Last week we mentioned how important it is to take time to stretch before every workout. But how about the minutes that follow a run? Shouldn’t they be used to cool-down and stretch out all of the major muscles you used? The answer is: YES!
Stretching after a physical activity improves flexibility, re-establishes a normal range of movement for your body and reduces the potential of any stiffness or soreness by beginning the process of realigning muscle fibers.
After your run, cool-down for 5 to 10 minutes with a brisk walk or a gentle jog. Then, hold these stretches static (without moving) for 10 to 15 seconds, making sure to do both sides.
To make stretching more fun and enjoyable, give our app 5-Minute Stretch for iOS a try!
1. Quadriceps stretch
Often referred to as quads, the quadriceps femoris are the muscles in the front of your thighs, responsible for lifting your knees and increasing your speed.
To stretch them, stand upright and grab hold of a stationary object for balance (a chair, for example) with one hand and use the opposite hand to pull your leg behind you. Try to keep your back straight and your knee pointing downward as you do this stretch to protect your knee joint.
2. Hamstring stretch
The hamstring is the muscle that makes up the back part of your thigh, stretching from just below the knee up into the buttocks. It’s the muscle that lifts the lower leg and bends the knee after the quads have lifted your knees.
For this stretch, lay on your back, lift and straighten one leg directly above hips. Holding the calf or thigh, press the heel towards the ceiling as you pull leg back towards the chest. Switch legs.
Alternatively, you can do this stretch sitting on the ground. Just extend your left leg, move your right foot toward your inner thigh and lean forward, bending but not rounding your back and waist toward the left foot as if reaching for your toes.
3. Calf stretch
Your calf muscles are located on the back of your lower legs. These muscles are responsible for propelling your legs across your grounded foot while running.
To stretch your calf muscles, lean against a wall or other stationary object with your right foot behind your left. Start to bend your left leg forward while keeping your right leg straight. Be sure not to bend the right knee and to keep your heel firmly positioned on the floor. Start with your back straight and gradually lunge forward until you feel the stretch in your calf. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Piriformis stretch
The piriformis is one of six muscles in the gluteal muscles. It’s engaged with every step you take on the run and it’s responsible for lateral rotation of the hip.
To stretch the piriformis, lie on your back and cross your legs just as you might while sitting in a chair. Grasp the “under” leg with both hands pull it up towards your chest until you feel the stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold for five seconds and then repeat on the other side.
5. Lower back stretch
This is the stretch that most runners forget. But the truth is that running on hard surfaces like sidewalks can lead to lower back pain and irritation.
To stretch your lower back, start by lying on your back with both feet flat. Pull your right knee to your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for up to 15 seconds and repeat with the left leg. End the stretch by pulling both knees to your chest and holding this position for up to 15 seconds.
Which stretching routine works best for you? Let us know in the comments below!