Whether you’re training for your first 5K or have been running for years, stretching should be an integral part of your fitness routine. “Stretching helps correct imbalances that develop from using the same muscles consistently over a period of time,” says Pat Gilles, CSCS, fitness coach and owner of Pat’s Gym in Madison, Wis. Stretching can also help keep you injury-free—and may even improve your running performance.
To gain all these benefits, you need to stretch both before and after you run, but with different types of stretches, says Gilles. Before running, you should do dynamic stretches, which increase body heat and blood flow, essentially warming up your muscles. After you run, opt for static stretches, which will help maintain flexibility as you cool down.
Ready to get started? Follow this pre- and post-run stretch routine designed by Gilles.