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Running Basics: Excellent Stretches for Trail Runners

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Let’s start by stating that trail running is not same as road running. The smooth asphalt doesn’t have the same effects on the lower body as the rugged terrain. And because the impact is different and greater, the “taking care” of the muscles routine also vary in both the modes of running. Slightly more intense, the running stretches for trail runners emphasis more on certain body parts than the usual stretching exercises for runners.

Yes, there’s a slight modification between the stretches for trail runners and road runners. Let’s find out all the details, shall we?

Check Trail Running Benefits: For Physical and Mental Well-Being

Read On:

  • Why Stretching is Important
  • Running Stretches for Trial Runners: Static or Dynamic
  • Common Running Stretches for Trail Runners
  • Summing Up

Why Stretching is Important

Stretching before running
Stretching Before Running is Imperative (source)

Stretching exercises are very important to follow before and after your daily runs. Among other things like the right pair of running shoes, running with good form, and having a good warm-up jog, stretching before hitting the trail is necessary.

Begin with a good-paced warm-up lap which consists of running not fast enough to burn you out for the actual run but good enough to break a sweat. It should loosen the muscles and relieve any tension- physical and mental.

With loose muscles, stretching becomes a lot easier and will benefit you in many ways. Stretching before running is crucial especially as a preventative measure. Runners often undergo muscle pull by not stretching properly. Keeping a good running form for races is imperative and that can be maintained only with your loose and stretched muscles. It will also provide the body a better range of motion and longer strides to help run faster. Further, the body doesn’t experience tightness and that allows runners to really focus on running rather than form.

Read all about Trail Running Shoes Guide: For the Rugged Terrain!

Stretching after running prevents muscle soreness and injury possibility. There are specific muscles that need pre-run and post-run stretching for good muscle resilience.

Running Stretches for Trial Runners: Static or Dynamic

Static vs dynamic stretching
Static or Dynamic: What to Choose?

A runner stretches to warm up the muscles and the debate of the best running stretches- static or dynamic, is a much-polarized topic. While exponents of both the types of stretching hold onto to their own importance, you can blend static as well as dynamic stretching into your warm-up cycle.

Static Stretching

The reach-and-hold stretching style that is familiar to most of us is known as static stretching. With static stretching, one typically stretches and holds a position for 15–30 seconds. This lengthens and relaxes muscles and is an effective way of increasing flexibility, improving range of motion, and bringing relief to sore, cramped muscles.

Dynamic Stretching

On the other hand, dynamic running stretches include active stretches where one mimics the movements of running. It increases the heart rate, raises body temperature, and warm up muscles and tendons to prepare for the actual run. While doing a dynamic stretching routine, the person is always in motion.

Learn the how dynamic stretching can reduce injury and boost performance.

Common Running Stretches for Trail Runners

stretching fir trail runners
Stork Stretch is a Good Way to Open Hip flexors and Quadriceps  (source)

Trail running workouts, as said before, should include a bit of both- dynamic stretching and static stretching for an optimum benefit.

Do dynamic stretching before running doing dynamic stretching to ready your muscles for running. Set aside five to 10 minutes before your run to do a dynamic stretching routine.

Save static stretching for after: Experts recommend to save static stretches, such as bending over and touching your toes, for after running stretches/exercises. Doing a routine of static stretches after running can help increase flexibility and bring relief to tight muscles.

To know how to stretch before running, check out these post-run stretches.

Dynamic Stretches for Trail Running

Here are five best stretches to do before running that will rouse your trail-running muscles:

High knees (glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings)

High Knees - Dynamic Stretches
High Knee Dynamic Stetching

Jog in place. Lift your knees up to your waist level for about 30 seconds to one minute while jogging.

Butt kicks (quads, hip flexors, hamstrings)

Butt Kicks
Butt Kicks Dynamic Stretching

Start jogging in place and while doing so kick your heels up toward your butt. Begin slowly and gently to work your hamstrings. Do 10–12 reps on each side.

Skipping (calves, glutes, shoulders)

Mock Skipping Dynamic Stretching

This is similar to rope skipping you did as a kid. Move with a bit of more power to propel your body up and forward. Swing your arms to warm up your shoulders. Choose a point about 15 yards away and skip down and back.

Leg swings (glutes, calves, lower back, hamstrings)

Leg swings
Leg Swings Dynamic Stetching

Extend your right arm out to your side to support yourself by holding onto a tree, railing or wall. Swing your right leg forward and back, keeping it as straight as you can. Do 10 reps with the right leg, then turn around and do 10 reps with the left.

Arm circles (shoulders)

Arm Circles
Arm Circles

Start with your arms at shoulder height and pointed straight out to the side. With your palms facing down, move your arms in a circular motion like you’re drawing 6-inch-diameter circles with your fingertips. Do 30 seconds forward and 30 seconds backward. This exercise will loosen up your shoulder muscles. To expedite your warm-up, combine arm circles with a lower-leg exercise, such as skipping or high knees.

Static Stretches for Trail Running

While performing static stretches, move slowly and smoothly and remember to breathe. Don’t bounce, as that can overstretch a muscle and cause injury. It’s OK to feel a deep stretch with some tension, but do not push so far that you feel pain.

Here are some common stretches:

Calf Stretch

Calf stretches
Calf Stretch

Running uphill forces you to put more strain on the balls of your feet and that seriously exert your calf muscles. This means that calf muscles need special attention and so here's a basic of all calf stretches for runners. Stand to face a wall and place your hands on the wall. Place your right leg forward and bend the knee, while leaving your left leg extended straight back. Both feet should be flat on the floor. Lean toward the wall to stretch the calf muscle in your left leg. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat three times.

Now, leg stretches for runners can be broken up to focus on specific parts of the leg. Such as:

Hamstring Stretch

hamstring stretch
Hamstring Stretch

Doing a hamstring stretch is quite simple. Stand with your feet together and fold forward at the waist to reach your toes with your hands. You can also try another variation of it- sit on the ground with both the legs stretched out. Fold at the waist, trying to reach the toes with your fingers. Hold the stretches for 15–30 seconds. Repeat three times.

Do you sustain tight hamstrings? Know how to relax these muscles.

Quad Stretch

Quad Stretch
Quad Stretch

You acquire a lot of your running power from your quads and they endure the most as you charge up and down rugged trails. So it’s important to stretch them out after a run. Stand on your right leg and bring your left heel up toward your butt. Grab your left ankle with your left hand and gently pull your foot up and in. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat three times.

Runner’s Lunge (hip flexors)

Runner's Lunge
Runner's Lunge

While trail running, lifting your legs up and over obstacles and pushing hard to get up steep hills can give your hip flexors a serious stress. To loosen these muscles, kneel on your right knee and place your left foot on the floor in front of you so the bend in your knee makes a 90-degree angle. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your right hip. Maintain balance by placing both hands on your right knee. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then switch and repeat three times.

Reclined figure-four stretch (gluteus maximus)

Reclined Figure Four Stretch
Reclined Figure Four Stretch

Leaping up and over roots and rocks, moving from side-to-side to dodge obstacles in the trail can leave you with tight and sore glutes. To stretch them out, lie down on your back in the figure four position so that your left foot is on your right knee. Interlock your fingers on your left knee and pull in toward your chest to stretch your right glute. Hold for 15–30 seconds, release and switch sides. Repeat three times.

Iliotibial (IT) band stretch

IT Band Stretch
IT Band Stretch

Aka “runner’s knee,” a tight IT band can induce pain and tenderness along the outer edge of the knee. Cross your left foot over your right and fold forward at the hips to reach your toes with your fingers. While in this position, try to push your feet closer together without actually moving them. You should sense the stretch along the outside of your right leg. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat three times.

For recover tips: Rebound IT syndrome with these yoga exercises.

Summing Up

Trail Running Shoes
Are you a Trail Runner or a Road Runner?

Trail running can strain muscles differently than road running. And nothing can derail a runner than an injury. Running with cold muscles that are not properly stretched can result in muscle stress that can keep you off your feet and off the trail/road for days, weeks or even months. Hence, stretching is a running basic and all runners should do before and after running stretches. The usual warm-up session might not be very helpful. Instead of choosing either type of stretching, runners could do a combination of dynamic and static stretches for trail runners.

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