The Best Stretches For Running Faster and Better
Most runners will agree that a nutritious diet and an effective training plan can help them run better, faster, and further for longer. But what usually causes a rift between running buddies is arguing whether stretching should be a part of a runner’s routine.
As you might have experienced, stretching is often a common part of running schedules, or eliminated completely. Perhaps, this is large because there is not a lot of solid advice outside of a physiotherapist’s office. And because not everyone can afford professional opinion, this leaves many runners to figure out effective stretching techniques through (sometimes painful) trial and error on their own, and a lot of Google-ing.
So, in our efforts to help clear things up, let’s take a brief look at what type of stretching is safe and beneficial to runners, as well as a list of some of the best stretches for running faster.
2 types of stretches for runners
A growing body of interest in the relationship between stretching and running has provided us with definitions for 2 types of stretches: static stretching and dynamic stretching. Here is a quick breakdown of the two:
This approach aims to improve your flexibility. It is where you hold a stretch in place for a period of around 30 seconds to 2 minutes. When you perform this “reach and hold” technique, you are stretching your muscles, ligaments, or tendons to their limit.
This method relies on creating micro-tears in your muscles when they are being stretched, muscles that then stay a little more elongated during the process of healing. These stretches require little to no preparation and can be learned easily. Keep in mind that they should be performed after a separate, non-running workout or after a run. Because if you perform them before a run, you risk getting a running injury from the elongated, tense muscles as well as loose joints.
This approach aims to improve your mobility, not flexibility. In running, it is performing a series of controlled leg movements that mimic the conditions of running to expand your range of motion. These stretches also aim to increase your core strength, body temperature, blood flow, and heart rate, as well as loosen up muscles for a more efficient run.
They are short, easy routines that last from 5 to 10 minutes, and can be performed as pre or post-run stretches on a clean floor without equipment. Some experts, however, argue that dynamic stretching as a warm-up can cause back injury and should be left till after a run. Still, there is a general agreement that dynamic stretches should be performed every day.
By knowing the benefits of and cautions to take with the 2 types of stretching for runners, experts have been able to come up with some of the best stretches for running faster. They can be found in the list below.
5 Best dynamic stretches for running
In this list you will find 5 best stretches for running faster, better, and further through improving your mobility. Keep in mind that stretching is only one of the ways to improve your mobility, and should be done as part of a varied routine that incorporates other workouts such as weightlifting, sprints, strides, hill training, and form and technique drills. Practice these at different paces and on various terrains to maximize your workouts.
- Straight leg lateral swing
Place your hands flat against a wall for support, then place all your weight on the right leg. Straighten and lift your left leg, then swing it to the right like a pendulum across the front of your right leg then directly to the opposite side smoothly. Swing your extended leg 12 times, with each rep being a full swing from the right to the left. Do the same with your other leg.
- Bent knee lateral swing
Just like the straight leg lateral swing, place your hands with palms against a wall for support. Transfer your weight onto your left leg. Lift and bend the other knee at a 90-degree angle. Then with the raised knee pointing forwards, swing the leg to the right as you gently twist your torso. Again, repeat this motion 12 times then repeat with the other leg.
- Bent knee forward swing
With your hands placed against a wall, transfer your body weight onto the right leg. Raise and bend your left leg until it is at a 90-degree angle. Then swing it slightly towards your chest and then kick it behind you. Swing it back and forth 12 times then changing legs.
- Side lunge
Stand with your feet far apart as though you are doing a deep squat, with toes pointing forwards. With hands clasped in front of your chest, drop into a side lunge, making sure to keep your hips back and chest lifted. From the lunge position, stand back up without shifting your feet. Drop again to the same side and stand up for 30 seconds on each leg.
- Glute and piriformis activation
This stretch is especially great for people with piriformis and runner’s knee conditions. All you have to do is stand up straight with shoulders back and hips tucked to maintain good balance and posture. Then, lift one leg and invert the foot towards the opposite knee and then up to the waist. Hold your leg by the ankle for just a second to feel the stretch in your lateral quads and glutes. Repeat this for each leg 3 times and walk at a slow pace in between each rep.
Gear up for a great run
Now that you have an idea of the best stretches for running faster and better, you just have to stick to a good routine. And of course, wearing high-quality and comfortable running accessories can make your exercise all the more effective. Just like how some simple stretches can open up a larger muscle group, the smallest changes in your running apparel can make a big difference.Â