The Top Stretches for Runners to Improve Performance and Prevent Injury 

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The Top Stretches for Runners to Improve Performance and Prevent Injury 

Running is tough, and you need to take care of your body to get better at it. Stretching is a key ingredient that is often forgotten, but it can make a significant difference. Not only does it reduce the risk of injuries, but it also helps you become a better runner overall.

So, let’s dive into some easy stretches to do before running that will keep your body injury-free and take your running to the next level! 

Why Runners Shouldn’t Overlook Stretching 

Runners often prioritize increasing their mileage and endurance. However, they sometimes neglect the importance of incorporating stretching into their training routine. Stretching should not be overlooked, as it offers numerous benefits that greatly impact a runner’s performance and overall well-being. 

One significant advantage of stretching for runners is improved flexibility. This is crucial for proper running form, stride length, and movement efficiency. Regular stretching exercises help lengthen and loosen muscles, increasing the range of motion in joints. This increased flexibility allows smoother and more fluid movements, ultimately enhancing running performance. 

Additionally, stretching is a preventive measure against common running injuries. Incorporating stretching exercises into a running routine helps keep muscles and connective tissues supple and resilient. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of overuse injuries such as strains, tendonitis, and IT band syndrome. 

Top Stretches Before Running 

Doing some dynamic stretches before diving into your running routine is always advisable. Dynamic stretching involves active movements that warm up the muscles, increase blood flow, and improve flexibility.  

These stretches prepare your body for the demands of running and help prevent injuries. Let’s explore five effective dynamic stretches to prepare your muscles for a successful run. 

Leg Swings: Front to Back 

Leg swings are a fantastic warm-up exercise targeting hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps. To perform this stretch, stand next to a wall or support for balance. Swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled motion, gradually increasing the range of motion.  

Repeat for 10 to 15 reps on each leg. Leg swings increase hip mobility and warm up the leg muscles, preparing them for the running motion. 

High Knees 

High knees are a classic dynamic stretch that engages the hip flexors, quadriceps, and core muscles. Begin by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee toward your chest while driving the opposite arm forward. Alternate the movement between each leg and aim to bring your knees as high as possible.  

Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg. High knees help improve hip mobility, activate the leg muscles, and elevate your heart rate before running. 

Alternating Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are an excellent exercise for activating the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. Start by taking a step forward with your right foot, lowering your body into a lunge position. Push off with your back foot and bring it forward, stepping into a lunge with your left foot.  

Continue alternating the lunging motion, performing 10 to 12 reps on each leg. Walking lunges enhance hip stability, strengthen the lower body, and improve overall running mechanics. 

Alternating Side Lunges 

Side lunges target the hip abductors, adductors, and quadriceps. Begin by standing with your feet wider than hip-width apart. Take a step to the right side, bending your right knee while keeping your left leg straight. Push off with your right foot and return to the starting position. 

Repeat the movement on the left side and alternate for 10 to 12 repetitions on each leg. This dynamic stretch helps improve lateral hip mobility and strengthens the muscles involved in side-to-side movements during running. 

Knee Hugs 

Knee hugs are a great dynamic stretch for the hip flexors, glutes, and lower back. Start by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one knee toward your chest and wrap your arms around it, pulling it close. Hold briefly, then release and repeat with the opposite leg.  

Perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg. Knee hugs activate the hip flexors and improve hip mobility, preparing your lower body for the running motion. 

Start Incorporating Stretches Before Running! 

Don’t underestimate the power of stretching in enhancing your running performance. We invite you to incorporate stretching into your routine, as it may be the missing piece to take your running to the next level. Lace-up your shoes, stretch them out, and enjoy the incredible benefits that stretching brings to your run! 

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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