Stretches For Runners
Overall, stretching in any exercise program is super important. But when it comes to running, stretching prevents injury, helps with that post run pain, soreness, and ultimately makes you a better and stronger runner. Here are the essential stretches for runners that you should be doing.
More than Your Average Stretches
The stretches below are a bit more than your average stretches you may see all the time, and even might be used to doing. The stretches below changed the game for me! They really did.
I had some really horrible hip pain once upon a time, and with some serious research I found out I wasn’t stretching my hip flexors and my legs enough. Once I implemented these nice stretches, I was in a lot less pain.
This happens to everyone. If you exercise or not. Stretching is really the perfect remedy for muscle tightness. It’s one of those things that help get the blood flowing, help loosen things up. Muscle tightness is the shortening of the muscle. Short muscles mean pain for you. So, stretch it out. 🙂
Stretching just feels good, and makes everything better!
General Rules for Stretching
- Stretch only when your muscles are warm. I warm up with walking before my run and reserve these for after my run is over.
- Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds to 1 minute long. If you have extra time stretch for longer.
- When you move into your stretch do it slowly. You can injure yourself if you try to flop into a stretch, or rush it.
- Relax into your stretch, don’t force it. Only go as far as you can.
- Control your breath. Do steady deep breathing in and out. Nice, long, easy breathes, and on your exhale slowly go deeper into your stretch.
So, let’s see some stretches!
1. Touch Them Toes!
You can do it!
If you can’t touch your toes, that’s ok! Every day that you do this stretch you will get closer and closer to the toes. And if you can go further than your toes – touch the ground. To deepen this stretch try the variation of this below.
Here, you’re grabbing your elbows as you bend over. This one is still the fold over stretch, but not having to worry about touching your toes. You’re able to really get deep into this, relax and hang. In yoga they call this the Rag Doll Pose. This is really great for your hamstrings (the back of your legs.)
And if you need to you can bend your knees a little. That’s perfectly fine, and you’ll get a bonus lower back stretch with that too.
These above stretches for runners are vital, I’ll even say the foundation!
2. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
This stretch is really great for the inner thighs, hamstrings, calfs, and hips. This stretch saved me and got me out of the pain in my hips!
Always be sure to stretch both sides, and the center when possible. For the center, grab your elbows, or touch the ground. Sometimes I do both.
3. Forward Fold with Legs Crossed Over
This has to be the most underrated stretch for runners. I love this stretch! This helps stretch that outer thigh, and hits your hamstrings in a different, but very great way!
Be sure to cross over both ways, and remember go as far as you can if you can’t touch the ground.
4. Sumo Squat Stretch
This one is great for your groin, and inner thighs, and it also helps open up the hips a bit. I have Shaun-T to thank for this stretch!
You will feel a little work in your quads here, and that’s ok. Just try to stay loose.
To add a nice back stretch just dip your shoulder on each side while you are in this stretch.
This is a nice spinal twist without having to get on the ground. Back stretches for runners are very important because your back does take a beating when you run. And this gives your back some relief.
5. Standing Quad Stretch
Now, this stretch is certainly a classic, and very much needed. The quads work hard when you run, and this is a way to thank them!
I use my arm straight out to balance myself, but you can hang on to a pole, or a wall to help keep your balance. Make sure to keep your knee pointing down to the ground, and bring your heel to you behind.
6. Dancer’s Pose
This stretch is more known in yoga, and yoga stretches for runners are such a great addition to your routine! This pose stretches everything! Legs, back, chest, arms – Everything!
This is a good segue from the quad stretch. Find your balance, lift your ankle up, and then you can begin to slightly bend at the hip to get a great hamstring stretch. This can be a challenge to do, but it’s something cool to work towards and try. Each time you’ll be able to bend further, and lift your leg higher. I always feel a bit refreshed and accomplished when I do this stretch.
7. Standing Calf Stretch
Calves really can get neglected when a runner is stretching. This is an easy stretch to do to stretch those muscles. You don’t need anything for this one, but you have to make sure to keep your heel down, or you won’t feel in the right place, and your calf won’t get properly stretched.
8. Lunge Stretch
This is the winner for your hip flexors! I love this, and need this after a run otherwise I know I’ll be in pain.
I start this stretch with my toes tucked and in a semi plank position because it gives your calfs a nice stretch and your hamstrings too. This is also good for anyone that doesn’t want to put weight on their knee to stretch.
Make sure that the knee that’s closest to you chest does not go over the ankle. We have to protect those knees.
After a nice minute I drop my knee and really relax forward to stretch that hip flexor.
9. Lunge to Hamstring Stretch
This is an easy transition from the lunge stretch. This is a nice deep stretch for the hamstrings. I don’t feel complete with my hamstrings until I do this stretch. To deepen this stretch add in pulling your chin toward your chest, and your head toward your knee.
10. Pigeon Pose
This is another yoga pose that is so good for a runner. It really stretches the hip flexor, hip rotators, and really opens them up. As you get better with this stretch and get more and more flexible, the bent leg’s ankle/lower half will become more parallel with your shoulders, and you’ll get closer and closer to the ground.
If you want to deepen this stretch lower down to your elbows.
If you can go even further lower all the way down where you can have your head all the way down to the ground with your hands being your pillow.
Stretches for runners are very important, and I hope you implement these stretches. It helps your muscles recover therefore making them stronger! It’ll also of course help with flexibility and that’s never a bad thing. Stretching should definitely be done on days you run, but also on the days you don’t run too! Try to stretch everyday.
Without stretching your muscles become shorter, and that is how you get that tight feeling. To dive into why you should stretch and if you want to jump into the science of it here’s an article from Harvard Medical School – The Importance of Stretching.
Do you have some favorite stretches you like as a runner? Tell me about them in the comments below!
If you’re looking for a beginner training running program to get into I have one you can check out. Here’s my Honest Beginner Running Guide.