New to running? Don’t forget to stretch! Every runner should take time to warm up before and cool down after a run, and stretching after you complete a run of any distance is important for the recovery of your muscles! If you’re just starting out it can be overwhelming to determine which stretches are best. This list of 10 great post-run stretches is a great place to start! Performing a few or all of these stretches after your run will help stretch out your full body and prevent soreness, leaving you ready to pound the pavement again the next day!
1. Quad Stretch
Your quadricep muscles do a lot of work for you when you’re running! It’s important to show them some love when you’re done by giving them a good stretch. There are a lot of variations and different ways to get a good quad stretch, but one of the easiest is to grab one ankle while standing upright and gently pulling upward on your ankle. Hold this stretch for about 30-45 seconds on each leg to get a significant stretch and don’t be afraid to use a wall, railing, or chair to stabilize yourself if you need to!
2. Calf Stretch
Like your quads, your calf muscles also put in a lot of work while you’re on your run. You can’t forget about them when you’re stretching! If you’re a new runner it’s likely you’re going to experience some calf soreness at the start. Stretching out these muscles after a run can help them recover and prevent soreness the next day.
There are a lot of ways to get a good calf stretch, but my favorite way is to simply bend one knee and fold my torso forward, reaching to grab the toes of the leg I want to stretch. You can deepen the stretch by straightening your bent knee or by pulling upwards on the foot your grabbing – you should feel more tension in your calf muscles this way. Hold this position for about 30-45 seconds on each leg and you’re good-to-go!
3. One-Leg Side Stretch
This is a classic stretch that’s great for several muscles in your leg. Sit on the floor and tuck one leg in while the other is extended outwards, then reach with one arm to grab the toes or ankle of the outstretched leg. Don’t worry if you can’t reach your toes or even your ankle, just go as far as you can to start and your flexibility will increase the more you stretch! You should feel the tension in your hamstring, located on the back of your thigh/knee, and in your calf. To deepen the stretch, you can point your foot outwards and try to reach your toes then!
4. Arms & Abs Stretch
You’re probably thinking why would you need to stretch your arms or your abs after you’ve completed a run? It’s commonly assumed that you only need to focus on stretching your legs after a run, but that’s not the case! Your whole body is involved and more muscles than just the ones in your legs are working during your run! Your arms and ab muscles help to keep you upright, propel you forward, and keep you balanced while you’re running.
To avoid soreness in these muscles later, it’s important to give them a good stretch when you’re done running. A good stretch to get your arms and abs at once is to hold your hands above your head while standing and then lean your upper body to one side, focusing on stretching your sides and shoulder and arm muscles. Hold each side for about 30 seconds!
5. Butterfly Stretch
Another popular stretch among runners is the butterfly stretch! This stretch is great for stretching out your lower back, hamstrings and inner thighs, and your groin muscles. Sit on the floor and bring your feet together in front of you, then grab your feet and bend your torso forward slowly, trying to bring your chest to touch your feet, until you feel the tension in your muscles! To deepen this stretch, try gently pushing your knees toward the ground while bending forward. Once your flexibility increases over time you’ll be able to bend deeper into this stretch, so don’t worry if you can’t bring your chest to your feet the first time!
6. Standing Glute Stretch
Some more muscles that get quite a work out while you’re running is your glutes! You might not think about it while you’re mid-run, but your glute muscles are working just like your leg or upper body muscles, and you’re going to feel these muscles the next day if you don’t stretch them out (especially if you go up any stairs)!
A good way to target your glutes is through the standing glute stretch. Bend one leg, then place the other leg over your bent knee, keeping your ankle over your bent knee and leaning your upper body forward slightly to maintain your balance. It’s almost as if you’re sitting down but without a chair! You should feel this stretch in the cheek of the leg that is supporting your weight. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, and use a wall or chair if you need to hold on for stability!
7. Overhead Tricep Stretch
Don’t forget the arms! The overhead tricep stretch is popular among runners because our arms do a lot of important work for us while we’re running, such as keeping us balanced and moving us forward alongside our legs. You may notice some soreness in your arms if you neglect to stretch them out after you finish your runs!
This stretch targets your triceps but is also a good stretch for your shoulders and upper back. Reach both arms overhead, reaching to touch between your shoulder blades with one hand and grabbing that arm with your other hand. You should feel the tension in the arm that’s reaching to touch your back. Hold this for about 30 seconds on each arm!
8. Kneeing Hip Flexor
Another very important muscle to keep in mind while you’re stretching is your hip flexor muscle. A lot of experienced runners have had hip flexor pain or even injury because these muscles are so important to running but are often overlooked when stretching!
To get a good stretch and open up your hips, place one leg at a 90-degree angle while the other is outstretched behind you. It helps to sort of “sit” into your hips while you’re holding this stretch, and to deepen it you can stretch your outstretched leg even further behind you if you can. You can balance by holding your arms on your front leg or stretching them out to the sides, whatever you find comfortable! Hold this stretch for about 30-45 seconds on each side to really stretch those deep hip flexor muscles.
9. Hamstring Stretch
This stretch targets the hamstrings, and with good reason too. The hamstrings are important muscles to stretch, that’s why there are so many stretches that incorporate stretching those muscles. Many runners experience hamstring pain or injury due to a lack of stretching or improper stretching of the hamstring muscles.
To avoid soreness or future injury and to help those muscles recover after a run, this stretch is always a great option! While standing, lift one knee upwards towards your chest and hug it to your body with both hands. Holding this position should result in a good stretch, but to deepen it gently pull your knee closer to your chest. You should feel the stretch on the back of your thigh.
10. Toe Touch
A simple favorite among runners, touching your toes is a good way to stretch several muscles, including your lower back, arms, and calf muscles. Don’t panic if you can’t actually touch your toes, just go as far as you can until you feel the stretch. Holding this position for 30 seconds should allow your muscles to adapt and you should be able to inch down a little further to your toes as your flexibility increases! If you need to, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart rather than together to help you stretch further.