11 Stretches Runners Can Do Before or After a Workout to Stay Injury-Free

As a runner, skipping your stretches could mean tight muscles and poor performance.
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If you're a serious runner who wants to stay as efficient and injury-free as possible, then you can't overlook stretching. Among other benefits, stretching can help facilitate workout recovery and is considered an important part of injury prevention.

"It can also help improve running power," says Brady Irwin, owner and head coach at Science of Speed. "A tight muscle requires more energy to move but pliable and healthy muscles need less energy."

To get the most out of your flexibility training, though, you need to do the right kind of stretching both before and after your running workouts. Here's your guide to both pre- and post-workout stretches.

Dynamic Vs. Static Stretching

While you may only think of stretching as ones you hold in place (this is called static stretching), there are actually a few different kinds. The type you should do before a run is the more active form called dynamic stretching, which involves moving a particular muscle as you stretch it.

"The purpose of dynamic stretching is to warm up the muscles and connective tissues by increasing blood flow and taking them through a wider range of motion, preparing them for action," Irwin says.

On the flip side, static stretching is what you do after a run when you want your muscles to cool down and relax, Irwin says. He recommends focusing on how long you can hold the stretch rather than how deeply you can stretch the muscle. Your breathing is also important.

"You should be able to breathe fully and deeply," Irwin says. "If you find yourself holding your breath or have difficulty breathing normally, back off until you can breathe comfortably."

Pre-Run Dynamic Stretches to Jump-Start Your Muscles

Move 1: Hip Circles

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  2. Moving just your hips, rotate them in circles, clockwise 10 times, then counterclockwise 10 times.
  3. Think about hitting all the hours on a clock face.

Move 2: Lateral Leg Swings

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Hold onto a wall or post for stability if needed.
  2. With your feet shoulder-width apart, swing a leg straight out to the side, then across the front of your body to the opposite side.
  3. Repeat the motion 10 times with each leg.

Move 3: Calf Stretch

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Reps 20
Type Flexibility
  1. Starting on all fours, raise your hips so the body forms an inverted V and you're supporting yourself on your hands and feet.
  2. Slowly pedal your feet, lowering one heel to the ground while raising the other.
  3. Keep your leg as straight as possible when lowering the heel and bend the knee as you raise the foot on that side.
  4. Repeat 10 times with each leg.

Move 4: Lateral Lunge

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Stand with your feet about double shoulder-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward.
  2. Keeping your back as straight as possible, bend one knee to about 90 degrees and lower your hips back while keeping the other leg straight out to the side.
  3. Return to standing, then repeat on the other side.
  4. Do 10 reps on each leg.

Move 5: High Kick

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Walking forward, kick your leg as high as you can out in front of you while keeping it straight.
  2. Alternate legs as you walk.
  3. Repeat 10 times with each leg.

Move 6: Butt Kick

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Walking forward, kick the heels back into the glutes with each step.
  2. Repeat 10 times with each leg.

Move 7: Walking Lunge

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Reps 20
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Step forward, bending both knees to 90 degrees (make sure the front knee is over the ankle).
  2. Step back, then step forward with the other leg.
  3. Repeat 10 times with each leg.

Post-Run Static Stretches to Relax Your Muscles

Move 8: Downward Dog

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Time (In Seconds) 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lying on your stomach, push your upper body off the ground with your arms and hold. You should be in an inverted V position, supporting yourself on hands and feet.
  2. Your feet can either be flat on the ground or pushed up to the balls of your feet for a deeper stretch.
  3. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds.

Move 9: Hamstring Stretch

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Time (In Seconds) 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lying on your back, raise one leg while keeping the other flat on the ground.
  2. Keeping the leg straight, raise it as high as you can, grasping it with your hands.
  3. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds on each side.

Tip

You can also try this hamstring stretch variation:

  1. Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you.
  2. Keep your back straight and slowly lean forward, reaching for your shins, ankles or feet.
  3. Stop and hold for 20 to 60 seconds once you reach a point where you feel the stretch in the back of your legs.

Move 10: IT Band Stretch

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Time (In Seconds) 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie on your back on the floor with both knees bent and feet planted flat.
  2. Pick your right leg up and cross your ankle over the knee of the other leg.
  3. Take your right arm and slide it through the space between your right and left leg. Grab the front of your left knee with that hand.
  4. Reach around your left leg with your left hand and grab the front of the left knee.
  5. Slowly lean your upper body back and pull your left knee in toward your chest.
  6. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds on each side.

Tip

You can also try this IT band stretch variation:

  1. Start on all fours. Bend your left knee and pull it up underneath you.
  2. Plant your left knee under your left wrist and your left foot under your right hip so that your left leg is rotated to the side.
  3. Extend your right leg out behind you so that it's mostly flat on the ground with the knee straight.
  4. Slowly lean onto the left leg, feeling a stretch in the glute. You can lean forward with your torso so that your chest is touching your left knee and reach your arms forward to get even more of a stretch.
  5. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds on each side.

Move 11: Runner’s Lunge

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Time (In Seconds) 30 Sec
  1. Standing straight up, bend forward and place your hands on the ground on either side of feet.
  2. Step one leg straight back while the front leg bends at a 90-degree angle (make sure the front knee does not extend beyond the toes).
  3. Keep the back leg straight, resting on the ball of your foot or lower your back knee to the ground depending on your flexibility.
  4. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds on each side.
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