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running stretches

7 Key Stretches for Running and Walking

First, why are stretches for running and walking important? Having a work life is hard. We go from bed to sitting at the breakfast table, to sitting in traffic only to get up and sit some more at the workplace. People all over the united states work hard, and working athletes work even harder. They train after their work day is over, and sometimes 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.

Good and bad stretching warm up programs exist in sports. Dynamic warm up stretches have a distinct advantage over holding a series of static stretches. Dynamic stretches are better before a workout when you have cold brittle 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 stretches are a great warmup routine to loosen your muscles because it is active, it increases your heart rate, it warms up the joints that you are preparing to use either explosively or for a long endurance race. Dynamic stretches are also a perfect time to mentally prepare for the workout or competition you are about to perform. Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation to prevent injuries.

There are countless articles by the British Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that suggest that performing dynamic warm up stretches before running actually improves performance. There are a large variety of dynamic warm up stretches that are available. Here is a short list of running dynamic stretches:

1. Butt kickers

You will need a short distance of about 10 to 15 yards to jog. place the back of both palms on your glutes and actively try to kick your heels to your palms. With each step, you should try to get closer to kicking your palms.

2. Forward Leg Swings

Grab onto a wall or pole for support. Performing one leg at a time. Slowly swing your leg forward and backward in the straight position. With each swing, you want to swing higher and farther back. Be sure to maintain an upright posture and avoid rocking the chest backward and forward in an attempt to swing the legs higher. Repeat this 20 times or more per leg until you feel loose.

3. Hip Circles

You will need a short distance of 10 to 15 yards. 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 now your bent knee is pointed forward. This movement should mimic 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 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, push upward explosively and switch legs in the air landing with your left leg forward. Repeat this movement about 5 – 10 times per leg. This gets great blood flow to the hips and hamstrings.

5. Mummy Walks

In the standing position raise your arms forward to shoulder level. Much like the butt kickers where you had to kick your palms. Swing one straight leg at a time up toward your had trying to kick them. With each step, you should be trying to improve how high you kick your legs.

6. Side Leg Swings:

This is very similar to the forward leg swing dynamic stretch. Place two hands on the wall with plenty of space between your hips and the wall. Also, be sure you have plenty of space between you and the person to the side of you. Swing your 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.

7. Karaoke

This is a coordination intensive exercise. We will be moving to the left first. Start standing with your feet apart. Place the 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 to the right.

These stretches are essential for a proper warm up of the joints used during running. This set of running stretches helps to warm up the large and small supporting muscles and helps prepare them for the task they are about to undertake. There are many different varieties of running stretches that help to warm up the joints, but these encompass all the different degrees of motion the legs can do, and you never want to leave out a muscle group and risk injury.

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