We all have our own pre-race habits, from what to wear to what to eat, but these tips from Physical Therapist Doug Tvrdy, who oversees the RunWell Program, may help you avoid injury and help improve your performance.


Stretch long before the run, ideally the night before and about 30 minutes to 1 hour in advance of the run for optimal performance. Stretching is not bad for you (as a lot of runners and magazines would suggest) if done properly and at the right time. Stretching causes a relaxation of the muscles and it takes time for them to re-activate fully, about 15 minutes or so. But the flexibility you gain from these can help prevent injury. Also, stretch after the run to help flexibility and recovery.

Exercises: Hamstring stretch, Quad stretch, Calf Stretch

Hamstring stretch

Description: Place a towel roll in the small of the back to hold the pelvis in place and not allow the back to compensate.  Use a belt or strap to lift the leg up until a stretch is felt.
Reps: 3 times, 30 seconds each

Quad stretch

Description: Maintaining an upright posture, grasp the ankle and pull back to the buttock.
Reps: 3 times, 30 seconds each

Calf stretch

Description: Maintaining an upright posture, place one foot at the front of the step and the ball of the foot at edge and lower down until a stretch is felt  in the calf.
Reps: 3 times, 30 seconds each

Dynamic Warmup    

Do a dynamic warmup before you run. A light 2-5 minute warmup walk/jog, then stretch, then a 5-10 minute dynamic warmup, as well, before the race. This will help increase blood flow to the muscles and help activate nerves and provide an active stretch of the muscles without causing the muscles to relax too much. High knees, butt kicks, karioka, and power skips can be done closer to start time without any ill effects.  These are to be done within a controlled fashion, not out of control and too fast.

Exercises: High knees, butt kicks, karioka, and power skips (2 laps of 10 -15 yards)

Activate your glutes

Most people don’t activate these muscles for running but they provide needed stability of the hip and knee. Doing a couple quick sets of this exercise, primes the neuromuscular system so it is ready to work and provide stability to the hip and knee.

Glute med wall push

Description: Setup as shown. Knee slightly bent, lean forward slightly, foot under hip, push knee into wall, weight on back of heel. Perform 2 times, 30 seconds each, prior to running

Check your posture

Many people think that, a completely upright posture is correct but actually you need to have a slight forward lean of about 5-12 degrees. That is optimal. This is a forward lean at the hips, not bent over at the back and neck. This brings your center of mass over the top of your foot to reduce your ground reaction forces (braking motion). 

Exercise: Wall Push

Description: Line up against wall as shown. Push into wall activating your core and making sure you don’t arch your back. Bring your back leg up and through, contracting your glutes at the top position. Perform slowly, keeping knees and toes pointed forward. Repeat 2 sets of 10 reps for each leg prior to running.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercises. Click here to learn more about Madonna TherapyPlus' RunWell Program.