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What are the best stretches to do before your running session? A running expert’s tips

Example of the stretches that help prevent DOMS.

Ready. Set. Stretch! When you’re buzzing to hit the pavement, the last thing you want is to be side-tracked by the dreaded spectre of running injuries. Hamstring horrors, calf catastrophes, achilles agonies!

Not on our watch, thank you very much. This is where the ‘Essential Seven’ gallop to your rescue. These are the seven stretches that could turn you from the limping Lion King to a bounding Bambi, quicker than you can say ‘Ready, steady, go!’

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Quad Stretches

Our personal trainer running expert once said, “Quads are the powerhouse for your run. Ignoring them is like trying to drive your car without petrol.” In order to fire on all cylinders, you need your quads in shipshape condition.

For the quad stretch, stand tall and bend one knee, bringing your heel up to your bottom. Grasp your ankle and pull your heel closer while maintaining an upright position. You’ll feel a lovely stretch in the front of your thigh. Repeat on the other side and don’t rush – this isn’t a race. Yet.

Hamstring Stretches

Our anonymous personal trainer passionately declares, “Your hamstrings are the unsung heroes of your stride. Treat them well, and they’ll keep you moving.”

Stand tall, then gently hinge at the waist, extending one leg straight out in front of you with the heel grounded and toes pointing towards the sky. Keep your back straight and lean forward from the hips until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh. Swap legs and repeat.

Another good hamstring stretch is the Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl as shown in the photo below.

Hamstring curls exercise using a swiss ball
Hamstring curls exercise using a Swiss ball

Calf Stretches

Often runners are plagued by calf strains. Why, you ask? Our trainer friend chips in, “Think about it. Your calves are the springboards of your stride. They deserve care and attention too.”

For a proper calf stretch, face a wall with your hands placed against it. Extend one leg straight back, pressing the heel into the ground, while the other knee is bent at the front. Lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf of the extended leg. After a moment, switch sides.

Hip Flexor Stretches

The trainer muses, “The hip flexors, ah! They are the key to your running posture. Neglect them at your peril.”

Kneel on one knee and place the other foot flat on the ground in front of you, knee bent. Push your hips forward, keeping your back straight until you feel a stretch in the hip area. Switch knees and repeat.

Glute Stretches

“Your glutes aren’t just for sitting,” quips our trainer, “They’re a driving force in your run. Keep them limber!”

To stretch the glutes, sit on the ground and cross one leg over the other knee, so your foot is by your hip. Hug your bent knee into your chest and twist your torso gently towards the raised knee. You should feel a delightful stretch in your bottom. Remember, it’s a stretch, not a wrestling move.

Groin Stretches

“The groin area – it’s the unscheduled pit stop for many runners. But it needn’t be that way,” opines our trainer.

Try the butterfly stretch. Sit down and bring the soles of your feet together, pulling them close to your body. Push gently down on your knees with your elbows. It might look like you’re practicing your curtsey, but it’s a fabulous way to stretch out the groin area.

Stretching out her sores with yoga after a run.

Achilles and Ankle Stretches

Finally, as our trainer succinctly puts it, “All roads lead to your ankles. Keep them in top form, and you’re good to go.”

Stand on the edge of a step or kerb, with the balls of your feet on the step and your heels hanging off. Lower your heels down to feel a gentle pull in your achilles and ankles. No step? No problem. You can achieve a similar effect by pushing the ball of your foot against a wall.

And there you have it. Seven sterling stretches to kickstart your running routine. So, don your favourite running shoes, get stretching, and set the pavement ablaze. After all, the best runner isn’t necessarily the fastest. It’s the one who knows how to take care of themselves before, during, and after their run.

To echo our wise trainer’s words, “Every run begins with a good stretch.” Your body will thank you for it, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start to look forward to the pre-run stretch as much as the run itself. Now, that’s what we call a win-win. Happy running!

Andy Barr
the authorAndy Barr
Editorial Lead
Andy was late arriving into the world of fitness, running and training. He did not really take up regular gym going until he was in his late 30's. He lost over 7 stone in weight since starting and completed an olympic length triathlon in June 2018. He enjoys playing football, boxing and outdoor running.

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