5 Stretches Every Runner Should be Doing to Avoid Injury

5 Stretches Every Runner Should be Doing to Avoid Injury : Signed up for your first half-marathon? Or maybe you’re an elite runner consistently logging 40 miles per week.  No matter what your running experience, we all share a common goal of improving our running speed and fitness while staving off pesky running injuries and training delays.

Our bodies are made to move but without proper homeostasis and preventative measures, compensation will inevitably occur. Maintaining a balance between opposing muscle groups is key and complementing cardio pavement pounding with stabilization and flexibility training will keep you safe, healthy and efficient on the run.

The Importance Of Stretching

We’ve all had a trainer, PT or coach hollering at us, “make sure you stretch!”.  But why is flexibility important and what does it actually do to our muscles?

As you would intuitively expect, stretching helps improve flexibility and range of motion of our muscles, ligaments and tendons. Particularly as it relates to running, optimal muscle length can contribute to an increased capacity of the body to both produce and absorb energy.

Besides energy absorption, stretching can reduce asymmetries within the body. Because of the repetitive nature of running, biomechanical imbalances become highlighted and can worsen with every stride. Addressing imbalance early through preventative measures including flexibility and stabilization training is key to staving off injury.

Optimal Time To Stretch

Optimal stretching time frames vary based on the type of stretching performed. Dynamic stretching is recommended immediately prior to exercise and involves active movements through an entire range of motion. Movements can be sport-specific, such as knee drives for runners, and prime the body via muscle warming and increased circulation.

Static stretching is the other primary form of stretching and involves holding a specific position for an extended period of time. It reduces sore muscles and helps maintain muscle length following active exercise. Because of its potential to reduce peak force during athletic activities, static stretching is recommended following exercise to avoid impacting performance.

5 Total Body Stretches Every Runner Should Be Doing

Downward Dog

You may associate downward dog with yoga practitioners but it is actually an essential stretch for any athlete.  The combined upper and lower body mobility components address stiffness in the chest and upper back as well as the hamstrings and calves.

  1. Begin in a table top position on hands and knees.
  2. Tuck your toes, press through your hands and extend your legs and arms creating a “V” position with the body.
  3. Press through your heels, breathing deeply and hold position 60+ seconds.

Pigeon Pose

Most runners would agree that they are looking for efficiency in their stretching program.  The pigeon pose does just that targeting the glutes, hip flexors and small hip rotator muscles all at once.

  1. Assume a low lunge position with one leg forward with the shin parallel to the mat.
  2. Bring your opposite leg extended straight behind you, keeping the top of the foot resting on the floor or mat.
  3. Using your hands for support, slowly lower your hips to the ground until stretch is felt deep into the front hip and opposite groin.

Forward Fold

The forward fold is one of the most relaxing and advantageous static stretches that opens up the entire posterior chain of the body addressing tightness in the lower back, gluteals, hamstrings and calf muscles.

  1. Stand tall and reach your hands up to the sky with a deep inhale.
  2. Slowly fold forward keeping back flat and bringing hands down towards shins, ankles or floor.
  3. Keep a slight bend in the knees, relax your head and neck and hold position 60+ seconds.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip flexors are the primary driver of leg advancement during the swing phase of running.  As such they are highly active during the running process and should be stretched to avoid pelvic tightness and lower back pain.

  1. Begin in a lunge position with the front knee bent and aligned directly on top of the ankle.
  2. Gently tip your pelvis under bringing your pubic bone forward and upwards.
  3. Keeping this pelvic position, gently lunge forward until stretch is felt in front of the hip.

Spinal Twist

Last but certainly not least, give your spine some love with this rotational twist. Running occurs primarily in the sagittal plane but incorporating stretching in other planes of motion nourishes the spine and conditions the body to perform varying types of movement.

  1. Begin seated in a cross leg position.
  2. Slowly inhale, bringing the spine long then gently rotate to one side using hand on opposite knee to facilitate twist.
  3. Breathe and hold 60+ seconds.


Ready to give it a shot? Grab your mat, do your body a favor and get stretching.

For more information regarding mobility training or to schedule a running consultation, visit us at Functionize Health & Physical Therapy.




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5 Stretches Every Runner Should be Doing to Avoid Injury

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