Stretching may seem like an inconvenience to do before an intense run or workout, but taking even a few short minutes to warm up and cool down will do wonders for your body and overall health.
Without it, our muscles may not recover from something as strenuous as running, lifting heavy weights, or even an intense workout. Bypassing a few quick exercises and stretches could result in stiffness, soreness, cramps, and possibly even injury.
I recently shared a few cool down stretching exercises useful for after running, which then prompted me to compile a visual list and explanation of what I do (or at least aim to do) before every run.
Of course, the intensity of your stretching and warming up can also depend on the distance you plan on running. Regardless of the length or intensity, be sure to take at least five minutes to warm up, then cool down before and after every run!
Warm Up Exercises and Stretches
Let’s start with the basics, which include three main steps:
1. Warm up walk and/or jog
2. Dynamic Exercises
3. Static Stretching
Step 1: Warm Up Walk
Before any kind of run – especially a few miles or more – you need to warm up your muscles with a brisk walk and/or jog. On the treadmill, I start every workout with at least two minutes of power walking at 4 m.p.h. When running outside, I power walk to the front of my neighborhood (about 3-5 minutes), then start my exercises and stretches from there.
Don’t skip this important first step! Stretching without waking up your muscles with a walk and/or dynamic exercises first could do more harm than good, and could even result in pulling a muscle.
Step 2: Dynamic Exercises
Dynamic exercises are any kind of stretches that require movement, or more than one position flow. Below is an example of one of my favorites: walking lunges.
Looking back at this photo, I should have taken a starting position photo, which is exactly the same as position 2. A more detailed description of this move as well as a few other dynamic exercises are explained in my video below.
Step 3: Static Stretching
Static stretches are still and only utilize one position at a time. Before any run, it is important to target at least three areas…
If you are gearing up to run something
crazy admirable like twenty miles (you probably already know this), make sure to take an extra few minutes to incorporate more stretching exercises and hit as many muscle groups as you can.
The concept of an overall successful run or workout is pretty simple: warm up/stretch – run/workout – cool down.
Warm Up Before Running Video
Because explaining visuals… visually (<- ha!) is easier than typing, I shot a video explaining the flow of exercises and stretches I go through before any run or intense workout. Be sure to also check out my Stretching After Running post if you missed it, and as always feel free to ask any questions below in the comments section.
Now go get after it!
Questions of the Day
• Do you make it a priority to warm up AND stretch before a run?
• Do you stretch on a daily basis, even if it isn’t connected to a workout?
It is a given that I am going to be stretching out my muscles at least five times a week, since I teach barre classes and we dedicate a third of the class time to it. Where it gets tricky for me is to stay after it when I run at home. Regardless if I worked out that day or not, I at least aim to stretch every night before I go to bed. Not only does it feel good, but it helps wind me down to get a good night’s sleep.
If you get a chance, go through a few stretches a night (or even early in the a.m. for the morning go-getters!) and see how you feel after a week’s time. I would be anxious to hear the results!