Running is one of my most favorite activities to do to stay fit and overall healthy. I usually run about 3-5 times a week depending on the week, but I will have to admit that I have not ran at ALL since my half marathon 3 weeks ago. Sigh. By the time I actually felt like running again (because my legs hated me after that race haha), I came down with a really bad cold. I have a race tomorrow too, and thank goodness its only a 5k because with this cough + how tired I feel, I don’t know how I’d do more than 3 miles and survive!
I will also admit that sometimes I forget to stretch long enough after I go on a run. If all I want to do is get home and shower and eat (which is pretty much after every run), I’ll just throw in some quick and dirty quadriceps and calf stretches for a minute or two and call it good. However this is a big no-no when it comes to really taking care of your body after a workout. Note: stretching before a workout does not count as your “warm up,” but we’ll touch more on that later!
Having a strong core is also crucial for improving posture and speed (especially if you’re wanting to be a distance runner), and having strong arms (mainly triceps and deltoids) is good for keeping you upright and for maintaining proper form when running. Make sure these are stretched as well after a run, not just your legs!
Personally, the muscle groups that I mainly focus on stretching out are my hip flexors and hamstrings as these tend to be my tightest. Follow this yoga-inspired stretching routine to feel your best after a run 🙂 Make sure to spend about 5 breaths during each one, slowly allowing your body to sink deeper into the pose as you progress. Keep scrolling for descriptions on each stretch, and click on an image to enlarge it.
1. Basic Quad Stretch: Engage the core. Make sure your back is straight, tailbone is tucked in (no back arching), and shoulders are relaxed.
2. Hamstring + Quad Stretch: This pose challenges balance. While still in a basic quad stretch, slowly lower your hand to the ground hinging at the hips. You should feel this stretch your hamstring in your standing leg.
3. Head to Knee: This stretch targets the three main tight areas in the leg (hamstrings, behind the knee, calves). Stand with feet further than hip’s width apart, and turn towards one leg. Slowly lower down hinging at the hips until you can feel the stretch comfortably. If you can touch your head to your knee without dying, go for it!
4. Wide-Legged Forward Bend: Another great one for the legs. This one is also great for loosening up the chest and deltoids. Make sure you hinge from the hips and slowly lower down while lifting arms up (fingers interlaced) to a comfortable stretch.
5. Inner Thigh Stretch + Squat: Your inner thighs get worked during a run, don’t forget! This is one to take slowly. Starting from standing, lower down to a wide squat and make sure your knees do not go over your ankles. Bring hands to prayer, while elbows push against the inner knee to stretch inner thighs. Keep the back flat, abs engaged, and the shoulders back.
6. Butterfly Legs: This one and I have a love/hate relationship. My inner thigh muscle is pretty tight and I have weak-ish hips (happens after long runs) so I usually spend longer in this stretch than in other stretches, to loosen my hips. This stretch also helps lower back muscles loosen and relax.
7. Lizard Stretch: Also known as runner’s lunge, this one targets tight hip flexors. Create a variation of this by letting your bent leg fall knee out, and rolling the front foot slightly onto its side.
8. King Pigeon Pose: There’s a reason why this pose is called king! It is the king of hip opener stretches, a main stretch to mastering the splits, and is perfect for getting those tight muscles in check. This pose can be started by siting in an upright position, and slowly progressed to lowering down until your head rests on your crossed arms in front of your bent leg. Try to slowly get the bent leg to a 90 degree angle for a deeper stretch, by wiggling the foot up.
9. Kneeling Quad Stretch: This one targets quads and hip flexors and is a popular stretch for runners to do post run. You can start this pose by leaning forward like I’m doing, and progress to straightening the back so you’re sitting upright.
10. Happy Baby: This yoga pose targets lower back and hip muscles. The looser your hip muscles are, the lower you will be able to get your thighs to the ground. This is yet another stretch my hip flexors don’t like 😉
11. Downward Dog: This is an overall happy-body, stress-relieving stretch to both start and end with. Try to keep the legs straight (knees are not bent) and get the heels to the floor. Drop the shoulders, flatten the back, engage the core by pulling the belly button to the spine and keep a neutral neck (don’t try to look up or through your legs).
12. Cobra Pose: This stretches both the abdominal muscles (great for a post-ab workout) and works spinal flexibility to increase back strength. Challenge yourself by lifting to the tops of the feet, getting the hips and legs off the ground like I’m demonstrating in the photo.
13. Child’s Pose: Another great one to end with just like downward dog. This one relaxes the back, arms, shoulders, and hips. I could sit in this one for hours! Try to let the hips sink down into your ankles. If you have tight hips like me (you’ll see my hips aren’t exactly sinking down in the photo), this is a great pose for training the hip muscles to relax.