If you’re one of those runners who sprints away from a warm-up and cool-down as fast as you do a finish line, you’re missing out on some great benefits. Plus, you could be putting yourself at risk for injury.
According to Lauren Loberg, doctor of physical therapy and board certified clinical orthopedic specialist with TRIA Orthopaedic Center, an effective warm-up will prime your muscles for the run, therefore helping to prevent muscle strain and joint pain. Similarly, letting your body find its cool post-run allows your heart rate to drop back to normal, and is a great way to prevent muscle soreness.
Get into the habit of spending just a few extra minutes pre- and post-jog to stretch it out with the following moves. These running stretches are so quick and easy, you really have no excuse not to do them.
3 Before-You-Go Running Stretches to Loosen Up
Flow through the following three stretches to get blood moving to common problem areas — like knees, hips and ankles — prior to your run. “Increased blood flow and warmth will make your tissue more pliable and your muscles ready to perform,” Loberg explains. Keep in mind: You don’t want to stick to a static hold with these stretches. (Save that for post-workout!) Instead, continuously move back and forth between sides.
1. Groin Stretch
How to: Stand with legs a few steps wider than shoulder-width apart (a). Shift to your weight to your right side, bending your knee to sink into a lateral lunge. Make sure the toes and the knee of your bent leg points straight ahead (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before shifting to the other side. Repeat 3-4 times.
2. Hamstring Stretch
How to: Begin standing with your feet together (a). Step one foot back about two feet. Hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back flat and both legs straight (b). Hold for 10-20 seconds before stepping the back leg through to the front and alternating sides. Repeat 3-4 times.
3. Ankle Circles
How to: Stand tall. Shift your weight to your right side and lift your left foot off the floor a few inches (a). Roll the ankle of your raised foot in a circular motion, making sure to roll in both directions (b). Alternate feet after 10-20 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.
3 Stretches to Bring Down Body Heat Post-Run
Loberg recommends these staple yoga moves to stretch out all the areas you taxed during your run — namely your hamstrings, calves, hips and quads. Move swiftly from one pose to the next, or reset in between each. For extra TLC after these stretches, use a foam roller to screen for areas that are especially tender. Spend three minutes rolling each leg, focusing on the sore spots.
1. Downward Dog
How to: Begin in a high plank position. Palms should be flat on the ground directly under the shoulders, with the arms straight (a). Press through your hands as you bring your hips up toward the ceiling. Press your heels toward the floor (b). Keep knees straight as you direct your sit bones toward the ceiling to intensify the stretch (c). Hold for 30 seconds.
2. Low Lunge
How to: Begin in high plank (a). Step your right foot forward between your hands (b). Lower softly onto your left knee and place the top of your left foot on the ground. Keep your right knee stacked directly over the ankle (c). To get a deeper stretch, gradually inch your right foot forward. Make sure to keep your tailbone tucked under to avoid arching your low back. If comfortable, bring your hands off floor, raise your torso, and reach overhead (d). Hold for 30 seconds before repeating with the opposite leg.
3. Triangle Pose
How to: Start standing and step your legs approximately 3-4 feet apart (a). Turn your right toes 90 degrees to the right, and your left toes slightly inwards. Raise both arms parallel to the floor, palms facing down (b). Press your hips to the left while extending your torso to the right (c). Rotate the torso to the left to open up your chest and bend at the hips to rest your right hand on your right shin, ankle or the floor outside your right foot (d). Stretch the left arm toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Need more ideas for how to start your run on the right foot? Try these three running drills from Olympic sprinter Tori Bowie.