Simple Running Stretches That Promote a Better Run, Every Run

If you were like me as a college runner, you hated doing running stretches before and after training. I’d do it with the group, but if I was on my own that day, I’d often skip it altogether.

I was busy–and I thought stretching was BORING. I just wanted to hit the road and get into my workout right away. But, over time I realized how my lack of running stretches left me with sore, tight muscles and contributed to injuries that could have been prevented.

Pre-workout running stretches don’t have to take a ton of time. Even ten minutes or so can dramatically improve your running form and help you feel stronger, run faster, and prevent injuries.

Pro Tip: While pre-run dynamic stretching is crucial–so is deeper, post-run static stretching. Don’t forget to practice stretching at the end of your run. Stretching after a workout is just as important as beforehand to prevent stiffness and keep your muscles and joints healthy.

Let’s follow along with Nate to learn about running stretches that help us open our joints and prime our muscles for an excellent, enjoyable run that pushes us one step closer to our goals.

1. The Run-High Knee-Run-Butt Kick Stretch

This initial exercise starts to get your heart rate up and helps open your joints.

  • Run for 20 seconds in place with a tall posture and relaxed arms, pulling your feet off the ground lightly with each step.
  • As you keep running in place, bring those knees up with each step for 20 seconds–about 50% as high as an all-out high knee effort–we’re just getting started!
  • Switch to 20 seconds of butt kicks–again, we are going for about 50% effort to warm up your hamstrings.
  • Start the cycle over. This time, bring the high knees and butt kicks up to 75-100%.

2. Lateral Lunges

This stretch is awesome for opening the hips and getting the blood flowing in your legs.

  • Assume wide, square stance–yep, imagine a starting wrestling pose!
  • Place your hands on your hips, or support them on your thigh if you need a little support. For a more advanced move, place your hands behind your head.
  • Lunge from side to side, keeping your hips back and head and chest tall.
  • Complete 20 lunges.

runner doing lunges

3. The Hip Circle Stretch

We’ll roll right into this stretch from the lateral lunge to continue to loosen and strengthen the hips and legs, also well as your groin and glutes.

  • At the end of the last lunge, place your hands on the ground and rotate into a traditional long lunge position.
  • Your forward foot should on the outside of your shoulder, with your toes straight.
  • With your front foot flat and your back foot with a raised toe, rotate your hips ten times in a circle clockwise, and ten times counterclockwise.
  • Walk your hands over and lean down into a lunge on the other side. Repeat ten circles.

4. Elbow Touches

Once you’ve completed the hip circles, stay down in the lunge position and walk back your hands back over to the other side. It’s time for elbow touches to finish warming up the hips.

  • Once you’ve walked over, take the elbow closest to your bent leg and lightly touch it to the ground.
  • Walk your hands back over to a lunge on the opposite side. Touch the other elbow down.
  • Keep your hips low and center for a total of 20 elbow touches.

5. Arm Circles

By now, your legs and hips should be warm and ready to run. You’ll finish up with some arm circles to get your arms on board and promote a relaxed, arm swing with your stride.

  • Rather than traditional arm swings, this exercise involves moving one arm forward and one backward at the same time.
  • Start with both arms over your head, and place one arm in front of your face, and one arm behind your head.
  • Start moving each arm in full circles in opposite directions. After ten circles, stop and switch directions. Repeat ten circles.
  • If this simply feels too funky and you can’t get the opposite swing down, that’s okay! Try a couple of times, and if it isn’t happening, do traditional arm swings in the same direction–and try out the variation again next time.

That’s it! It shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to complete these dynamic running stretches that set you up for a great run.

Interested in learning about more running stretches? Check out our YouTube playlist full of strength training workouts! Also, be sure to check out our list of training programs for runners of every level today!