Importance of Stretching for Running
My name is Owen Chase and I have been a BOKS kid since I was in 4th grade in 2010. I participated in BOKS in elementary and middle school. My love for running started while racing the BOKS trainers on the 400m track around Memorial Elementary School. Today, I run cross country, and track and field for Bucknell University and stretching is the most important part of my run every day. I have included some of the best stretches and activities that help warm the body up before a run and cool down after you finish.
1. Light activity: Think of your muscles like a rubber band, you don’t want to stretch a cold rubber band. In the same way, your muscles need to warm up before you can stretch or run. Do a very short run, a few jumping jacks, or anything light to get your legs moving.
2. Dynamic stretching: Do a thorough dynamic stretch to warm up that can include many exercises like knee-huggers, soldier walks, open and close gate, and whatever else is tight. Do all of these exercises while walking.
Optional: If running fast, do a few strides where you carry a comfortably fast pace for around 100 meters or whatever space you have available. On these, focus on good form and remaining comfortable while running fast.
3. Post-run static stretch: I like to follow a standard stretching routine that consists of seven stretches and do extra if I have any further soreness. The stretches are as follows, stretching each side for 20 seconds:
- Cross leg touch your toes: Put one leg over the other and touch your toes. You should feel a stretch in your IT band and hamstring.
- Downward dog, push one heel down and then the other: You should feel a stretch in the calf of the heel being pushed down.
- Kneeling lunge: Lower down to a lunge and push forward. You should feel a stretch in the hip flexor. For best results, flex the glute muscle of the leg with your knee on the ground.
- Sitting knee hugger: Sit down, bend one knee and position it over the other outstretched leg, hug that knee. You should feel a stretch in your glute muscle.
- Sitting hamstring stretch: Reach and grab one leg. Do not go further than comfortable but make sure you feel the stretch in your hamstring.
- Butterfly stretch: Sit and bring feet together in front of you. Slowly move knees to the ground until you feel a stretch in your groin.
- Lying quad stretch: Lie on your side and grab the foot of your top leg off of the ground behind yourself. You should feel this stretch in the quadricep of the leg that is being held.
I encourage you to integrate these dynamic and static stretches into your warm up and cool down routine!