If you run regularly, you will be familiar with tight, sore muscles and the occasional injury. In addition to regular strength training, coupled with the right diet and sleep, the right post-run stretches can help keep the muscles cool and prepare for the next workout.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn't a lot of research to support stretching before a run, according to physical therapist Corey Rovzar, Ph.D. In some cases, it can actually affect performance.
“But stretching after a run is great because you've already done those miles and it's more of a recovery,” says Rovzar. “It should always be done gently. Just a nice, light stretch that should feel good and help the muscles cool down a bit. "
Here are Rovzar's favorite routes after running, with subtleties on how to maximize each of them.
1. Kneeling hip flexion stretch
"The biggest limitation I usually see in runners is the tightness of the hip flexors and how it affects their running form," says Rovzar. "This stretch helps you get the hip extension you need while running."
- Start with your right knee on the floor and your left knee forward in a lunge position.
- Keep your torso straight and lean forward with your hips until you feel a stretch.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
2. Thread the needle
"Any exercise that increases the mobility of the chest, i.e. the upper back, is important because when you run you want your upper body to rotate," says Rovzar. “You don't want this rotation to just come from your hips. This only makes you more prone to injury and your hips will overcompensate for when your thoracic spine does not have the flexibility. "
- Start on all fours on the floor and take your body in a table position – your hips should be just above your knees. Elbows, shoulders, and wrists should be in a straight line perpendicular to the floor.
- Take your right arm and thread it under your left arm by twisting your torso to the left.
- Place your right shoulder and temple on the floor.
- Keep your left arm straight and extend it palm down over your head.
- Hold for 30 seconds (or more), then switch sides.
3. Stretching the hamstring while sitting
“In general, when you run, your hamstrings and the entire back (back chain) tend to tense up because these muscles are used a lot. So if you can make these hamstrings a little more supple, this can relieve the feeling of tension. "
Sit on the floor and stretch your right leg forward.
- Bend your left leg with your knee against the floor and your left foot on the inside of your right thigh.
- Holding onto your right foot, bend forward at the waist while keeping your back straight.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
4. Quad stretch
“Downhills are tough on quads because the braking mechanism works them a ton. When your quads are very tight, it increases the force going through the knee, which can often lead to pain or discomfort. So you want to maintain good flexibility by keeping your quads nice and supple. "
Standing as straight as possible, grab your right foot and lift it up behind you.
- Gently pull your heel towards your buttocks to feel the stretch. Remember to keep your knee tight, not winged.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds and then switch sides.
5. Calf stretch
“The calves, like the hamstrings, are part of this rear chain and actually absorb seven times the force of your body weight when you run. Calves are often neglected from a strength standpoint – it's a big deal to show these calves some love because they really are the workhorse. "
Stand on the edge of a curb, staircase, or exercise step and keep your heels off the edge.
- Start by getting up on your toes (hold onto a wall or railing for balance).
- Slowly lower your heels under the step.
- Do 3 sets of 15 – this will both stretch and strengthen the calves.
* Don't have access to levels or a Sims? Stand in front of a wall. With both feet flat on the floor, shift your weight onto your back foot until you feel a stretch through the calf of that leg. Change after 30 seconds.
6. Seated hips and stretching the IT tape
“The IT tape is quite prone to getting tight, especially when people tend to overcompensate using their quad / IT tape instead of their buttocks. The combination of IT ligament stretching with a certain strengthening of the gluteal muscles can do a lot, especially for people who tend to have tightness in the IT area or pain in the outer knee. "
- Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched.
- Cross your right leg over your left and bend your knee so that your right foot is flat on the floor.
- Rotate your body to look over your right shoulder until you feel a stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Courtesy of Lululemon
7. Pigeon stretching
“This comes along with this calf and hamstring chain complex where your glutes work hard and are prone to tension, especially when you run a lot uphill. Stretching the glutes is good for maintaining flexibility and calming things down after a hard run. "
- Start on all fours and extend your left leg behind you with your hips pointing forward.
- Bend your right knee with your shin on the floor.
- Slowly step forward with your hands and lean into the stretch for 5-10 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat.
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