You’ve probably heard it a thousand times – don’t forget to stretch after your run – and probably ignored it. After all, who has the time! The reality is that stretching after a run improves your recovery and helps prevents long term injury. In recognition of “the need for speed” here is a quick five stretch post run routine that focuses on the major muscle groups in the lower body.
Push each stretch to the point of resistance, not pain, and hold each stretch for 12 to 15 seconds. Repeat each stretch five times for each leg. Focus on smooth movements and avoid bouncing or jolting your muscles. This should be enjoyable and relaxing – not adding additional stress on your body.
1. Quad Stretch
Stand with your back straight, shoulders back, abdominal muscles tight, and pelvis tucked under you. If needed, hold on to a chair or wall for balance. While standing on your left leg, bend your right knee behind you, bring your right heel back, and grab your foot or ankle. Gently pull your foot toward your tailbone, and avoid arching your back. Repeat with the other leg. You'll feel the stretch on the front of the thigh.
2. Hamstring Stretch
Begin this stretch in a crouching position. Extend one leg out in front of you with your knee straight and your heel on the ground. Keeping your knee straight, lean forward with your back straight, toward your straight leg, bringing your chest toward your knee. You'll feel the stretch on the back of the thigh.
3. Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your left knee over your right, making a figure 4 with your legs. Grab the leg with the foot still on the floor, and gently pull your thigh toward you. You’ll feel the stretch on the back of your gluteal (butt) muscles.
4. Kneeling Psoas Stretch
Kneel on one knee, with the front leg forward and knee at a 90-degree angle. Keep your front foot directly below your knee as you tuck your pelvis under you and slowly lunge forward. Avoid arching your lower back. Raise your arms overhead for an added abdomen stretch. You’ll feel the stretch in your hip flexors, which are located in the upper thigh and hip.
5. Bent Leg Calf Stretch
Stand with your feet close together, but stagger one foot behind the other. Bend both knees until you feel a comfortable stretch just above the ankle of your back leg, where you're shifting most of your weight to. Bending the knee allows you to stretch the soleus calf muscle.
With a regular routine of post run stretching, you should begin to notice improvement in your flexibility and range of motion within a few weeks.