It’s a beautiful morning and you’re ready to make the most of it by going for a run.
Sounds perfect, right?
Running is a great way to keep active, get your joints moving, and feel refreshed, but did you know that stretches before and after running are just as important?
You’re about to find out why, along with 10 of the best stretches for running and other ways to prepare for a run.
Make the most out of that next run with these runner’s stretches.
10 of the best stretches for running in 2023
Read on to find out our top stretches for running in 2023...
What stretches to do before a run?
It is just as important to stretch before you run.
Warm up your muscles
It is important to warm up the muscles you plan to use before any exercise as it reduces the risk of injury.
Before running, brisk walking is recommended, or a slow jog that gradually becomes a run when your body feels ready.
Alongside this warmup, it is advised to add running into your routine over time, increasing the distance and intensity gradually to allow your body to adjust.
What stretches to do after a run? (with equipment)
These are our top stretches that you can do after a run with equiptment.
Calf stretches (with an exercise step)
Stretching your calves after a run is important as it reduces the feeling of tightness and can also help to prevent shin splints.
How to do a calf stretch
Stand facing your exercise step (or a flight of stairs).
Places the ball of your foot and your toes on the edge of the step—feel free to hold onto something if you need support!
When you feel stable, drop the heel of one foot toward the ground and bend the knee of the opposite leg simultaneously.
You’re doing it right if you feel a stretch in the calf of the leg with the dropped heel.
Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
What stretches to do after a run? (without equipment)
Here are our top stretches that you can do after a run that do not require any equipment...
A seated twist stretch works the back of your thigh and your glutes, which help to support your leg muscles while you’re running.
They’re also used in climbing and standing.
How to do a seated twist
Sit on the floor (or a mat!) and stretch your legs in front of you.
Bring your left leg over your right leg and place your left foot on the floor, bending the left knee.
Twist to the left and use your right arm to bring your left knee inward (gently).
Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
Slowly release the stretch and repeat on the other side.
Downward facing dog stretch
One of the more relaxed stretches after running is the popular yoga position, downward facing dog, which helps to stretch the muscle in your calves.
How to do the downward facing dog
Get on all fours, on your hands and knees, and place your hands under your shoulders with your knees under your hips.
Walk your feet back until you’re in a plank position—keep your arms straight.
Gradually raise your hips toward the ceiling until your body is in an upside-down V shape, keeping your head, neck, and back straight.
Push your heels down toward the floor and hold for 30 seconds.
Lower back onto your hands and knees and repeat a few more times.
Ankle mobility is incredibly important for running as these small joints can be easy to strain or sprain, and next thing you know, you’re confined to the sofa with an ice pack!
Heel lifts help to strengthen your ankles.
How to do heel lifts
Stand up as straight as you can.
Rise up onto the balls of your feet without locking your knees.
Hold for 10 seconds.
Lower your heels back down to the ground.
Repeat three times.
Toe touches help you to increase the flexibility of your hamstrings, another area that’s easy to strain if you rush straight into sprinting.
How to do toe touches
Place your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your knees straight (not locked).
Bending at the hips, lower your head towards your knees while trying to keep your back as straight as possible.
Reach towards your toes and relax your neck.
Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds.
Rise back to standing and repeat a few more times.
Prone hamstring stretch
If touching your toes feels too difficult, here’s another way to stretch your hamstring from your back.
How to do a hamstring stretch
Lie on your back and stretch your legs out. Keep your hips level and your lower back on the floor.
Bend your right knee while keeping your left leg on the floor.
Grab the back of your right knee and gently pull it towards your chest.
Hold for 20-30 seconds.
Lower your right leg back to the floor and repeat on your left side.
Your quads (the front of your thighs) work hard when you’re running, and so can become quite tight and sore if you don’t stretch them after running.
How to do a quad stretch
Stand up straight and, with your right hand, lift your right foot behind you.
Gently pull your heel towards your buttocks until you feel a stretch in your quad.
Try to keep your knees close together while keeping your left leg straight.
Hold for 15-30, depending on comfort.
Release your right foot, place on the floor, and repeat with the left leg.
Low lunge stretch
Low lunges are great for your hip flexor muscles, which help you with lifting your legs while running.
How to do a low lunge
Step into a lunge position.
Keep your upper torso straight and your toes pointed in front of you while your back leg is straight behind you.
Press gently down on your front leg and extend your hips forward until you feel a stretch.
Hold 30-60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
As the calves are so important to running and post-run tightness is so common, here’s one more calf-related stretch worth trying.
How to do a wall push
Face a wall and put both hands on the wall at shoulder height—your arms should be fully stretched.
Take a large step backwards with your left foot, keeping your back straight.
Push your hands into the wall while pushing your heels into the floor.
You should feel a stretch in your left calf.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Bring the left foot back in, step back with your right food, and repeat.
- Pre-run warm up: Prepare your running muscles with a brisk walk or light jog.
- Calf stretches (with a step): An easy way to reduce tightness in calves.
- Seated twist: Stretches your thighs and your glutes after a run.
- Downward dog: Stretch your calves with a relaxing yoga pose.
- Heel lifts: Important for building ankle mobility.
- Toe touches: A great way to stretch your hamstrings.
- Prone hamstring stretch: A less intensive way to stretch your hamstrings.
- Quad stretch: Reduce soreness in the front of your thighs.
- Low lunge stretch: Maintain healthy, mobile hip flexor muscles.
- Wall push: Helps to stretch out tight calves
Handpicked content: The Benefits of Dynamic Stretching
You also asked...
There are a few ways to go about this, and it can depend on things like your physical needs, the weather, planned running distance, or if you’re training for an event, like a marathon.
The most recommended ways to warm up before a run are:
- Light aerobic exercise, such as walking briskly.
- Activities that get your heart pumping, like a short session of skipping rope.
- Before you’re running, starting with a slow jog and gradually build up speed.
Stretching allows your body to prepare for a running session in several ways.
It can increase blood flow which is extremely important as our blood carries oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues and muscles, helping them function.
It can also loosen the joints and muscles—lowering the risk of injury—and encourage mentally preparation for exercise, which can enhance overall performance through focus, technique, and sense of coordination.
Additionally, sudden exercise without a warm-up can put stress on the heart and lungs, both important in aerobic exercise such as running.
Post-running stretches help with cooling down, joint recovery, and keep your body flexible after strenuous activity so you can shift back into your daily routine with ease.
Neglecting to do so may increase the risk of muscle damage and pain, impacting your desired fitness goals, and may also make you feel dizzy.
Research suggests that you should aim for at least 60-second stretches two-to-three times a week that target muscle-tendon groups, including the lower back, hips, legs, neck, and shoulders.
Of course, this is based on a generally healthy adult, so in the case of injuries, illness, or chronic pain conditions, the stretching frequency may differ from person to person.
This could also change if you’re a runner, where daily stretches are considered extremely beneficial, especially stretching after running.
Drinking enough water is important before and after a run.
Not only do you lose fluid through sweat during exercise, but dehydration may lead to nausea, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, muscle cramping or fatigue6, and many more symptoms.
Long story short… You’re not going to make it very far if you’re thirsty!
Energy or protein supplements
There are a wide range of energy and protein supplements that may support the act of—or benefits from—exercise, and running is no different.
Some may replace electrolytes lost through sweat, whereas others may support your performance.
For example, protein supplements that contain an ingredient called “rhodiola” have shown links with increased endurance, helping you to run for longer or on more difficult routes.
A healthy, balanced diet
For day-to-day life, a balanced diet is important, giving you the nutrients you need to power movement and exercise, but it can do so much more.
For example, nitrate, a molecule found in vegetables like spinach, turnips, and beetroot has been shown to support improved performance by decreasing the amount of oxygen required during exercise8. Beetroot juice has also been linked to increasing a runner’s endurance9, and may even reduce how difficult running feels10. Pretty amazing, right?
10 of the best stretches for running in 2023: The summary
Talk about stretching your brain as well as your legs… but you made it to the finish line!
Now you know why stretches are so important for running, and 10 of the best ways to warm up or stretch before and after a run, along with a few other tips to support your performance.
Before you get your trainers on, you might be interested in “Flexibility Importance & Best Exercises & Stretches”
Last updated: 19 January 2023