There are a lot of factors that go into keeping yourself healthy when you are running consistently, and one of the most important of those factors is stretching both before and after you run. There are different stretches that should be done before and after each run, and if you are diligent in your stretching you will set yourself up to stave off injury and soreness for many future runs to come.
Pre-run stretches are going to be more dynamic and focus on activating the muscles in your legs that you will be using for your run. Dynamic movements are best for when your body is cold and you need to get warmed up. The following two warm up stretches should be done before every run.
This dynamic warmup will activate your hips to put them through a full range of motion before you actually run. Hold onto something sturdy and swing one leg forward and backward, trying to slightly increase how far you swing until you are at a full range of motion. Go front and back 20 times with each leg, and then go side to side 20 times with each leg.
Walking Leg Stretches
These stretches are designed to get you moving and activate your quads and hamstrings all at the same time. Walk forward and place your right foot in your right hand, pulling your food towards your hip to stretch the entire quadriceps muscle. Once you put your foot down, bend down to touch the toes of that same foot. A slight bend in the knee may be necessary to get to the ground, which is perfectly fine. Once you are done with the right leg, take a step forward and repeat with the left leg. You should complete 20 repetitions with each leg to ensure your muscles are warm.
Once your run is over, you are going to want to stretch the muscles and ligaments in your hips and legs to make sure you recover correctly from the run. These stretches should be less dynamic and focus on lengthening the body to promote good blood flow and to decrease the tension in the body.
This stretch will focus on stretching the hips and opening the joints. Put your feet shoulder width apart and turn your toes slightly outward. Bend down into a squatted position making sure to keep your head up and your chest pointed forward. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds and repeat three times, trying to get lower into the squat each time.
Standing Hamstring/Quad Stretch
This stretch is much like the walking stretches you did before your run, only you will be holding these for 20 seconds and not walking forward between sets. Pull the right foot behind you to the right hip while you balance on one leg and hold for 20 seconds. Once you are done with the right foot, move on to the left. After 3 sets of each foot, put both feet together and bend at the hips to stretch both hamstrings together. Slightly bend one knee and hold for 20 seconds, then repeat by bending the other knee. Repeat three times for a quality stretch in both legs.