Stretching for Runners

To stretch or not stretch, that is NOT the question. To stretch dynamically versus statically, that IS the question. The answer to that question is that both are correct choices. It comes down to when and why you would select one over the other.

Stretching has been researched as long as the marathon training day is old! Current best research evidence demonstrates the differences between static versus dynamic stretching and when to implement each into one’s fitness routine and race schedule.

Dynamic Stretching (otherwise known as Dynamic Warm Up):

Dynamic stretching is a series of active movements designed to increase muscle temperature, activate the nervous system, and enhance sports performance. This dynamic warm up should be performed just before running.


  1. Increases range of motion/flexibility
  2. Increases blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion
  3. Improves athletic performance
  4. Reduces the risk of injury
  5. Slowly increases heart rate in preparation for exercise

*Examples of Dynamic Warm Up prior to running All stretches should be performed for 10-15 repetitions on each leg at a moderatemovement pace.

Leg Swings

while holding onto a wall, tree, or pole, gently swing your leg forward while trying to keep your knee straight then allow the leg to swing backward like a pendulum using momentum. Repeat this 10-15 times on each leg. Repeat this technique for each leg in a side to side manner as well allowing one leg to swing like a pendulum in front of the other.

Benefits: warms up hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, as well as opens up your hips

Inch Worms

Start in a standing position and lower your hands down to the floor. Walk your hands out in front of you to assume a plank position. While keeping your knees straight, walk your feet towards your hands until your feet are flat on the floor. Walk your hands forward to a plank position and repeat 10-15 times.

Benefits: warms up glutes, hamstrings, calf muscles, and core.


Starting in a plank position, drive your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand. Return back to the starting position and repeat this alternating pattern 10-15 times on each leg.

Benefits: warms up your inner and outer thigh muscles, glutes, and piriformis (deep gluteal muscle).

Butt Kicks

Walk slowly approximately 20 feet while bringing your heel high toward your buttock each time that leg comes off of the ground.

Benefits: warms up your quads and hip flexors.

Static Stretching:

Static stretching involves moving one’s joints to a comfortable end range position to where a gentle non-painful stretch is felt. This form of stretching is considered safe and effective for improving overall flexibility. Static stretching has been shown to be more beneficial when done after exercising. Hold a comfortable, non-painful stretch for 3-5 bouts of 20-30 seconds each. This method of stretching will relax the muscles and associated tendons releasing any tension that may have been created during exercise. Static stretching has been demonstrated to be detrimental to athletic performance compromising muscles explosive ability if performed before exercising. Additionally, joint instability may be promoted making one more susceptible to injury.


  1. Decreases sensitivity of “tension receptors”, allowing the muscle to relax and be stretched to greater length.
  2. Relieves muscle cramping.
  3. Decreases the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise

    *Examples of static stretching: All stretches should be performed for 3-5 bouts for 20-30 second sustained holds each.

Hamstring Stretch

while standing, keep your knees straight and bend your trunk slowly reaching to the floor until a comfortable stretch is felt in the back of your thighs.

Quad Stretch

Hold onto something with one hand for balance. Bend one knee bringing your heel towards your buttocks while holding your ankle until a comfortable stretch is felt on the front of your thigh.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Perform as described in the Quad Stretch above with the addition of pulling your thigh backwards until a comfortable stretch is felt in the front of your hip.

Calf Stretch

Stand in a staggered stance with your right foot approximately 3 feet from a wall and your left foot approximately 1 foot from the wall. With your hands on the wall, lean forward keeping your right leg straight and your right heel on the ground until a comfortable stretch is felt in your right calf. Repeat on the left side.

Groin Stretch

(butterfly stretch): sit with your back supported against a wall. Bend your hips and knees until the soles of your feet come together. Gently push down on your thighs with your hands until a comfortable stretch is felt in your inner thighs.

In summary, always be sure to include some type of a dynamic warm up before you run to enhance your athletic performance. To prevent injury and promote muscle relaxation after your run, include static stretching as part of your routine.

*There are numerous ways to stretch muscles that are involved in running. These provided merely represent a sampling of the many; however, those listed above target the major muscle groups involved in running.