If you’re anything like so many other busy folks, you may not be taking the time to properly cool down with post-run stretches. More likely, as soon as you hit your goal time or mileage, you jump into your car and head home or spend the rest of your day sitting at work.
Resist that temptation. Give your body some TLC at the end of your workout with these post-run stretches for runners. These stretches help:
Below, we’ll walk you through the 9 best post-run stretches for runners and how to do them.
During any run, your body puts out a lot of effort. Your heart rate increases, you sweat and breathe more heavily, and your arms, legs, and feet repeat thousands of repetitions of the same back and forth movement.
It’s a lot to ask of your body. Even though it might not seem like a big deal to skip your post-run stretches and mobility, it’s definitely an instance of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.
The important thing to realize is that leaving your muscles and joints to get stiff and immobile after a run is a sure way to increase your chances of incurring a running injury. After-run stretches might seem like a minor detail, but they can make a big impact.
The stiff soles of your feet after a trail run aren’t just vaguely uncomfortable. They can also prevent your ankle from achieving its full range of motion, which can affect your running form.
Immobile ankles could mean you shift your weight into the front of your foot, putting more strain on your calf muscles, so your calves will probably start to ache during every run. With aching calves, your hamstrings might step up to take more of the load. And so on up the chain, with a domino effect of compensations, cramps, and aches.
Using the following movements, avoid ending up like the Tin Man—creaky, stiff, and uncomfortable—and keep your running game in its prime.
Start your cool down and stretching routine by walking the final 5-10 minutes of your route, whether on the road, trail, or treadmill. Take a second to untie your shoes — it’ll give your feet a chance to breathe, and it will take away the temptation to start running again or skip this part of the cooldown altogether.
Whenever possible, do your after-run stretches with your shoes untied or off.
Plus, it feels good! Your feet tend to swell a bit when running from the impact and increased blood flow, so loosening your shoes to give them more room is a nice relief.
Once your walking cooldown is complete, you’ll bring some of that dynamic movement we mentioned to your hips and hamstrings. If either area gets too tight or stiff, chances are not only will you feel some soreness the next day, but you may also experience lower back pain. Tight hip flexors can put tension on your pelvis, tipping it out of a neutral position. To read about the implications of hip posture on your running form, dive into this article, “Hip Posture: The #1 Way To Achieve Proper Run Form.”
For a hip flexor stretch, our go-to movement is hip circles. With this movement, you’ll get a nice, deep stretch in the front of the hip which may feel tight and stiff from the repetitive movement pattern of running.
Once you’ve opened up those hips, your hamstrings are primed for their turn.
Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
Use this opportunity to create a deeper range of ankle flexion than you typically get while running. Preserving range of motion and mobility in the ankles and calf muscles can go a long way to avoiding common running injuries such as Achilles heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Both of those injuries can occur when the muscles and ligaments throughout the calf, ankle, and foot become tight and restrict motion. You’ll work on your ankles and calves here, and get to your feet in the next section.
Repeat this motion for about 20 repetitions, then switch sides.
These are some of our favorite after-running stretches, and you’ll probably be joining the bandwagon after you give them a try.
Don’t forget to add feet work to your post-running stretches.
At the end of the movement chain, your feet do a lot of work. They absorb a ton of impact on each running step, help propel you into your next stride, and keep you balanced across the terrain.
By taking a moment to stretch them at the end of your run, you’ll be able to undo some of that damage and build more flexibility and dexterity in your feet and toes. Plus, as with all these stretches, it just feels good!
With these simple moves, you’ll be so much better prepared to carry on with the rest of your day, your next run, and your injury-free training routine.
If your upper body is feeling like it needs an equal opportunity to cool down and mobilize, follow along with Coach Nate in this upper body stretching and mobility video:
In this section, we discuss which are the best stretches for runners and one of the most IMPORTANT beginner running tips on how to stretch after running for building longevity as a healthy runner. Don’t forget to include them in your running program to get the best results from your running workouts.
Like any other physical activity, running requires strength. Strength requires muscle. And, muscle requires regular maintenance.
You don’t expect any other machine (your car, refrigerator, blow dryer) to operate day in and day out for you without your taking care of it.
The same goes for your body…and more specifically, your running body. You’ve GOT to be stretching, every SINGLE day. Let me repeat that.
EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Lucky for you, the research has already been done. So let’s break “stretching” down for you!
By now, you’ve probably realized how different your body feels before and after you run.
Pre-run: Achy quads, hip flexors, and calf muscles, cold, stiff lower back, your breathing is shallow
Post-run: Warm, sweaty, more mobile, you’re able to take longer, deeper breaths
Knowing this, one of our running tips for beginners is that stretching incorrectly can get you injured, quick! Doing harsh, static (still) stretching exercises before you’re warmed up is like yanking on a rotten rubber band. It’s not going to be pretty.
Understanding these differences from the get-go will benefit you greatly, and most importantly help you in preventing running injuries!
Ok, so you just finished your run. Maybe you walked some, but you definitely ran.
You’re sweaty, out of breath, and probably ready to stop moving. Try this out:
Complete 5-10 breaths of BOTH stretches on EACH leg.
Another post-run favorite. Try this:
Here’s a bonus:
Repeat everything on the other side!
The last of our beginner running tips for unwinding after your run. Here’s how it works:
We know how many beginners running tips are out there, overwhelming you from every angle–on the internet, from your seasoned runner friends, in books, magazines, apps…the list goes on.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that your body can’t work for you if you don’t work for it! You’ve got 24 hours in your day. A stretching routine can take you less than 10 minutes a day. Trust us, these running stretches for beginners are worth it!
The best stretching routine will involve loosening up and relaxing the entire body. Many runners make the mistake of only focusing on their lower body, but muscle tension in the neck and shoulders can be equally detrimental to your running health.
Downward dog is hands-down (get it?) the best stretching exercise for beginners. It’s easy to do, works a broad range of muscles, and feels downright wonderful. Plus, you can do it anywhere without a mat or any equipment.
Take it slow. Make sure you do a short 5-minute cooldown first, and then start from your toes and work your way up to your neck.
Keep it light, and only stretch before a run after you’ve warmed up a bit. It’s best to jog for 10 minutes or a mile before doing any pre-run stretches to avoid pulling anything that’s still tight.
The best pre-run stretches are more dynamic, such as lunges, leg kicks, and the like. Static stretches are best saved for after the run.
Often, athletes begin doing post-run stretches for runners after they’ve suffered an injury. Get ahead of the game.
Do a full-body stretch routine to prevent injuries in other places. While you might have tight calves today, your shoulders could begin feeling it tomorrow.
Don’t wait for a nagging injury to develop. Give yourself TLC today with post-run stretches to keep the doctor away.
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