If your trainer, physiotherapist or injury specialist told you to perform pre-run stretches before you hit the pavement or treadmill, make sure to listen to them. However, most runners prefer to stretch after the run and just opt for a slight walk-to-run warm-up before they start their normal session. But, every hard training session or a fast run might benefit from some dynamic pre-run stretches that will mobilize the muscles and push more blood to the critical areas. So, if you love to train hard, here are some of the best flexibility exercises that will make your runs better and your recovery faster.
Glute and piriformis activation
No matter if you run as soon as you wake up or after a hard day at the office, your muscles have probably been stationary for a while. This makes them feel tight, especially the glutes, lower back muscles, and the pelvic muscles. So, you might want to perform dynamic stretches in order to stretch your behind, hips, back and lateral quads. Start this stretch by standing up straight, retaining balance and good posture. Grab one ankle and pull it up with the foot facing the waist. You should feel a deep stretch in the glutes and lateral quad muscles.
If you want to ensure good flexibility and conditioning of the hamstring, make sure to practice hamstring sweeps before your run. This exercise will condition your hamstring muscle group and boost your flexibility over time. It is performed by taking a small step forward with one leg, keeping both heels on the ground. Start bending your back leg and sinking your bottom while keeping the front one straight (imagine trying to sit in a chair). While your front leg is straight, make a downward sweeping motion with your hands creating a complete and dynamic stretch of the hamstring muscles.
Ankling and calf mobilization
This exercise is great for all runners who experience Achilles tendon issues, calf or shin issues or just want to strengthen their calf muscle. It mobilizes and increases flexibility before the run or before you’re about to use any gym equipment for legs at home or at the gym. Start your stretch by placing the foot on the ground with toes and the ball of the foot touching the ground first (opposite of heel-to-toe walking). Slowly lower your full weight through the foot until your heel is firmly on the ground.
Leg swing left/right
It’s important to have good mobility around the abductor and adductor muscles in order to increase your flexibility and achieve a good stretch. In order to do just that, start from a standing position, keeping your torso straight and strong. Face forward and swing your left leg to the left (until your end of reach) and then sweep it to the right, across the body (until your end of reach). Make sure to be mindful and controlled while swinging your leg, keep your trunk and pelvis facing forward and don’t force anything. This stretch is also good for strengthening your core, so it’s a double whammy.
Leg swing back/forth
Similar to the previous mobility exercise, this stretch boosts mobility in your hamstrings and hip flexors, together with keeping your core strong. Start from the same position as with left/right swings, but this time, sweep the leg forwards and backward. Make sure to engage your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles, but keep your posture straight and your pelvis and trunk fixed.
These dynamic stretches will increase your flexibility and help you have a comfortable run. Just remember to stretch after you finish your session as well (maybe even more important) to provide your muscles with a chance to recover. This will ensure you achieve the best results on the track and end up with zero injuries and pain.