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Running Stretches – Stay Fit and Healthy Tips

Running season is here. For many Irish people, putting their running shoes on is a seasonal thing. Summer (whatever we call that short Irish season) is the only time many of us exercise outdoors.

But what happens when you start running again after a winter hiatus? How do we prevent injuries? Nobody wants to miss the opportunity to run in the early morning sunshine or on warm evenings because of preventable injuries. Let’s take a look at some preventative stretches that will keep you on the road/park/trail until it’s time to hibernate again sometime around November.

First of all, does stretching prevent injuries?

The jury is still out on this one. Research has not been able to prove conclusively that stretching before exercise prevents injury. But based on the results of many studies and from anecdotal evidence, stretching to lengthen and warm up joints and muscle fibres will prepare your body for exercise.

Imagine sprinting across a football pitch from a complete stop without any limbering up beforehand. We’d say that the chances of pulling a hamstring are high.

Yoga, the ancient practice that focuses on lengthening and stretching the body, was a key factor in the success of the Dublin Gaelic Football team back in 2013.

On the other hand, Rugby teams have found that a special pre-training and pre-match warm-up consisting of movements and balance exercises, was more effective than ordinary stretching for preventing injury.

The key takeaway is that stretching works but it should be combined with exercises where you (gently) put your body through similar movements to the sport. In the case of runners, gently jogging combined with some exercises to target the hamstring, quad, and calves work well for injury prevention.

Stretches and Warm Ups for Runners

Leg Swings

Start off easy with this exercise, especially if you have tight hamstrings.

Stand on one leg and swing the other leg forwards and backwards as high as you can without straining or arching the back. If you find it difficult to balance, hold on to something while you swing your leg.

Keep the leg straight but try to stay relaxed. The goal here is to loosen the muscles, not tighten anything.

leg swing stretch running preparation

Lunges (walking lunges or stationary lunges)

A great stretching exercise for runners that you can use for any sport. Lunges loosen up the quads, glutes, inner thighs and hamstrings.

Standing straight, step forward and bend both knees until the forward thigh is parallel to the floor.

To continue with walking lunges, push through your back foot and step that foot forward. Lunge down again on the opposite side and repeat.

To do a stationary lunge, press through your front foot and push yourself back to a standing position. Then switch legs and repeat.

Keep your arms relaxed and on your hips or by your side.

lunge stretch for injury prevention

Hamstring Stretch

Here’s a stretch that you might not have seen before, but it’s a very effective running stretch and can be used in a dynamic sense.

Note: this exercise requires the ability to squat. If you can’t squat down to at least parallel do the alternative below. We also recommend practising the squat position every day as it’s a fundamental human movement and is great for loosening the lower back and hips.

Standing with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing out slightly, squat down and grab hold of the sides of your feet or the soles of your feet.

Keeping a hold of your feet, raise your hips and straighten your legs but keep your upper body the same. You should feel a stretch in the hamstrings as you straighten your legs. Return to the squat position and repeat.

hamstring stretch for running
Hamstring Stretch original image by WatchFit

Alternative hamstring stretch

Standing straight with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, slowly drop your arms, shoulders, head, and torso forwards as far as you can while keeping your legs straight (without falling over).

Feel the stretch in your hamstrings.

Hold for 3-4 seconds and slowly come back up, lifting your head, then straightening your upper back, and finally your lower back.

Calf Stretch

This is an easy stretch to do so you’ve got no excuse for skipping it.
Standing in front of a wall, step one foot forward and keep the back leg straight.
Put your hands on the wall and lean forward without arching the back. If you want a deeper stretch put your forearms on the wall.

Feel the stretch from the Achilles tendon to the top of the calf muscle. Hold for 20 seconds and switch sides.

Should You Stretch after running?

Even if you’re on the side of not stretching before exercise, you should really perform post-exercise stretching for a number of reasons:

  1. Stretching helps to lengthen muscles and return them to pre-exercise states.
  2. It also helps improve blood flow to muscles and prevent lactic acid build up.


If you’ve been hibernating over winter and feel that stretching won’t loosen up those legs and shoulders, book a session with one of our Sports Massage or Deep Tissue Massage therapists. They will find and loosen up the knots and set you up for perfect running posture.

Happy running!


running stretches avoid injury


2 thoughts on “Running Stretches – Stay Fit and Healthy Tips”

  1. Hi Siobhan,I’ve trained a summer for Dublin city marathon. 23 weeks training programme. I received a grade one tear to my Soleus mustle, right calf 4weeks ago. I’m back running under the guidance of my physio & a day by day programme from an experienced athlete.
    The fear factor has hit me Even though I had all the hard work done before injury
    Running for an hr later.last run will be monday
    Any further advice would be so appreciated
    Kind regards
    Mary Cosgrave

  2. Great bit of advice for all to take in………….. I was wondering if you happen to have a video of this………. I don’t mind subscribing to one if there is one available. ……………. Thanks.

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