The Best Stretches to Do Before Running
Essential Pre-Run Stretches.
As the world changes its work and fitness routines during a global pandemic, one tried and true activity has gained momentum above the rest: Running. Unlike most sports, running doesn’t require much. You need a good pair of running shoes, some sweat-wicking clothing, and a bit of mental fortitude. And of course, 6 feet of space between you and the next person running along the bike path. While running is a simple, meditative sport, we mustn't forget how important the smaller details are--most notably stretching. Warm up routines involving dynamic stretches and technical drills activate our muscles and help prevent injury. A 2007 Sports Medicine study showed that at least 30% of injuries coming through clinics are skeletal muscular, and that goes for both professional and recreational athletes. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete looking to start running again, or you’re just looking for new ways to stay fit, the following stretching routine will get your blood flowing, activate your neuromuscular system, and help you focus on form and technique prior to your run.
Dynamic Stretching for Runners
What is dynamic stretching? Dynamic stretching focuses on joint mobility and movement, as opposed to static stretching, which focuses on isolating muscle groups and holding a stretch for up to 30 seconds. Before each run, you should spend at least 15 minutes going through intentional warm-up stretches and drills. When you view your warm up as an essential, disciplined part of being a good athlete, you will reap the benefits and prevent injury in the long-term.
Complete the following 6 pre-run dynamic stretches by doing 2x10 reps, each time back and forth. Focus on stability and rhythm, keep the hips forward and core engaged (instead of arching your back) and be intentional with each movement.
- Quad Stretch
- Hamstring Swoops
- Side Step Lunge
- Piriformis Stretch
- Single Leg Hamstring Stretch
- Zombie Kicks
CALF MUSCLE ACTIVATION
These simple calf exercises warm up the smaller tendons and muscles in the lower leg and feet:
- Toe Walks
- Inverted Toe Walks
- Outer Toe Walks
- Flexed Toe Walks
Leg swings are fun and loosen up the hips. Keep your hips forward and be intentional with each swing, driving power through your core and your hips. Do not overswing to the point of discomfort.
TECHNICAL WARM UP DRILLS TO GET THE BLOOD FLOWING
Do 2x10 of each drill. For your A skips and B skips, focus on keeping the hips forward and landing your feet under your center of gravity.
- Butt Kicks
- A Skips - focus on keeping the hips forward and landing your feet under your center of gravity
- B Skips - focus on keeping the hips forward and landing your feet under your center of gravity
- Side Skips
- Carioca (demonstrated slowly and sped up for proper execution) - Moving to the left, start by crossing your right leg in front your left leg, then step out from behind to stand parallel. Take your right leg and step behind your left leg, then reposition to strand parallel again. Focus on keeping your hips on a horizontal plane , rather than twist and turning too much. This helps open up your hips, and teaches quick, technical footwork.
- Straight Leg Kicks - focus on keeping the hips forward and landing your feet under your center of gravity
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, ADD STRIDES
Strides are quick, short sprints that allow you to focus on form and technique. They are not meant to be sprints for the sake of sprinting. With each stride, focus on driving your knees, keeping your hips forward, and pumping your arms forward. Do 4-6x 100m strides before each run. If you do strides consistently, over time, you will notice how the speed and form you work on translate into the rest of your running.
Running with WHOOP
Many runners want to know, “Why should I use WHOOP over my GPS watch?” The reality is, the two are not mutually exclusive, and it’s important to understand that WHOOP is not meant to be a GPS watch. Instead, WHOOP helps runners monitor their cardiovascular effort (strain), daily recovery, and sleep performance so they can avoid overtraining, prevent injury, and peak for their next racing competition. You can wear both as you look to track mileage and get the most accurate summary of your physiological performance. For any runner looking to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and avoid injury, WHOOP can help with the following:
- Manage cardiovascular effort: WHOOP heart rate monitoring shows which training zones you’re hitting, so you know if you’re pushing too hard on an easy run, or reaching anaerobic zones during your interval workouts.
- Know how fast your body recovers from workouts: No two people recover the same way. Because WHOOP is monitoring your body 24/7, it knows when your body needs rest, and when you’re ready to push again.
- See fitness improve over time: By tracking heart rate variability and resting heart rate every single day, runners can see themselves losing or gaining fitness over time.