Even though I started running at 25 years old I kept wanting to go faster. Every time I achieved a new PB I kept setting a goal for a faster time.
Eventually I found that my muscles felt tight and sore and I didn't seem to have the same mobility I used to.
After some research, trial, errors and some professional advice I came up with my list of the 7 best stretches after running.
When you do these stretches after running you help lengthen the muscles and tendons used when you run.
This will help you feel better the next day and reduce your risk of getting a common running injury.
I have included a basic stretch as well as a some options for if you are more flexible where they are available.
Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If you have time one minute is preferable to get the most benefit from the stretch.
You should only do these stretches after running. Never do stretching before running (see Myth 1) as it is possible it will cause injury.
1. Glute Stretches
Being the largest muscle in your body, your glutes deserve to be stretched after running. Your glutes are used a lot when you run so it is very important to make sure they get stretched really well afterwards.
Many runners experience back pain which is often a direct result of over active and/or tight Glute muscles.
- Lye down on the ground facing up
- Place one leg across the other with the ankle above the knee
- Bending the other leg, raise it and hold the leg with your hands
- Slowly pull the leg towards your chest if you can
- In a kneeling position, place on foot in front of you
- Rotate the leg in front of you so that the calf is perpendicular to your rear leg
- If you can, push the rear leg behind you back so that your hips come lower to the ground
- Once your hips are low to the ground you may wish to lean forward and lye with your chest on your front leg and your arms/hands on the ground
2. Hamstring Stretches
Your hamstrings are another very important muscle when running and they frequently become tight if you neglect stretching.
- Lye down on the ground facing up
- Lift one leg up towards the ceiling
- Hold your leg either below the knee or towards the ankle if you can (if this is still too hard you may wish to use a yoga strap or similar between your hands and foot)
- Pull the stretch on with your hands, you should feel a stretch between your knee and your butt (if you are very tight you may feel it in your lower leg)
- Find a place where you can stand in front of a bench or similar
- Put one heel on the bench with your toes pointing up
- Keeping your hips at right angles with the leg on the bench reach forward towards your toes
- To get a very deep stretch try to touch the pinkie of the opposite hand with your little toe
3. Calf Stretches
I recommend doing two stretches on your calves as there are two distinct parts to the muscle which should be stretched separately if at all possible.
Calf Stretch 1
- Stand in front of something you can lean on at chest height with your feet hip width apart
- lean into the wall / door frame keeping your feet flat on the ground
- You should feel a stretch in the back of your legs between your knees and ankles
Calf Stretch 2
- Stand with your legs hip width apart
- put one foot slightly in front of the other pulling your toes up so only the heel touches the ground
- Reach forward with the opposite hand and try to touch your pinkie to you little toe of the foot out the front
- You will feel a stretch in the back of your leg between you ankle and your knee
4. Quad (Quadricep) Stretches
My quads often get very tight and being attached to the hip flexors means that you need to stretch these muscles to avoid them pulling on other muscles groups.
- Stand on one foot and bring the heel of the other foot towards your buttocks
- Once the foot is within reach use your hand on the same side to bring it as close as you can
DO NOT turn your foot from straight
5. Hip Flexor Stretches
Sore and tight hip flexors happen if you don't stretch properly.
- Kneel on the ground with your knees apart
- Put one foot in front of you with the knee at right angels or wider
- Keeping your pelvis rotated forwards (bottom of your pelvis should be as far forward as possible) push your hips forwards
- Raise the hand on the side with the knee on the ground into the air (you may wish to lean away from the knee to increase the stretch)
- You may feel this stretch in your quads, hips or even above your hips (there is a lot of connective tissues in this area)
6. ITB Stretches
I very rarely have issues with “Runners Knee” (pain on the front of the knee joint below the knee cap) but I recommend ITB stretching. This long but delicate tendon can cause big problems for runners.
This particular muscle is responsible for laterally stabilising the knee as we run and gets a massive workout when we are running on any surface let alone donning trail running shoes and hitting the trails.
Stretching this muscle will help prevent runners knee so it is worth the time to make sure you can keep running.
- In a standing position, cross one leg over the other and place the foot next to the other
- Keep both legs as straight as you can
- Put the hand on the foot in front in the air and bend at the hips to the side that is behind the other
- You should feel the stretch in the side of the leg that is in front of the other
7. Groin Stretches
You're totally thinking this is a joke but the groin (or adductors) are the worst muscles to have problems with.
For runners the groin is the muscle group you hope you never have any issues with. It is notoriously difficult to get this muscle group to settle down once it is inflamed.
Jokes aside, there are some simple stretches that can help you avoid groin issues
- In a sitting position place the soles of your feet together
- Place your elbows on the inside of your knees and grip your hands on your ankles
- Pull yourself down towards your feet
- You should feel the stretch on the inside of you legs between your groin and knees
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