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The best stretches for running

Prior to your run, dynamic stretching is best.

Whether you enjoy a run along the lakefront or a walk around the block, summertime is the perfect time to revisit running stretches.

Prior to your run, dynamic stretching is best. This type of stretching keeps your body moving; it does not hold a stretch. The purpose is to warm up the body with movement. After a run, you can hold these stretches in a static position for a few breaths. This is called a static stretch. After a run your body is already warmed up so you’re not preparing it for any more movement, holding stretches longer can be more soothing and relaxing for the muscles as opposed to pre-running where the goal is to get them mobilized and ready for movement.

Check out my top running stretches to keep you loose, limber and help prevent injuries:

Lunge & Lean

This is the perfect pre-run stretch to loosen up the hips and hamstrings. Stand with the feet as wide as the hips, and then step the left foot back. Bend the right knee into a lunge and feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. As you stretch the hip flexor, slowly begin to straighten the right leg and lean forward. Exhale as you fold forward and stretch the back of the right leg. Move back and forth between the hip flexor stretch and the hamstring stretch. It’s important to keep moving throughout this stretch as you want to do dynamic stretching before working out to warm up the muscle. (After you run, you can hold each of these positions for longer.) Repeat this 10 times, and then switch to the other side.

A side reach is a great pre-run stretch for the sides of your core as shown here by health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour. | Brian Ernst/Sun-Times
A side reach is a great pre-run stretch for your sides and core.
Brian Ernst/Sun-Times

Side Reach

To stretch the torso, reach the right arm down your leg and reach the left arm up towards the ceiling. Reach up and over as you stretch the left side of your body, and then come back through center and repeat on the other side. Keep moving side to side in a dynamic motion before you run to loosen up your torso and upper body. After you run, you can hold this to the right side and then left side for a few breaths to each side.

Inner Thigh/Groin Stretch

To stretch the inner thighs, step your right foot to the right and bend the right knee. Keep the left leg straight and feel a stretch in the left inner thigh and groin. Then move through center and lean to the left side. Keep this stretch moving before you run, alternating from side to side. After you run, you can hold to each side for 5 breaths and really breathe into the stretch.

By getting into a pre- and post-running stretch routine, you’ll hopefully not only feel looser and more relaxed during your run but also feel rejuvenated and limber after your run!

Stephanie Mansour wants you to ‘“step up” your fitness regimen. Mansour coaches private clients in weight loss, provides fitness/health/lifestyles advice on national TV shows, and offers her free 21 Day Challenge online. Check out her fitness tips every Thursday in the Well section of the Chicago Sun-Times. And visit her website at stepitupwithsteph.com.