The complete guide to stretching for runners (2022)

At one time of another, we've all been guilty of not stretching after a run. But while it's easier – and, quite frankly, more time efficient – to skip a warm down, making time to stretch post run is important.

What are the benefits of stretching?

Stretching after a run promotes blood flow, which boosts muscle recovery and repair, by helping remove lactic acid and waste products. This, in turn, will reduce muscle and joint soreness. It also improves flexibility in your main running muscles and improves your range of motion, leaving you less susceptible to muscle strains and over-use injuries.

Dynamic stretching is also recommended as part of your running warm-up, to prepare your body for the task ahead. This reduces your risk of muscle strain injuries and has also been shown to improve running performance.

Why all runners should do dynamic stretching

The do’s and don’ts of stretching:

  • Don’t engage in static stretching before a run
  • Do stretch lightly before speedwork, but after a 10-minute warm-up jog
  • Ease into each stretch; don’t bounce or force it
  • Before speedwork, hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds
  • After a run, hold each stretch for 30 seconds; repeat once or twice on each leg
  • Avoid certain stretches that can hamper your performance or increase your risk of a pull or tear. We’ve rounded up the stretches you shouldn’t do.

    What are the best runner's stretches?

    Depending on how flexible you are, perform the our seven runner's stretches outlined below after every run. If you need to work on a specific muscle, we've also listed some deeper runner's stretches to perform after your run. We've also included some some full-body stretches which target multiple muscle groups – these can be performed once or twice week or after your run.

    Hold all of the below stretches for around half a minute, and depending on how long you’ve got, repeat once or twice on each leg.

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    The best stretches to do after running

    1. Lying hamstring stretch

    Keep your upper body relaxed and both legs straight as you pull one leg towards you. A variation: lying as before, bend the upper knee in towards your chest, and with a non-stretching band/cord around the foot of the bent leg, push away with the foot, trying to straighten the leg against the tension of the cord. You should feel the stretch higher up the hamstring.

    2. Lying gluteal stretch

    The complete guide to stretching for runners (3)
    (Video) Beginner Runners' Guide to Stretching and Mobility

    Ivan Moreno / Getty

    Lie on the floor and bend both knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Adjust the angle of your hips and front knee to intensify the stretch. Place the ankle of one leg on the opposite knee and grasp the thigh of the bottom leg, pulling both legs into your chest. You leave your grasped leg bent or extend upwards. You’ll feel a stretch in the muscles around the side of your buttocks.

      3. Groin stretch

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (4)

      Maridav / Getty

      Sit on the floor, place the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop out to the side. Gently use your leg muscles to move your knees towards the ground. Keeping a straight back and bringing your feet closer to your body intensifies the stretch.

      4. Straight leg calf stretch

      Step your left leg forward, knee bent, foot flat on the floor, and extend your right leg straight back, placing your heel flat on the floor. Keep the right leg straight and lean into the wall until you feel s stretch in the right calf.

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      5. Soleus (lower calf) stretch

      Stand closer to the wall and bend your front leg, keeping the back leg straight with your foot flat on the floor. Then, lean your hips back, to bend both legs. You should feel a stretch in the lower calf of your bent leg.

      6. Hip flexor stretch

      Kneel on the ground on one leg, with the other leg out in front of you and positioned at a 90-degree angle. Lean your hips forward, keeping your hips squared forwards and your upper body vertical; slumping forwards reduces the stretch. Alternatively, watch this video on how to stretch your hip flexors and quads.

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      7. Standing quadriceps stretch

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (7)

      DragonImages / Getty

      Stand on one leg, bending the knee of your opposite leg by grasping your ankle with one hand. Flex your foot and keep your body straight to maximise the stretch through the front of your leg. You can put one hand on a wall if you need balance.

      Deeper stretches for runners

      If you’re looking for a deeper stretch for your quads, hamstrings, or glutes, try these individual stretches.

      8. Quads: Keeling quadriceps stretch against a wall

      With a wall behind you, kneel on the floor on one leg, with the knee of your rear leg bent and the toes of your rear foot resting against the wall. Extend forwards from the hips so that you feel a stretch at the front of your thigh (of the front leg). Take care if you have ankle problems, and stay tall in your upper body to avoid compressing your lower back.

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      9. Hamstrings: Bent-leg standing hamstrings stretch

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      Michael Heffernan / Getty

      Be thoroughly warmed up before you attempt this one. Standing on one leg, position one foot on a chair or ledge and bend your upper leg deeply, moving your chest down onto your thigh. Keeping your chest low, gently try to straighten your upper leg.

      10. Glutes: Cross-legged sitting gluteal stretch

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (10)

      Getty

      Start in a cross-legged position with your back upright. Your shins should be parallel to your body and your feet should be as far out to the sides as you can get them. Keeping a straight back, bend forwards with arms outstretched.

      Full-body stretches for runners

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (11)

      Getty Images

      These stretch more than one muscle group at once – including your upper body, which is often a neglected area in runners.

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      11. Downward-facing dog

      Keep your feet hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs straight, keep your hips high and lengthen your heels towards the ground (don’t worry if they don’t reach). Press your palms and fingers flat into the ground; you should feel as though you’re trying to push the floor apart between your hands and feet. You can enhance the stretch by shifting your weight from one leg to another, by gently bending alternate knees. Stretches your hamstrings, calves, achilles tendons, back and shoulders.

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      12. Lying spinal twist

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (13)

      DenizA / Getty

      Start on your back with both legs straight. Hug your right knee in towards your chest, and hook your right foot behind your left knee. Then roll to your left side, so your right knee touches the floor. Extend your right arm towards the floor on your right side at head-height, and turn your head to look along it. Relax into the posture, then repeat on the opposite side. Stretches your gluteals, lower back, upper back, shoulders, arms and chest.

      13. Forward-bend shoulder stretch

      The complete guide to stretching for runners (14)

      Getty

      From standing with your feet hip-width apart, fold the body over at the hips, interlacing your fingers together. Your head should be facing the ground with your quads tensed but your neck relaxed. Putting your hands on your hips before you stand back up avoids possible lower-back strain. This stretches your hamstrings, calves, shoulders, chest and arms.

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      FAQs

      How many times a day should Runners stretch? ›

      People should stretch after every run while the muscles are still warm and hold each stretch for 10–30 seconds. It is helpful to focus on breathing in and out throughout the stretch. Stretches should not cause pain, and a person should stop the stretch immediately if they are finding it painful.

      How long should you stretch for running? ›

      Properly stretching before a run can help you avoid injuries like hamstring strains or plantar fasciitis — and even improve your performance. Stretch for five to 10 minutes before running, focusing on dynamic stretches that get your blood pumping and raise your body temperature to warm up your muscles.

      How do runners stretch for beginners? ›

      Beginner Runners' Guide to Stretching and Mobility - YouTube

      Can you stretch too much as a runner? ›

      Another study that looked at more than 1,500 serious male marathoners found that those who stretched on a regular basis -- whether before or after a run -- actually had 33 percent more injuries than those who didn't, even taking things like age and average weekly mileage into account.

      What stretches make you run faster? ›

      5 BEST In-Home Stretches to Get Faster - YouTube

      What Causes Runner's stomach? ›

      When you're running for an extended period of time, the blood flow that's normally directed to your digestive system is diverted to your cardiovascular system. This can disrupt and irritate your digestive process. As a result, you may feel a strong urge to expel whatever's in your digestive system.

      Can you over stretch? ›

      However it's also possible to over-stretch, with the resulting risk of muscle, tendon or ligament damage. Also, too much flexibility – hypermobility – can be detrimental in itself.

      How long does it take to see results from stretching? ›

      You should begin to notice a difference in how flexible you are within two to four weeks. However, that's only if you practice stretching at least five days every week.

      Is it better to stretch in the morning or night? ›

      Stretching first thing in the morning can relieve any tension or pain from sleeping the night before. It also helps increase your blood flow and prepares your body for the day ahead. Stretching before bed relaxes your muscles and helps prevent you from waking up with more pain.

      What happens if you don't stretch after running? ›

      “Not stretching after a run can lead to tight muscles, which are more likely to be strained,” Dobler said. “A runner who does not stretch is also more likely to suffer from post run soreness and cramping more than a runner who stretches routinely.”

      How do I loosen my legs before running? ›

      How to Stretch Before Running - YouTube

      What stretches to do the night before running? ›

      Here are five good stretches.
      1. Side lunge. Stand with a wide stance (greater than your hip/shoulder width) but not so wide that you feel a stretch. ...
      2. Glute and piriformis activation. Standing straight in a balanced position, shift your weight to your right leg. ...
      3. Arm swings. ...
      4. Bent-knee forward swing. ...
      5. Straight-leg lateral swing.
      Feb 12, 2021

      Why are my legs so tight when running? ›

      Runner's frame (or body) weight: Surplus frame weight can create tightness due to the excessive loads being placed on the hard working calves at the the time of impact (shock absorption) and also the time of propulsion generation during toe-off.

      Is it okay to run everyday? ›

      Although running is a beneficial activity to do frequently, running every day can increase your risk of injuries like stress fractures and shin splints. Instead, aim to run three to five days a week and incorporate rest days and cross-training like biking or swimming.

      How do you stretch before and after running? ›

      You can also try some high knees, skips, and lunges. After your run, try some slow, deep, static stretches to help your muscles relax. Try standing on 1 foot and holding your ankle back against your bottom with 1 hand to stretch your quad. You can also touch your toes to stretch your hamstrings.

      How do runners increase flexibility? ›

      Here's what you do: Lie flat on your back with one leg stretched out in front of you and the other lifted in the air with your knee straight. Keeping your back on the floor, grab onto the raised leg behind the knee (or, if possible, by the calf) and gently pull that leg towards you.

      How do you loosen up before running? ›

      5 Minute Warm Up You NEED before EVERY RUN (to Prevent ... - YouTube

      Videos

      1. You Need To Do This AFTER Every Run | Recovery Routine For RUNNERS
      (The Running Channel)
      2. Complete Beginners Guide to Running
      (Taren's MōTTIV Method)
      3. 5 Minute Warm Up You NEED before EVERY RUN (to Prevent Running Injuries)
      (James Dunne)
      4. 15 Minute Beginner Stretch Flexibility Routine! (FOLLOW ALONG)
      (Tom Merrick)
      5. Free 10 Minute Stretching Routine for Runners. Online Flexibility Training Video.
      (Caroline Jordan)
      6. 5 Minute Cool Down You NEED after EVERY RUN (to Prevent Running Injuries)
      (James Dunne)

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