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By Jessica Morris
Just had a great run? Well done! But your work isn’t over – you need to stretch it out.
Stretching can be very beneficial pre and post run, and the type of stretch you do can make a big difference in your performance and recovery. Typically, pre-run stretches should be dynamic, or movement-based stretches to warm your body up for the run; think leg-swings and hip openers. On the other hand, post-run stretches should be static.
Cooling down and stretching post-run is not only good for slowing your heart rate, but it will also help to reduce soreness, alongside a proper post-run recovery shake or meal, and reduces your chances of future injuries. Make sure you spend around 5-10 minutes as a minimum doing stretches after your run, and ensure you’re wearing something that allows for a lot of movement. I’m wearing leggings by Girlfriend Collective made from recycled plastic water bottles. Sustainable and thick, these allow me to move around without any fear of accidently showing off my undies (and no, they have not paid me to plug these! But I do love them).
Anyway, these are my Best Deep Post Run Stretches that will isolate the most common areas of tension or soreness for runners: glutes, hips, quads and calves; I recommend holding each of these for 30-45 seconds. But you know what? You don’t even need to be a runner to benefit from these – they’re perfect after any kind of workout. Heck, they’re perfect for any time of the day really!
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
How to do it: Place one knee on the floor with opposing leg bent, and foot placed evenly on the floor. Instead of leaning forward into the hip, tuck the tailbone under and squeeze your glutes while standing tall. Keep tension in the glutes as you feel your hip-flexor stretch. Hold and breathe.
What to avoid: Leading foot too far ahead, having an excessive forward lean in the upper body.
2. Calf Stretch
How to do it: In a split stance, place one foot against a wall with the heel on the floor and the toes and mid-foot against the wall. You can determine how intense you desire the stretch to be by leaning toward or away from the wall.
What to avoid: Only placing the toes against the wall; try to balance on the end of your heel as much as you can to get a deeper stretch. Alternatively, try this on a step.
3. Quad Stretch
How to do it: As with the hip-flexor stretch, place one knee on the floor in a split stance, with the opposite leg and foot on the floor in front of the body, with the knee bent. I recommend using a thick mat on the floor to help support the knee. Once in the proper stance, gradually lift the back foot towards the glute while reaching back and holding the foot. Aim to have your foot close to your glute. Ensure you are tucking your tailbone under, while maintaining a proud chest.
What to avoid: Bending at the low back, leaning back.
4. Glute Stretch
How to do it: One of my personal favorite stretches – this feels so good! Start by laying on a mat and bending one leg and placing the same foot on the floor. With the opposite leg, cross it over the knee, creating a figure-four. With the bend leg, that is on the floor, place your arms through the sides of that leg, towards the hamstring, and intertwine your fingers, while pulling the leg towards you. Ensure you are continuously pushing your low back into the floor, while belly breathing.
What to avoid: Arching your lower back.
So, those are just the basics that I think you should do after every run. At least a few times a week, you need to go even deeper, though, to protect your legs from shin splints and problems that can arise from having very tight IT bands (that’s that really hard, long muscle that runs down the side of your leg. It looks great when it’s firm, but man, is it hard to stretch!) You should also remember to stretch your back and torso, too: after all, running involves more than just your legs!
This video below is the perfect stretching routine for runners to do at least 2-3 times a week.
5. Your Thrice Weekly Deep Stretching Routine
Don’t forget to hold all stretches for 30-45 seconds while belly breathing.
For more information, please visit Jessica Morris Health.