Running can be a great way to incorporate cardio into your routine and pump some stress-reducing endorphins into your system. However, if not done properly, this exercise can pose a risk of injury. This is where warming up comes in. With the right moves to help you prep, reaching your goals won’t seem like such a stretch.
Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching
Static stretching occurs when you activate a specific muscle group and stay in the same position for an extended period, such as when you reach down to touch your toes. However, studies have shown that static stretching before a workout can decrease your strength and power. Save them for after you exercise when they can help you reduce future soreness by increasing circulation and loosening tight muscles.
On the other hand, dynamic stretches require constant movement and allow your muscles to flow through their entire range of motion. These gentle and controlled exercises help you prepare each group of muscles for the action they’re about to perform and can lubricate your joints to make movement easier. To sum it up, dynamic stretching gets you ready for your workout while static stretching is a great post-exercise cooldown.
Dynamic Stretches to Get You Started
As a runner, you should choose stretches that focus on the muscle groups you use, such as those in your core and legs. Before your next jog, try including some of the following in your warm-up routine.
1. Forward Leg Swings
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a nearby wall or tree for balance. Lift your right leg out straight in front of you and swing it behind you, keeping both legs straight throughout the motion. Repeat for nine additional reps, then turn around and switch legs.
2. Lateral Leg Swings
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall for stability. Lift your right leg out toward the right side, keeping your knee straight. Swing it to the left, crossing in front of your other leg, and then moving it back out to the right side. Repeat for nine additional reps, then switch legs.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a long step forward with your right leg and bend your left knee until your lower leg is parallel to the ground. Step forward with your left leg to return to a standing position. Repeat on the left side to finish up the rep. Repeat for nine additional reps.
4. Lateral Lunges
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Take a step out with your right leg, bend the knee, and push your hips backward, placing the majority of your weight on the right side. Be sure to keep the left leg straight. Step back with your right leg to return to the initial position, and then repeat on the other side to finish up the rep. Repeat for nine additional reps.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips backward while keeping your back straight and bending your knees to come as close to a sitting position as possible. Push your hips forward to return to your initial stance. Repeat for nine additional reps.
Proper stretching can help you avoid injury, but it can’t completely remove the risk. If you feel a pinching or sharp sensation in your muscles or sudden joint pain, stop working out immediately and schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group orthopedic or sports medicine physician.
Looking for other ways to maximize your running performance? Whether you're getting ready for a 5K or a half marathon, the St. Luke’s Health Run Club has the tools you need to shape your training habits and prevent injury. Download your free guide today!
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NCBI | Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review.