Let’s be realistic about stretching: it’s one of those things that’s easy to forget to do. It’s like remembering to put on eye cream after washing my face at night or putting on sunscreen before a long run: there’s lots of benefits for just a little effort and time, and yet somehow it’s easy to skip it over. Honestly, whenever I skip stretching after a run, it’s because I just want to shower and eat. Especially after a long run or hard workout, I usually regret not stretching the next day!
Since I have been logging more miles than I ever have during this training cycle, I’ve been prioritizing stretching and foam rolling to prevent any overuse injuries and to keep my muscles feeling agile and strong for my next run.
While I’ve read and researched significantly on anatomy, physiology, and running science, my favorite post-run stretches emerged almost organically, out of what I felt my body needed. I taught yoga and Pilates in college, so I am familiar with many of those poses and derive a lot of my stretches from them.
To develop a post run stretches routine that is worth sticking to, it had to meet a few requirements. Neither any of you nor myself wants to spend all day stretching, as we have work, children, and housekeeping to tend to. I wanted to keep this routine right around 5 minutes, since showering, eating, and everything else after a run can take up plenty of time. I wanted the stretches to be efficient and stretch multiple muscle groups at once if possible. Hamstrings, quads, glutes, hips, abs, back, and calves all need a good stretch after running. Finally, this needed to be a routine I could memorize and easily remember so that it could just become second nature after a run.
Downward Dog: This traditional yoga pose gives an amazing stretch to your hamstrings and calves and releases tension in your back and shoulders. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and bend forward at your hips and touch your hands to the ground. Step your feet back while keeping your hands on the ground so that your body forms an upside-down V shape. Your hips should be up and back and your back should be straight and forming an angle with your hips and the ground. If you can, place your heels on the ground; if you’re tight, bend your knees slightly. I like to alternate bending my knees to provide an additional stretch to my legs and feet. This video from Runner’s World Yoga Center will help you master the pose and adapt it best for your needs.
Runner’s Lunge: Also known in yoga as the low lunge, this lunge stretches your quads and releases tight hips (which is commonly a tight area for runners). With your right foot on the ground, your right knee bent, and your left leg extended behind you with the knee on the ground, gently push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your left quad and right hip. Repeat for your left side with your left foot forward. To get an additional stretch for your obliques, rest your right hand on your right hip, extend your left arm overhead, and gently bend to your right, and then repeat on your left. Check out this image from Oiselle for how to properly do this stretch.
Seated Twist: The seated twist is another yoga poses that stretches out several muscle groups, including your glutes, back, and core. Begin with both legs extended straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee and cross your left leg over your right leg, so your left foot is resting just outside your right knee. Twist to your left and anchor yourself with your left arm behind you and your right arm resting on your bent knee. Be sure to keep your back straight and your neck relaxed.
Legs on the Wall: This stretch encourages blood circulation throughout your entire body after most of your blood was directed to your legs during your run. I especially love this stretch after a hard run or race. You simply place your butt against a wall and extend your legs up on the wall (if your shoes aren’t already off, I highly recommend taking them off for this). To get an extra stretch, rotate your ankles a bit and extend your arms out to a T to stretch your chest and shoulders. Check out this video for more on this stretch!
I usually hold my stretches for about 30-60 seconds or however long until I can feel the muscles releasing tension.
Question of the Day:
What are your favorite post-run stretches?