A proper stretching routine helps improve your running performance and speed. Dynamic stretching before a race warms up your muscles, preparing them for short and powerful bursts of energy. Post-race stretching, or static stretching, focuses on muscular elongation and relaxation and helps prevent soreness or strain.
Your quadriceps propel you forward and their endurance helps you maintain speed during a sprint. Butt kicks, a dynamic stretch, prepare the quads and hip flexors for a run. Stand up, position your legs shoulder-distance apart and bend your knees slightly. Relax your shoulders and tuck your elbows in by your sides. Start jogging. After a few seconds, kick alternate heels to your butt. Pick up the speed and continue for 30 to 60 seconds.
Walk It Out
Walking straight leg kicks warm up the hamstrings, calves and lower back, which are all essential to sprinting. Stand up straight, bend your knees slightly and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift your arms in front of your shoulders, parallel to the ground. Walk forward, straighten your left leg and lift it toward your right hand. Lower your leg to the floor and then lift your straight right leg toward your left hand. Continue alternating, completing 12 to 20 kicks with each leg.
Stretch It Out
Static stretches, such as the standing quadriceps stretch, prevent stiffness after your sprint. Stand up straight, position your feet next to each other and bend your knees slightly. Square your hips and shoulders forward. Lift your right foot behind your right hip, touching your heel to your butt. Wrap your right hand around the top of your right foot and lift it upwards until you feel slight tension in your quads. Keep your hips squared and your knees close together to help isolate your quads. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, release and switch legs.
Slow It Down
The seated hamstrings stretch, a static post-run stretch, reduces muscular tension in the back of your legs. Sit on the floor, extending your legs in front of you. Straighten your back, press your legs against one another and point your toes upward. Reach your hands toward your toes while lowering your upper body toward the top of your legs. Maintain a straight back as you lower to focus on your hamstrings. Stop when you feel slight tension in your hamstrings and hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Fitness: Pre-Race Warm-Up Drills and Stretches
- James Madison University: Dynamic Flexibility and Mobility
- ACE Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise