By Sukie Nau, DPT/Owner, Nau Physical Therapy & Wellness
Skipping pre-run stretches or warm-up sessions can lead to a workout injury. When we run with muscles that aren’t properly prepped, we may cause injuries that can keep us off our feet for weeks or months.
To warm up and help prepare your muscles, start with a 5-10-minute jog or walk. Then, prep your major muscle groups by stretching dynamically.
Remember, it’s important to not overstretch before your workout. Just take the stretch to the point where you feel resistance, not pain or discomfort.
Below are eight stretches you can do before running to prep the major muscle groups you’ll be using: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors as well as moves that warm up your abs, back, and calves:
o Stand with your feet together. Then, take a long step forward with your right foot.
o Bend the front knee to 90 degrees and the back knee until it almost touches the ground.
o Stay here for a few seconds before rising and take another big step forward on your left leg to get the stretch on your left side.
o Do this for about 10 lunges (five on each side).
Not only do walking lunges loosen up the major muscles used while running — specifically, the quads and hip flexors — but they also simulate the forward motion of running, which makes them particularly useful as a pre-run stretch.
o Bring your arms over your head.
o Keeping your abdominals tight, lean to the right, bending at the waist.
o Hold for a few seconds. Then, lean to the left.
o Do this movement dynamically, holding for one or two breaths on each side before switching.
Side stitches are a common complaint among runners, but you can help prevent them by doing a torso stretch before running. You can perform this from a standing position, or you can add a side stretch to the hip flexor stretch from the previous stretch.
3. Dynamic Pigeon Pose
o From a seated position, fold your right knee in front of you on the floor so your knee is pointing out to the right slightly and the outside of your thigh and shin are on the floor.
o Extend your left leg behind you, keeping your leg straight and the top of your thigh, shin, and foot on the ground.
o Add a torso twist by bringing your right hand up behind your right ear. Then, twist to your left so your elbow comes across your body.
o Repeat five to eight times on each side.
Do a variation of yoga’s classic pigeon pose to stretch the glutes and the iliotibial (IT) band that runs along the outer thigh.
4. Hip Circles
o Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart.
o Circle your hips in one direction, almost as if you’re Hula-Hooping. Make the circles wider and wider until you’re working your full range of motion.
o To deepen the stretch, on the last round, pause briefly at the front, back, left, and right points in the circle.
o Repeat for six to 10 rotations in one direction. Then, switch directions.
Your hips bear a lot of force while you’re running, so opening the joints and muscles of that area before hitting the pavement can help prevent injury. A few minutes of hip circles is an easy way to do this.
5. Leg Swings
o Swing your legs forward and backward several times
o Swing your legs from side-to-side several times
For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call our office today.