Runners, Please Don't Skip This After Your Next Run!
You just finished an awesome run, but before you strip down and enjoy a much-deserved shower, stretch out your tired muscles. It will not only feel amazing, but will also keep your muscles supple and can help prevent injury. Here are eight essential stretches to do after a run to target your lower back, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Targets: hamstrings, chest, and shoulders
Ease into this stretching routine with a gentle forward bend. Stand with your feet about three to four feet apart. Interlace your hands behind you, and fold forward. Hold here for 30 seconds. Keep legs straight to feel this stretch in your hamstrings.
Targets: inner thighs
The inner thighs can become incredibly sore, especially on longer runs, so do this stretch to target that area. Stand with your feet wide enough so you can place your hands on the floor in front of you. If you can't reach, rest your hands on a bench or step. Inch your feet as far away from each other as you can without feeling any pain, and while keeping the soles of your feet pressed firmly into the floor. Keep your hands resting on the ground for support, or if you get down far enough, rest your shoulders on the floor and reach your hands through your legs. Relax here for 30 seconds.
Targets: hips and lower back
Sit on the ground, bend your knees, and bring the soles of your feet together. Fold forward to increase the intensity, and hold for 30 seconds.
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Targets: quads and hip flexors
Since your thighs are working so hard during your run, they deserve some special attention. Come into a low lunge with the left knee forward. Bend your back leg and hold the top of your foot with your right hand. After holding for 30 seconds, gently release and repeat with the right knee forward.
Targets: hip flexors
Stretch your hip flexors and outer hips with this runner's lunge variation. Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward. Lower your left knee to the floor and rest your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Slowly lower your right knee to the right so you're resting on the outside of your right flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to increase the stretch. Hold like this for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the left side. You can also twist to the side as shown in the photo.
Head to Knee
Targets: hamstrings and hips
A common runner's stretch, this is a great way to work one hamstring at a time. Sit with the right knee bent and the left leg straight. Press the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh. Remain seated, or if you're more flexible, fold over your left leg, coming into Head to Knee, also called Hurdler. Try to keep both shoulders parallel with the ground. Hold for at least 30 seconds, and then do this stretch with the right leg straight.
Targets: abs, chest, shoulders, and quads
Stand on your shins with knees underneath your hips. Reach your hands back to rest on your heels. Allow the head to relax back, opening the throat, holding here for 30 seconds. If this is too difficult, rest your hands on your hips.
Targets: lower back and hips
End with this relaxing pose. Lie on your back, bend both knees, and hold onto the outside edges of your feet. Keeping your lower back on the ground, gently use your arms to press your knees toward the ground below your shoulders. Hold here for at least 30 seconds, but feel free to spend a little extra time, since many runners complain of lower back pain.