Running is one of the world's most popular forms of exercise. 

It is a fantastic way to improve fitness and heart health, aid in weight loss and reduce stress.

Every year more and more people take up running but unfortunately end up injured.

In fact, over half of runners will find themselves sidelined with an injury with overuse being the main reason. 

Although it is a great form of exercise, running is a very repetitive stress, placing a great deal of work on the muscles and joints of your lower body, hips and low back.

The repetitive stress of running causes damage at muscles like your calves, quads, IT band, hip flexors and low back. 

This causes these muscles to stiffen and shorten resulting in an increase in injury at those muscles as well as the joints they attach to. 

It is crucial as runners to combat these issues with both dedicated and specific flexibility and mobility work to keep you performing at the highest levels and keep you injury free.

Let's get into the 4 BEST stretches for runners. 

#1 Deep Squat Belly Breathing

The deep squat belly breathing is our favorite total-body stretch for runners. It reverses the extended running posture by putting you into a flexed spine position and actually calms your entire body including your nervous system and heart rate. This makes it a great drill to do before bed as well. The deep squat position stretches and calms your overworked lats, low back, hip flexors, IT band, quads and calves. Hit this drill before and after your runs. 

Key Points:

  • Grab a post at hip height with both hands
  • Start feet together, about 6 inches from post
  • Keep heels flat and drop as low as possible into squat position
  • Think of melting into squat
  • Inhale easily through nose and exhale long and slow through mouth
  • Hold position for 10 deep breaths

#2 Wall Quad Stretch 

One of the most overworked muscles of runners are the quads or front of your thigh. They act as a decelerator, helping dampen the forces with each foot strike as well as help propel you up those long hills. Stiffness and shortening of your quads will ultimately lead to a decrease in performance as you loose the ability extend your hips and produce force. This can also lead to knee issues as short quads begin to pull and tug on your knee. 

Key Points:

  • Start on one knee with back foot on wall
  • The closer your back knee is to wall the more quad stretch you will get
  • Stay tall with stomach braced
  • Feel stretch through front of thigh
  • Perform after run
  • Hold for 10 deep breaths/leg

#3 Pigeon Stretch

The pigeon stretch is our favorite hip and glute stretch. Your glutes are responsible for propelling you forward as well as stabilizing your knee and pelvis as you run. As you can imagine they get over worked and stiff. Decreases in range of motion at your hips is a great way to cause excessive movement and irritation at your low back and knee. Keep those hips moving well. 

Key Points:

  • Start with one knee and foot out front
  • Weight should be in hands and on shin and knee of front leg
  • Try to get front shin parallel to shoulders
  • Rotate shoulders towards lead knee
  • Feel stretch in hip of front leg
  • Perform after your run
  • Hold for 10 deep breaths/side

#4 Down-Dog Calf Stretch

Your calves or the muscles on the back of your shins take a real beating when you run. They are responsible for accepting force and the push-off phase of every stride you take. Your calves actually attach to the fascia that starts on the bottom of your feet. It is crucial for the health of your feet, ankles, calves and knees to keep the flexibility of your calves. Our favorite calf stretch is the down-dog.

Key Points:

  • Start in push-up position with hands under shoulders
  • Push your hips as high as you can and heels flat as possible
  • Feel stretch in back of heel and shin
  • Perform after each run 
  • Hold for 10 deep breaths