I have a confession. I have a bad habit of not stretching before I run. And by “bad habit”, I mean I almost never stretch before I go for a run.
I know it’s bad. I know there are considerable benefits to dynamic stretching. I know that it would help me avoid a lot of the issues that I’ve had in the past with my body (looking at you, Achilles tendon). And yet, I often find myself with this internal debate in my head:
Logical me: Cass, you should stretch. It doesn’t take long! It will help you out in the long run – literally!
Irrational me: But I only have an hour to get these miles in because I (insert excuse: “accidentally slept in”/”took too long to change”/”saw something shiny and was distracted” here). 5 minutes is at least half of a mile!
Logical me: But stretching is more important than getting in that extra half of a mile—wait—hey! Where are you going?! (Irrational me takes off for the run) WAIT FOR ME!
If you’re like Irrational me, you might need a new solution. Enter: a quick, simple lunge routine. It’s fast and easy to remember. “Easy to remember” is key for me, as I admittedly sometimes skip stretching because, quite frankly, I just forget which dynamic stretches I should be doing before a run. With the help of my runner friend and track coach, Ryan Stapinski, we’ll guide you through an easy dynamic stretching routine that will get you out the door and onto your run quickly and efficiently.
This lunge routine is dynamic, which means that you maintain momentum during the stretch instead of holding a static pose. Dynamic stretching propels your muscles into an extended range of motion and prepares your muscles in a sport-specific way. As Ryan puts it, “the idea is to stimulate muscles and get them ready to run by activating them in the 3 separate planes of motion vs. static stretching which essentially yanks on muscles and does not fully prepare them for movement. A lot of research has shown that static stretching before a run can lead to injuries and doesn’t prepare you to run as well as a dynamic routine.”
As a runner, you want to think about dynamic stretches that target the muscle groups you are about to use for running. This lunge routine helps warm up the extension of the legs, introduces some lateral movement and warms up the hips by including a twist. While this lunge warm up is quick and easy to remember, consider adding in a few more stretches to muscle groups that you feel need attention.
Each of the lunges detailed below should be repeated 5 times on each side and only held for a few seconds each to maintain dynamic movement (a few seconds each? We all have time for that. No more excuses!).
1. Start by stepping into a forward lunge. Repeat with the same leg forward 5 times, then switch and repeat 5 times on your other leg.
2. Go back to your original leg in front and repeat the forward lunge, this time incorporating a twist in your upper body. Twist towards the side of your body that your lead leg is on.
3. Step out into a side lunge. Once again, repeat this on the same side 5 times and then switch to the other side.
4. The next lunge is slightly more complicated, but easy once you get it. Take a diagonal step back (about 45 degrees) with one of your feet while keeping the lead foot’s heal on the ground. Step back into a standing position and repeat 5 times on each leg.
5. Last but not least, end with a simple lunge again, this time stepping back into it instead of forward. Repeat 5 times on each side.
And there you have it. A quick and easy dynamic stretching routine before you take off on a run. I said it was short and simple, right? If you are going on a slightly longer run, I’d suggest adding in a few other dynamic stretches to your routine. Other examples of great dynamic stretches for runners include hip circles, butt kicks and leg swings.
Feel free to share any of your other favorite dynamic stretches in the comments below!