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The 7 Best Stretches to Do Before Running

22nd December 2020

22nd December 2020

By Shivraj Bassi

Nobody’s favourite part of a run is the warm up. No matter how good you know stretching is for your body, we know that you’re raring to go and often find stretching before running a chore. 

Running or working out with muscles that aren’t properly prepared, however, can lead to strains and injuries with the potential to keep you stuck on the sofa for weeks or even months at a time. 

Warming up is incredibly important for your body. Dynamic stretches, meaning stretches that use movement and guide joints through their full range of motion, are better for warming up than static stretches, where you hold the stretch position for extended periods of time. 

Studies have shown that dynamic stretching not only prepares you better for your workout, but it may give you a performance advantage over static stretching - all the more reason to follow our plan below to perfectly prep your body for a run

You should spend around ten minutes warming up, focusing on the major muscle groups you’ll be using in your workout. Your flexors, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, abs and back are good places to start. It’s also important not to overstretch to the point of pain. Work your muscles to the point where you feel resistance, rather than severe discomfort. 

Calf raise

The calves are one of the muscles that work the most during running - every time your foot leaves the ground, your calf contracts to raise and lower it. This makes this pre-run stretch especially important. 

  • Stand on the edge of a stair, with the balls of your feet as the only part of your foot touching the stair’s surface. Hold a stair rail for balance
  • Rise up on your toes, then slowly lower your heels until they’re below the level of the stair and you can feel a stretch in your calf
  • Repeat several times 

Standing quad stretch

This pre-run stretch warms your quads and hip flexors, and if performed without holding anything to stabilise yourself, it’s also a great balance exercise. 

  • Bend your left knee and holding your left ankle, pull your foot behind you until it rests on your left glute
  • Keeping your hips and shoulders aligned forwards, hold your foot there for a count of 10. You should feel the stretch through your left thigh
  • Repeat on the other side

Hip flexor stretch

Anyone who works at a desk almost certainly has tight hip flexors. This makes stretching them out before you exercise extra important. 

  • Start in a lunge position, with your right knee at the front bent at a right angle
  • Slowly straighten your left leg. You should feel a stretch on the front of your back thigh. Hold for 10 seconds, then release
  • Repeat on the opposite side

Hip circle

As your hips support your whole body weight while you’re exercising, it’s important to ensure that they’re warm and supple before you start pounding the pavements. 

  • Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip width apart, with your feet facing forwards
  • Begin to slowly circle your hips to the right, as if you’re moving an imaginary hula hoop, making the circles wider the longer you circle for
  • Repeat for five to 10 times to the right before switching to the other direction

Side stretch

If you’ve ever suffered from a stitch while you run, you know how strikingly painful they can be. Stretching your torso before you set off can help prevent them. 

  • Hold your arms straight above your head and slowly lean to the right, bending gradually at the waist
  • Hold for 10 seconds before switching to the other side
  • Repeat five to 10 times, leaning further into the stretch each time

Walking lunge

Lunging while walking is a great way to gently warm your body into the forward motion of running.

  • Start with your feet together. With your right foot, take a large step forwards
  • Bend the front knee so it's 90 degrees and the back knee until it almost touches the ground. Hold for a few seconds
  • Take another large step forwards with your left foot and repeat the process
  • Continue until you’ve lunged five times on each leg

Dynamic pigeon pose

You may be familiar with pigeon pose from yoga. It stretches the glutes, hip flexors and the band of muscle which runs along your outer thigh, all of which can become tight and painful. 

  • Begin in a seated position. Bend your right knee in front of you so your thigh and shin are flat on the floor and your knee is pointed outwards
  • Slowly extend your left leg behind you until it’s straight, with the top of your thigh and foot on the ground
  • Add a torso twist by bringing your right hand up just behind your right ear, and twisting your body to the left as you bend forwards so your elbow comes across your body
  • Repeat five to 10 times, then switch to the opposite side

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Other Insights

This Is How Sleep Helps You Recover From Exercise And Injury
We’ve all been there. You go for a hard workout, pushing yourself as far as you can and … by the end your reward is a new personal best and a series of aching muscles (or worse an injury). In these scenarios, it can feel frustrating. After such an exercise high, the first thing you want to do is to beat your record again and yet you’re now stuck with the muscle pain wondering how long it will take to heal. The fact is that regardless of an individual’s workout experience, sport recovery is fundamental to muscle repair. While there are many ways to speed up the recovery process like taking our Innermost Recover Capsules or slowly rebuilding the muscles through light walks, most of us frequently neglect the most important form of recovery which is adequate sleep. While one-night of low sleep alone won’t impact long-term recovery, figures show that 77% of adults are not sleeping the recommended 8 hours a day and as many as 18% sleep less than 6 hours. As we’ve previously written about the benefits that exercise can have on sleep, we feel its only fair to highlight the importance that sleep has on workout recovery. Why is sleep so important in recovery? As frustrating as it can be, it’s nigh-on impossible to quickly recover from muscle pain and continue to smash those PBs without adequate rest. While getting a good amount of sleep can seem like a small afterthought (perhaps even a luxury) when we have to fit it around our busy lives, a decent night’s rest is where the body is best at recovering the soft and neural tissues after an intense workout. But just why is that? How is it your body heals faster during sleep and what is the science behind it?    Increased Blood flow Interestingly, this occurs during Non-Rem Stage 3 of the sleep cycle in which the body is in the deepest part of sleep. During this stage the body priorities the repairing and regrowth of body tissue, as well as building bone and muscle (sounds like a good exercise-recovery plan to me). While it might seem like it should be the opposite, the faster recovery can largely be attributed to the increased blood flow and therefore greater flow of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged muscles during this sleep stage. Recovery Hormones A well-rested sleep - in line with the internal body clock - also plays a part in the production and regulation of several hormones that stimulate muscle recovery. During the deep stages of Non-REM sleep for instance the pituitary gland aids in the repairing of muscles through the release of growth hormones. Evidence also shows that a well-rested night contributes to improved performance and pain sensitivity as the hormone prolactin – released during this process – regulates muscle inflammation and allows the body to heal itself effectively. Faster reflex times Another perhaps overlooked benefit of sleep on an individual’s recovery are the improvements to cognitive response it can bring during the muscle rehabilitation process. A faster reflex time is a good example of this. In truth, during a light workout after injury the last thing you want to do is put unwanted pressure on a muscle. An improved reflex time allows an individual to react faster and with clearer judgment to any potential hazards and avoiding a recovery setback through injury inflammation. Improved Mental Wellbeing We know we’ve mentioned this before, but a key benefit of exercise is the positive impact it can have on mental wellbeing – thanks to our good endorphin friends serotonin and dopamine. That’s just another reason why recovering from any injury can be a tough challenge; you lose the elation of a phenomenon like runners high and suddenly, your mood can begin to dip. Getting into the routine of a good night’s sleep can actually contribute to improved mental clarity and wellness. This is because the brain’s ability to process positive emotional information is improved during REM - which occurs more frequently from longer sleep. How to get the best possible sleep While it’s true that a deep sleep is really important to recovering from injury, all this means nothing if you’re tossing and turning all night. To this end, there are a few changes surrounding sleep conditions that can vastly improve an individual’s quality of sleep. Sleeping Comfort The idea of comfort being tied to good sleep, who would have guessed? But you’d be surprised how often we take comfort for granted, especially during period of muscle fatigue or after an injury. While the Mayo Clinic recommends sleeping on your side to improve airway clearance, you should try and sleep in a position that best accommodates the muscle injury – the last thing anyone wants to do is to strain the muscle further during a night’s sleep. If you’re not sure on the best position to not further aggravate an injury, consider seeking advise from your doctor or a medical professional. It’s also a good idea to try and invest in a quality mattress that offers healthy pressure relief on injury pain points to better optimise sleep recovery.    Sleeping Environment Often times, the environment with which we sleep in can be just as important as the bed itself in getting a good night’s rest and repairing the muscles. We’d recommend trying to create a restful, cool, and dark environment away from any reminders of day stresses. This does also mean not using your phone before going to bed – something we’ve all definitely been guilty of – as the light from the screen can disrupt the production of the hormone melatonin and disrupt the sleep cycle. If you’re finding that you just can’t get good enough sleep, it can be a good idea to plan a sleep schedule each night based around how much rest you think you can get. This can also be tailored to the injury rehabilitation process to ultimately get the most out of sleep recovery. Essentially it’s about balance. Be kind, plan for the days you know you might have impacted sleep and try to avoid any rehabilitation exercises the next day.        How much sleep should I get? The key question here; how much sleep is the right amount to speed up muscle recovery? While it’s recommended that you should aim for at least 7 to 9 hours per night depending on age, the exact time, speed, and extent of muscle repair varies greatly from person to person. For a more definitive answer, we’d recommend contacting your local physiotherapist – or general practitioner – who can give advice more tailored towards your specific injury and rehabilitation requirements.    At the end of all this, we hope this this will help with any current or future muscle injuries you may have. While it might seem strange, the recovery stage of a workout is arguably as important as an individual’s diet and perhaps even the exercise itself. To this end, it can be a good idea to think of the recovery as another stage of the workout process and sleep as the unexplored treasure that will help you smash the next PB.   Interested to learn more about workout recovery? Wondering on the best ways to fuel your next workout? Perhaps you have some amazing and inspired ideas to share? Don’t hesitate to message us over on our Instagram @liveinnermost. Read more
The 4 Steps To Take Immediately After A Workout To Aid Recovery