Medical News Today: Essential stretches for warming up before a run

Stretching before running can warm up the muscles and loosen the joints, which can reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.

When it comes to preparing for a run, studies suggest that warming up with dynamic stretches can improve power and performance.

Static stretches are the “hold and stretch” variety, which involve holding a position for 5–10 seconds.

Dynamic stretches are active exercises developed to improve the range of motion. They also raise the temperature of the muscles and improve blood flow.

In this article, we look at six essential stretches to do before a run. We also describe which exercises are ineffective and discuss the do’s and don’ts of stretching.

1. Brisk walking

group of women brisk walking which is a stretch for runners
Brisk walking can warm and stretch the muscles.

Brisk walking may not seem like a stretch, but it can effectively warm and stretch the muscles.

Walk at a brisk pace for 1–2 minutes. The pace should be quicker than that of a regular walk, but not so quick that it feels like a light jog.

Once the muscles start to feel more warm and loose, a person can begin a set of dynamic stretches.


2. Knee reach

The knee reach is the start of a three-part reach series. These exercises mimic some of the movements of running. The knee reach stretches the abdominal muscles, hips, shoulders, and quadriceps.

To perform the knee reach:

  1. Start with the feet hip-width apart and the arms at sides.
  2. With the right foot, step forward into a moderate lunge position.
  3. Raise the arms so that the hands are at about the level of the bellybutton, with the palms facing one another.
  4. Rock back onto the left foot, keeping the right heel on the ground and the foot flexed upward to stretch the hamstring.
  5. Keeping the back straight, lean forward slightly, reaching the hands toward the flexed right foot. Try to perform this in a fluid movement.
  6. Lower the right foot and do the exercise again, stepping forward with the left foot.

Repeat the exercise 5–10 times on each leg.


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3. Overhead reach

Overhead reach is a recommended stretch for runners
The overhead reach is a recommended stretch for runners

The overhead reach is another range-of-motion exercise that involves light lunging. Instead of reaching forward, a person will reach upward.

This exercise stretches the abdominal muscles, shoulders, and quadriceps.

To perform the overhead reach:

  1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart and the arms at the sides, with the palms facing inward.
  2. Step forward with the right foot into a moderate lunge position.
  3. While lunging forward, raise the arms in the air, with the fingers reaching toward the sky. Stop when the arms are roughly aligned with the ear.
  4. Rock back onto the left foot, and flex the right foot so that only the heel is touching the ground. At the same time, lower the arms and stretch them toward the right heel, reaching with the hands.
  5. Lower the right foot and return to a standing position. Do the exercise again, this time stepping forward with the left foot.

Repeat the exercise 5–10 times on each leg.


4. Rotational reach

The rotational reach is the third part of the reach series. This exercise warms up the muscles used in the rotating, swinging motion of running.

The rotational reach stretches the abdominal muscles, shoulders, arms, and quadriceps.

To perform the rotational reach:

  1. Stand with the feet hip-width apart and the arms at the sides, with the palms facing inward.
  2. Step forward with the right foot into a moderate lunge position. Do not let the knee go over the toes.
  3. While lunging, twist the body to the right side and extend the arms at about shoulder height with the palms facing one another. Try to perform this motion as fluidly as possible.
  4. Rock back onto the left foot, and flex the right foot so that only the heel is on the ground. At the same time, lower the arms and reach toward the right heel.
  5. Lower the right foot and return to a standing position. Do the exercise again, this time stepping forward with the left foot.

Repeat this exercise 5–10 times on each side.

5. Butt kicks

Woman jogging in the forest
Butt kicks are a dynamic stretching exercise that people can do while jogging.

Butt kicks are another dynamic stretching exercise. They involve stretching the front of the legs while jogging at a light pace.

To perform butt kicks:

  1. Start by jogging at a light pace.
  2. While jogging, focus on placing the body’s weight on the balls of the feet.
  3. In turn, kick each leg backward, with the heel almost touching the buttocks.

Continue this exercise for 15–30 seconds.


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6. Knee lifts

This exercise may seem like the opposite of butt kicks. Instead of kicking the legs backward, a person will bring the knees upward, stretching the hips and gluteal muscles.

To perform knee lifts:

  1. Start by jogging at a light pace.
  2. Focus the body’s weight on the balls of the feet.
  3. In turn, lift each knee in a marching motion, without the knee exceeding the height of the hips.
  4. For a softer landing, try to land on the balls of the feet.

Perform this exercise for 15–30 seconds.

Do’s and don’ts of stretching

Before going for a run, a person should:

  • always do a short warm-up session
  • start the session with a brisk walk, followed by dynamic stretches
  • make dynamic stretching movements as fluid and continual as possible

A person should not:

  • start running until the muscles and joints feel loose and warm
  • lunge too deeply during the warmup session
  • stretch to the point of pain — stretching should not be painful


Exercises to avoid

While static stretches can enhance flexibility, they are best at the end of a run.

As the run ends, a person should slow their pace for 5 minutes. This helps to reduce the heart rate gradually. A person should then perform static stretches, holding each position for a few seconds at a time.

Avoid doing too much too soon. For example, always warm up the muscles with a brisk walk before starting dynamic stretches. A person should never push themselves too hard while stretching or running.

Focus on maintaining excellent form in all aspects of running. This means taking note of small details, such as keeping the back straight while stretching and keeping the knees from going over the toes during lunges.

Takeaway

Warming up and cooling down should be a part of every running routine. It is best to do dynamic stretches before a run and static stretches after the run.

Anyone just starting a running or dynamic stretching program may benefit from speaking with a doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer. These professionals can advise about safe stretching and running practices.

Source Article from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322821.php

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