7 Key Stretches for Running and Walking
Why are stretches for running and walking important? Working is hard work. We go from our beds to sitting at the breakfast table to sitting in traffic, only to get up and sit some more at work. People all over the United States work hard, and working athletes work even harder. They train after their workday is over or before the work day starts. From a simple athletic perspective, it is important to combat all the chronic sitting with proper stretches to stay loose and prepare for training.
Dynamic stretches are better before a workout when you have cold muscles, whereas static stretches before a workout can subject you to injury because you are forcing tight muscles into a stretched position.
We will be discussing dynamic stretches and their benefits. Dynamic stretching is a great warmup routine to loosen your muscles because it is active, it increases your heart rate, and it warms up the joints. When doing dynamic stretches, you also have time to mentally prepare for the workout or competition. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation for injury prevention.
Countless articles by the British Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggest that performing dynamic warmup stretches before running improves performance. Here is a short list of dynamic stretches for running:
1. Butt kickers
You will need about 10 to 15 feet in front of you. Place your hands on your glutes, palms facing out, and try to touch your heels to your palms.
2. Forward Leg Swings
Grab onto a wall or pole for support. One leg at a time, slowly swing your leg forward and backward, keeping it straight. With each swing, you want to swing higher ahead and farther back. Be sure to stand up straight, and avoid rocking your chest backward and forward to swing your legs higher. Repeat 20 times or more per leg until you feel warmed up.
3. Hip Circles
You will need 10 to 15 yards in front of you. Start by turning the knee outward for one leg. Lift the knee to hip height or higher. Your knee should now be pointed to the side. Bring the leg around so your bent knee is pointed forward. Imagine trying to step over something in front of you. Next, perform the movement with the opposite leg. Repeat until you reach the end of the 10-15 yards. Continue the hip circles until you feel adequate blood flow to the hips.
4. Jumping Lunges
In the lunge position, with your right leg forward, jump and switch legs in the air landing with your left leg forward. Repeat this movement about 5 – 10 times per leg. This gets the blood flowing to the hips and hamstrings.
5. Mummy Walks
In the standing position, raise your arms forward to shoulder level. Much like the butt kickers, swing one straight leg at a time up toward your hands, trying to touch them. With each step, you should be trying to improve how high you swing your legs.
6. Side Leg Swings:
These are very similar to the forward leg swings. Place two hands on the wall with plenty of space between you and the wall. Also, be sure you have plenty of space between you and the people around you. Swing one leg out to the side as high as you can and then bring it back across your body. Repeat these 10 or more times with both legs.
Start by standing with your feet apart. Place your arms out to the side for balance. Cross the right foot over and in front of the left. Step out to the side with your left foot. Next, cross the right foot behind the left foot. Continue this pattern for 10 to 15 yards and then repeat the movement on the right.
These stretches are essential to properly warm up your joints before running. This set of running stretches helps to warm up the large and small supporting muscles and helps to avoid injury.