The 10 best stretches and warm up exercises before running

Pre-run stretching helps you avoid injury, allows you to run more efficiently and lets you perform better overall. To get the most out of your pre-run stretch, however, you need to be doing it correctly. A thorough stretch regime includes dynamic stretches and warms up key areas such your quads, hip flexors, gluteals and hamstrings, as well as your back and calf muscles. Aim to do 8 to 10 minutes of primarily dynamic stretching before a run and warm down with static stretches afterwards.

Here are the 10 stretches to do before your run.

It is advised that you consult a health professional on the correct form to complete these exercises before using them. Real Insurance encourages everyone to take care when exercising and to seek advice from those with the relevant qualifications.

1. The open lizard

The open lizard will target your hips and hip flexors. These areas take on a lot of impact during a run.

To do this stretch:

  • Lunge by setting your right foot forward, keeping your left leg extended behind you while relaxing your toes. Your right knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle and your left leg should be touching the floor from knee to toe. Bring both hands to the left side of your right foot.
  • Moving slowly and keeping your right foot in position, lower your right knee outwards until you are resting on the outside of your right foot. Keep your arms straight as you press your chest forward; this movement allows your hips to lower and stretch further.
  • Look ahead and hold for 30 seconds before repeating for the other side.
woman doing open lizard stretch

2. The jumping jack

A popular warm-up exercise, the jumping jack stretches your calves, hip abductors, shoulder abductors and core.

  • Stand straight, keep your feet together and your arms resting by your sides.
  • Jump out, legs apart and arc your arms overhead as you jump in the air.
  • Bring your hands together overhead to clap.
  • Return to the original position as you land and repeat.
group doing jumping jacks in park

3. The standing quad stretch

The standing quad stretch is a static move that warms up your thighs.

  • Hold on to a chair as you keep your back straight and shoulders back.
  • Keep your left leg straight as you bend your right knee, bring your heel behind you and take hold of your foot or ankle.
  • Pull your foot towards your tailbone while keeping your back as straight as possible. Hold for a few seconds or more.
  • Relax to the original position before repeating with your left leg.
man doing standing quad stretch

4. The hamstring stretch

Hamstring strains are one of the most common running injuries. Be sure to give this area some attention before your run.

  • Start in a crouched position.
  • Stretch your right leg in front of you, keeping your knee straight and your heel on the ground.
  • Lean forward towards your right leg with your back straight, all the while keep your knee straight.
  • Repeat for your left leg.

5. The walking lunge

The walking lunge warms up all the major muscle groups used during running, in addition to simulating the running position.

  • Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Take a long step forward with your right leg. Keeping your back straight, bend your right knee to 90 degrees and your left knee until it almost touches the ground. Your right foot should be flat on the ground directly below your right knee, while your left foot is bent at the toes.
  • Hold for a few seconds before straightening your left leg until you feel the stretch in your right thigh.
  • Return to the original position and repeat for your left leg. Do around ten lunges on each side for your warm-up.
man doing walking lunge stretch

6. The side stretch

The deceptively simple side stretch could have you avoiding the all-too-common, painful side stitches that strike during a run.

  • Start in a standing position.
  • Bring your arms over your head and bending at the waist, lean to the right and to the left. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout the move.
  • Hold for one or two breaths on each side as you repeat.
woman doing side stretch

7. The round-the-world lunge

The round-the-world lunge works and stretches all the key muscles in your legs.

  • Start in a standing position. Keep your left leg still as you lunge backwards with your right foot and hold.
  • Return to centre and then lunge forward with your right foot, allowing your right knee to come to a 90-degree angle and your left knee to move close to the ground.
  • Lunge right and hold for a moment before returning to the original position.
  • Bring your right leg behind the left and bend your knees as if curtseying.
  • Repeat these steps five times before switching to the left leg.
man doing round the world lunge

8. The bridge

The bridge warms up your core, glutes, hamstrings and hips, making it a great warm-up or general strength-building exercise for runners.

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, arms out at around 45 degrees and palms flat facing down. Bring your belly button in as your lift your hips by pressing your feet into the ground.
  • Contract your core, glutes and then hamstrings, then hold for three to five seconds.
woman doing the bridge stretch

9. The superman (or superwoman!)

The superman warms up your core, getting you ready for a big run. It’s also a great exercise to build strength in general and you can make it harder by raising all four limbs at the same time. You will want to have your exercise mat ready for this one.

  • Lie face down on the floor with your arms and legs extended.
  • Raise your head, left arm and right leg 10 to 15 centimetres off the floor and hold for a few seconds.
  • Return to the original position and repeat with your right arm and left leg. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps for each side.
woman doing superman/superwoman stretch

10. The dynamic pigeon pose

This kneeling stretch warms the hip flexors, which can be very tight for those who sit all day at work.

  • Start in the lunge position with your right knee at 90 degrees and your left leg behind.
  • Lower yourself so that your right thigh is on the ground, with your foot pointing in towards your left hip. Your left leg should be as straight as possible behind you so you feel the back of your thigh stretching.
  • Raise your arms over your head and hold the position for a few seconds before releasing and returning to the starting position as you lower your arms.
  • Repeat five times, then switch to your left leg.
group of woman at gym doing dynamic pigeon stretch