To stretch or not to stretch? That has been the age-old question for runners. The debate has gone back and forth, but the general consensus is to perform a dynamic warmup before your run and traditional static stretches after the workout.
With that strategy in mind, I recommend stretching these six body parts during your post-run warmdown. I usually do these in the following order, moving from standing to sitting on the ground.
Choose one stretch from each of the six categories plus the multi-category bonus stretch. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and up to three minutes or longer.
Lower Calf (Soleus/Achilles)
The soleus muscle in the calf is an important running muscle that often tightens up after a hard run. To stretch the lower calf, find a wall and do the Wall Bent Knee Calf Stretch.
Upper Calf (Gastrocnemius)
To stretch the upper calf, modify the previous stretch to perform the Wall Straight Leg Calf Stretch.
For the Standing Quadriceps Stretch (demo 1 | demo 2), grasp your foot with the opposite hand. In other words, grab your right foot with your left hand when stretching your right quad, and vice versa. This keeps your knee is a more natural position.
From a standing position, try the Standing Forward Bend or Big Toe Yoga Pose. From a sitting position, do the Lying Hamstring Stretch with or without a strap. Another alternative is to stretch one leg at a time using the Seated Floor Hamstring Stretch.
Tight hip flexors are every runner’s nemesis, aided by the large amount of sitting we do in modern society. You can stretch your hip flexors from a standing, kneeling or lying position. Or do the Warrior I Yoga Pose.
Bonus: The Squat
Getting into a squat position is a good all-around stretch for runners that targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, ankles, glutes and core. In yoga, it’s known as the Malasana, or Garland Pose. Do this at the end of your runs as well as throughout the day to stay flexible.
- Stretch in a warm, dry place; move inside after a cold run and change into dry clothes, if needed.
- For any static stretch or yoga pose, proceed gradually and avoid jerking or bouncing.
- Stretch to your own personal limit; do not force yourself into a position based on what you see others doing.
- Breathe deeply as you focus your mind on letting go of tension in the muscle you are stretching.
- Perform each stretch with perfect form.
- Remember, consistency is key to improving your flexibility!