Here Are The Stretches You Should Do Before Running

If you have ever made a new playlist, thrown on your favorite Lululemon gear, and laced up your running shoes, you're probably ready to get your sweat on with a long, head-clearing jog. But before hitting the pavement, take a moment to make sure you're properly warmed up. One expert gives the perfect analogy as to why. It's important "for the same reason that warming up your car is crucial," Tony Gentilcore, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells Runner's World. "You wouldn't start your car in sub-freezing temperature, rev it up to 70 mph, and expect it to perform well," he adds. "A warmup equals better joint lubrication, blood flow, and nervous system activation."

We want all of those things for our workouts, and stretching is one of the best ways to prevent injury and ensure your body is conditioned to perform well. Before you start your watch and clock your miles, check out some of the best stretches for runners.

Dynamic stretches give you a full range of motion

First up is the standing hip controlled articular rotation (CAR), as Runner's World details. Begin by standing with your hands out, or on your hips for balance, and raise your knee up and rotate it in a circular motion. Do this a few times, as needed, before switching to the other leg. Running doesn't promote hip mobility, and if you don't use it, you lose it. "These [dynamic stretches] help you assess and improve your range of motion and lubricate the hip joint," Corinne Fitzgerald, head coach of New York City's Mile High Run Club, tells Runner's World. "They also increase mobility, which will be beneficial not only for your immediate workout but also for your joint health in the long run."

Per LiveStrong, dynamic stretches — or stretches that give you a chance to test and stretch your joints in their full range of motion — are excellent for the warm-up phase of your workout. Stretches that allow you to stretch your legs and hips simultaneously, like the standing hip rotation, are especially beneficial. As LiveStrong notes, standing lunges are also easy and effective movements that help you prepare for your run as your anticipated playlist revs up.

Static stretches help your muscles recover after a workout

Along with dynamic stretches, runners may also want to think about holding stretch poses for an extended period of time. For example, reach down to touch your toes with slightly bent knees, and hold your stance for 10 seconds before you raise your back to an upright position. According to Healthline, this is what's known as static stretching. Static stretches can also be good practice to incorporate in your post-run cooldown phase, per Healthline. 

But while post-run stretches help relax your muscles, stretching pre-run is a great way to warm up. Not only that, but warming up pre-run with walking, strides, and stretches can help prevent injury and improve performance, per Runner's World. As Yale Medicine notes, over 50% of seasoned runners suffer an injury because of trauma and muscle overuse. "You need the right preparation to be a safe runner and avoid injuries," Elizabeth Gardner, MD, a Yale Medicine orthopedic surgeon, tells the outlet. "Cross-training and stretching go a long way toward avoiding running injuries." You owe it to yourself to be as prepared as possible when you pound the pavement. Even though it may take up extra time, be sure to run through your favorite dynamic and static stretches before you start your watch.