretch shows them some love.
To start, lie flat on your back with your knees bent to your chest. Spread your arms out to a T, level with your shoulders. Then, keeping your shoulders as flat on the ground as possible, drop your knees over to one side. Looking over the opposite shoulder can help with this.
If you drop your knees out to the left side, turn your head to look over your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side.
If this pose feels easy, you can deepen it by crossing your top leg over the bottom. So if you drop your legs out to the left, cross your right leg over the left as though you're sitting cross-legged in a chair and focus on keeping your back and shoulders flat.
The higher you fold your knees into your chest, the harder this pose will be. Don't drop your knees below the level of your hips, as this puts excess pressure on your lower back.
3. Ankle Mobility Heel Lifts
We've talked a lot about major muscle groups, but your ankles and feet do a lot of work to support you when running. And since your ankles and feet rely on small stabilizing muscles that aren't as strong as large muscles in your quads, they need extra TLC.
This is especially important if you have plantar fascitis. In fact, stretching for plantar fasciitis often involves strengthening and loosening the muscles around the ankles.
Fortunately, this simple move can do wonders for your ankles.
Start by standing upright with both feet evenly planted at hip-width, your hands on your hips.
Slowly (slowly, slower than you want to) rise up onto the balls of your feet. Hold for 10 seconds, looking at a fixed point to help with balance. Then, slowly lower the heels back to the ground.
The key here is control--if you fly up and down through the motion, your ankles aren't really doing any work to support you.
Need More Stretches for Runners?
If you're a dedicated runner, you know that we could write a whole library of information on stretches for runners. This list is here to help you get started--and learn how to practice stretching more effectively.
And if you need more tips on effective exercise and recovery, you've come to the right place! Check out our blog for more great tips.