Time to address the age-old question: Should you stretch before you run? Does it help performance? Does it help prevent injury?
While no one enjoys running with stiff muscles, static stretching before running isn’t the answer.
Static stretching before you run actually makes it more likely that you’ll injure yourself by causing damaged tissue or strained/pulled muscles. In addition to this, studies have shown static stretching also has a negative effect on performance.
The Solution to Stretching Before You Run
Try ChiRunning Body Looseners, which loosen your joints instead of stretching your muscles. These are actually derived from T’ai Chi warm-up exercises, but work wonders on the fluidity of your stride.
Body Looseners will warm up your muscles while making your joints open and loose, causing your chi to flow through your body unhindered. With loose joints, you won’t need to work nearly as hard!
Body Looseners are intended to loosen the main joint systems of the body:
- Shoulders & neck
Here’s a sneak peek at some of our favorite Body Looseners:
1. Ankle Circles
- Stand in your best posture
- Supporting your body on one leg, bend one knee to put your toes on the ground just behind you.
- Move your bent knee in a clockwise circle while relaxing the ankle.
- Allow your knee to do the movement so your ankle can relax and loosen.
- Do ten clockwise circles and ten counter-clockwise circles. Repeat with your other leg.
This exercise loosens all the ligaments and tendons around your ankles.
2. Knee Circles
- Place your feet and legs together with your hands on your knees.
- Move both knees around in clockwise circles.
- Don’t let your knees extend in front of your toes. Keep your upper body as still as possible.
- Do ten circles in each direction.
This exercise loosens all the ligaments and tendons around your knees.
3. Spinal Twist
- Standing in your best posture, put your hands behind your head and intertwine your fingers.
- Without moving your pelvis, turn your upper body to the right and dip your right elbow to the ground as you lift your left elbow to the sky.
- Twist a bit more and look for the backs of your heels. Hold for a few seconds.
- Return up from the dip and then back to the center, then repeat to the opposite side. Repeat 3 times.
This exercise loosens the tendons in your upper spine and shoulders, allowing you a relaxed arm swing.
4. Pelvic Rotations
- Stand in a staggered posture stance with your right foot on the ground behind you.
- Bend your elbows and pretend your forearms are resting on the arms of a chair. This keeps your shoulders and upper body from rotating.
- Do ten pelvic rotations by turning your waist with your dantien, and then switch your staggered stance so that your left leg is behind you. (Feel
your shoulders stable as your waist turns back and forth. You can also do this loosener facing a wall with your hands against the wall to keep your shoulders still.)
This exercise loosens your spine at T12/L1. This will help prevent back pain/injury by keeping your spine loose and capable of proper posture and alignment.
To view all our Body Looseners, check out ChiRunning (pp. 196-208). Or, ChiRunning School, Lessons 77, 82, and 86.
As you begin every run, make sure to start off very slowly, focusing on your technique and warming up your muscles. Then gradually let relaxation and flow be the source of increased speed until you’re at your regular pace. By this time your joints and muscles are both loose and warm, and ready for your run.
When Should You Stretch?
If you don’t stretch before you run, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch at all. The best time to stretch is right after your run when your muscles are warm. Stretching after running keeps your muscles from tightening or cramping. It helps you recover faster and also preps your body for your next run or workout.
So, do the stretches Danny recommends, go to an occasional yoga class, or check out the yoga poses we recommend.
Stretching at the right time can have a big impact on your running– So remember, never before a run, regularly after a run, and do your Body Looseners before running.