Morning stretches for runners: 6 simple moves every runner should do

  • Post last modified:December 23, 2020
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A good morning routine can do wonders for your productivity and mental health. If you’re used to waking up and scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, then now is the time to try these morning stretches for runners to help you start your day the right way.

Stretching is beneficial for runners as it aids recovery and stimulates blood flow throughout the body. We runners regularly experience tightness and soreness after a run, and this is especially true when it comes to getting up in the morning. 

When we sleep, our bodies and muscles often tighten up. Whilst sleep is essential for rest and recovery, our muscles reduce in length and remain shortened during this time which equals stiff and tight muscles. 

According to a 2014 study, when muscles are tight, there is less stretch and force absorption, putting the muscle at risk when it needs to lengthen. Athletes with an increased tightness of the muscles have been found to have a statistically higher risk of musculoskeletal lesion and biomechanical disadvantage. 

This is why a morning stretch routine is highly recommended to loosen and lengthen your muscles before a busy day. Morning stretches will also go a long way to help you improve your flexibility and increase your mobility. 

Here are my top 6 simple morning stretches for runners to help you feel energised and strong first thing in the morning. 

If you’re currently working from home during the pandemic, these stretches are also great to help improve your posture if you’re sat behind a desk all day. Either do them in the morning, or during your lunch break. 

Each stretch should be done at least two times, 8 to 10 reps each. You will need to set aside roughly 15-20 minutes for the whole routine. 

morning stretches for runners

Morning stretches for runners

Neck circles

If you suffer from neck pain while running, this stretch will help to reduce tension and develop a better range of motion in the neck.

If you push your head forwards too much during a run, then you may be more susceptible to neck pain. Equally, if you sit behind a desk all day, you may also suffer with neck pain.  

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put your hands on your hips. Gently roll your neck to the right and back until your gaze is skyward, then to the left and down, until your gaze is facing the floor. Repeat on the opposite side. 

Shoulder drops

Many people overcompensate for poor posture during a run by pulling up their shoulders. Over time this can cause considerable pain, tension and tightness in your neck and shoulders.

If you find yourself pulling your shoulders up towards your ears when you run, drop your shoulder blades down your back a little. 

Shoulder drops help bring awareness to your posture and remind you to bring your shoulders down and back, which will help to reduce tension in your trapezius muscles.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hang your arms loosely by your sides. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears slowly, then slowly lower them back down.

morning stretches for runners

Forward fold

This stretch is one of my favourite morning stretches of all time. It does a lot to lengthen your arms, loosen your hamstrings and stretch your upper back whilst working your spine. It really feels like an all in one stretch!

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hang your arms loosely by your sides. Soften your knees and fold forward, letting your head fall towards the floor. Bend your arms to clasp your opposite elbow. Pause at the bottom, then return to stand. 

Hip circles

This is a stretch that I do regularly with my beginner and steady 5k running groups as it helps to mobilise your hip flexors and hamstrings. It’s also one that I’m fond of doing in the morning. 

Your hips often become weak if you’re sat behind a desk all day, so it’s important to stretch and activate them before a run. Check out my blog on hip flexor stretches for runners for more information. 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put your hands on your hips. Shift your hips to the right, slowly pushing them back to the left, and then to the front in a circular motion. Repeat on the other side. 

morning stretches for runners

Standing overhead reach

This stretch feels unbelievable in the morning, making it one of the most popular morning stretches for runners.

Not only is it a great start to the day, it helps to reduce shoulder, neck and arm stiffness which are common posture concerns for runners. 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hang your arms loosely by your sides. Lift your arms overhead, eventually clasping your hands, and squeeze your glutes while arching your back and lifting your gaze up and behind you. Return to start. 

Squat

The squat is such a versatile exercise – it really can be performed anywhere and anytime. Squats create full body awareness, and they are really great at targeting the glutes, which can often become lazy. 

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, toes pointed slightly out, and hands clasped at your chest for balance. Send your hips back, then bend your knees to lower down as far as possible while keeping your chest lifted. 

Lower until your body until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor, then press through your heels to return to start. 

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Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Madhusree Basu

    Some calf raises also may be a good idea. I find mine stiffer in the morning and it’s a part of my stretch routine. Not sure if others also face that or not.

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