A quick morning stretch is one of the best ways to fire up your body and your mind. If your current morning routine consists of waking up and reaching for the phone, try ditching that habit and start your day on the right track instead.
There's still ongoing debate about exactly how effective stretching exercises can be, so we always recommend finding what works best for your body. As the saying goes: listen to your body - it's smarter than you!
So if you want to add some stretching to your morning routine, we've put together a program to help get you started. We'll also discuss the benefits of regular stretching and provide additional tips, so you can stay at your very best when hitting the track or the pavement.
Benefits of Morning Stretches for Runners
Stretching first thing in the morning can not only improve your flexibility as a runner, but your overall flexibility as well. The increased range of motion not only feels great, but it can help you move more efficiently on the track and reduces the risk of picking up an injury.
Reduced Muscle Stiffness
Do you ever wake up feeling a bit tight after a night's rest? It's common to build up muscle tension overnight, which is why stretching in the morning is so important for getting your body firing for the day ahead. Reducing muscle stiffness can also reduce the risk of straining a muscle and improves your comfort while running.
Enhanced Blood Circulation
Stretching is a great way to get your blood pumping early in the day. Stretching increases the blood flow to your muscles, helping you wake up so that you're ready to tackle that day's workout. Blood circulation also provides your muscles with essential nutrients and oxygen, which aid in both recovery and performance.
Injury prevention is an important part of any exercise routine. If you're someone who regularly runs or just keeps an active lifestyle, keeping on top of injuries should always be a priority. By reducing muscle tension and increasing flexibility, morning stretches can help prevent common running injuries like strains, sprains and overuse injuries.
Improved Mental State
Don't underestimate the effect that a good routine can have on your state of mind. Starting the day on the right track with a healthy stretch will not only help you wake up, but clear your mind for the day ahead. There's nothing like starting the day fresh so you can tackle those workouts with energy and determination.
Better Running Performance
Stretching can have a great overall effect on your running performance. The increased flexibility and range of motion feels great on the track, but stretching also increases your overall speed and endurance. Stretching can help prepare your body for a better recovery as well, so you'll be ready for that next run faster than ever.
Starting your day with a stretch can be a great way to relax yourself and reduce stress. Many people find stretching to have a great calming effect, which can help deal with the stresses of daily life or an upcoming race that's already got your heart pumping.
Types of Stretches You Can Do Before Running
There are two main types of stretches that you can adopt: static stretches and dynamic stretches. They both serve distinct purposes and can be used for different situations, so check out this overview to decide which type is best for you.
Static stretching is a more conventional style of stretching. It involves holding a single, fixed position for a prolonged period, usually around 15-30 seconds. Their main purpose is to loosen your muscles and improve overall flexibility.
The best time for static stretching is during a post-workout cooldown or in a separate stretching session like a morning stretch. Static stretching aren't meant to be done pre-workout, but are instead used to increase your overall range of motion and flexibility.
Examples of static stretches
Standing quadriceps hold
Stand up straight with your feet together
Bend one knee so that your heel comes up towards your bottom
Grab your ankle or foot
Stand up straight, with your bent knee in line with the other knee. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds
Apply a small amount of pressure if you want to increase the stretch
Slowly lower your leg and repeat the process with your opposite leg
Lie flat on your back in a straight line, with your heels on the floor
Bend your right leg so your knee comes up to your chest , keeping your left leg straight
Put your hands on the top of your shin to hold the position in place
Hold the position for 30-40 seconds. You can gently pull to increase the stretch
Lower your right leg and repeat with the opposite leg
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
This exercise targets your gluteal muscles and loosens your hips. Start by kneeling down with your left foot forward in front of you at a 90 degree angle
Put your left hand on your left knee. Your right arm should be resting on your right hip
Gently come forward, putting your weight on your left ankle.
Hold for about 60 seconds then change legs.
A dynamic stretch is a more active movement that takes a joint or muscle through a full range of motion. Unlike static stretches, these are rhythmic and continuous.
Dynamic stretching increases blood flow, warms up your muscles and prepares your body for intense physical activity. They're best performed pre run or before playing a sport, as they enhance muscle performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Examples of dynamic stretches
Stand next to a wall or stable object and use one hand to support yourself
With your left foot on the ground, bend your right knee upwards in front of you to a 90 degree angle
Now bend your right leg backwards until it extends straight out behind you
Repeat 10 times and then switch legs. This stretch targets the hip flexors
Stand up with your feet flat on the ground as your starting position
In a standing position, bring your left knee up to your butt. Now do the same with your right knee
Now start to pick up the pace. As you pick up speed you'll feel those tight muscles start to loosen
As you build momentum, feel free to start swinging your arms as well. This will bring your upper body into the movement
Keep the movement going for about 60 seconds
Stretching Safety Tips
Stretching should never hurt, so don't aim for pain. The goal is to feel some slight tension. If it starts to hurt then you're overdoing it.
Be realistic with your routine. If you're not used to a stretching routine then don't take on the hardest stretches you can find. It's tempting to rush things but gradual progression is the better way to go about it.
Keep up your stretching. Aim to perform your stretches at least two to three times a week to build up consistency.
If you have an injury or chronic condition then use caution and common sense. Overworking a sore body part can be just as bad as neglecting it. Seek professional advice if you need a stretching routine that works around any body part you're having issues with.
Target Areas for Runners
As a runner, it's important to target key areas when you devise a stretching routine. The most common areas where runners are likely to pick up an injury are the hamstrings, knees, calf muscles and hip flexor, so try to hit them all. Your hips, inner thighs and IT band are also muscle groups that should be prioritised.
A Sample Morning Stretch Routine
If you're keen to start a morning stretch routine, we've put together a beginner-friendly program to get you started. As you get used to stretching you might add or remove exercises, but this routine is a great starting point.
Sticking to a regular stretching routine is an awesome way to take your running to the next level. No matter what level of runner you might be, keeping your body at its best should always be a high priority. For more running and fitness tips, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter.
Frequently asked questions
WHAT ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE MORNING STRETCHES TO INCORPORATE INTO A RUNNER'S DAILY ROUTINE FOR IMPROVED FLEXIBILITY AND PERFORMANCE?
Here are some of the most effective morning stretches to incorporate into a runner's daily routine for improved flexibility and performance:
- Supine spine twists
- Leg swings
- Hip flexor stretch
- Standing calf stretch
- Glute stretch
HOW CAN MORNING STRETCHES SPECIFICALLY BENEFIT RUNNERS BY PREVENTING INJURIES AND ENHANCING OVERALL RUNNING EXPERIENCE?
Morning stretches can benefit runners by preventing injuries and enhancing overall running experience in a number of ways. Regular stretching reduces muscle tension and increases overall flexibility, which can help prevent common running injuries like strains, sprains and overuse injuries.
Stretching out your muscles can enhance your overall running experience by keeping your muscles fit and firing. Stretching increases flexibility and reduces stiffness, so your body can perform better and recover faster then ever.
WHAT IS THE IDEAL DURATION AND FREQUENCY FOR MORNING STRETCHING ROUTINES DESIGNED FOR RUNNERS TO ACHIEVE OPTIMAL RESULTS?
So what, if any, is the ideal duration and frequency for morning stretching routines designed for runners to achieve optimal results? It depends on the runner. We recommend starting with a light, ten minute stretching routine if you're just starting out.
As you become more flexible and conditioned, you can start adding tougher exercises to your routine. In any case, try not to overdo it. 30 minutes, for example, is way too long to be stretching and is unsustainable. Stretching anywhere from 5-15 minutes is fine.
ARE THERE ANY KEY CONSIDERATIONS OR PRECAUTIONS RUNNERS SHOULD KEEP IN MIND WHEN PERFORMING MORNING STRETCHES TO ENSURE SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS?
Lastly, are there any key considerations or precautions runners should keep in mind when performing morning stretches to ensure safety and effectiveness? The most important thing any athlete can do is to listen to their body. If something is hurting you or feels wrong, stop doing it. Know the difference between pushing yourself and hurting yourself.
Start light if you're not used to a stretching routine. Jumping straight into a tough regimen will overstrain your muscles and can be pretty stressful as well. Instead, gradually build up your flexibility until you're ready to take on some tougher stretches.