Stretching. A lot like flossing, this is an activity we all know we should do, but just can’t seem to find the time for. Also like flossing, stretching really does have actual benefits to your health, and (unlike flossing) can speed recovery, reduce the chance of injury, and make you a better runner.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend hours stretching in order to start reaping the benefits. The following routine will take you about 7 minutes, and is best done following your run. Don’t have 7 minutes? Something is better than nothing, but here’s what you don’t want to do: do not force the stretches in order to complete the routine more quickly.
Each of these poses should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. This is because it takes your muscles about that much time to adapt to a stretch and begin to relax and lengthen. Forcing a stretch too quickly will only cause your muscles to further tighten.
Keys to Proper Stretching
- Breathe deeply in and out through the nose as you stretch.
- With each exhalation, think of lengthening your muscles just a bit further by relaxing into the pose.
- Remember that you are stretching in order to improve your running, not to become a ballerina, so be gentle on yourself and think of stretching as a long term process. You will benefit from stretching after each run, but significant changes in flexibility will take time, so don’t force it!
- Static stretching is best done when your body is already warmed up. These stretches do not have to be done post-run, but they should not be done first thing in the morning when you’ve just rolled out of bed.
- Forward Fold
Muscles stretched: hamstrings, calves, glutes, piriformis, spinal extensors
- Stand with your feet pointing straight forward, either together or shoulder-width apart
- With your hands at your waist, slowly lower your upper body while keeping a flat back
- Release your arms and hold on to your elbows
- Relax your upper body as you feel your spine lengthen
- Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to allow your spine to fully release
- Pyramid Bend
Muscles stretched: calves, hamstrings
- Begin with your right foot stepped out in front of you and your left leg behind
- Interlace your hands behind your back
- Keeping your back flat, slowly lower your upper body down toward your right leg
- You should begin to feel a stretch in your calf and hamstring
- Once you hold this position for 30 seconds, switch legs so that your left leg is in front
- Modified Dancer Pose
Muscles stretched: quads, hip flexors
- Balance your weight evenly on your right leg
- Bring your left leg behind you and clasp your left ankle with your left hand
- Pull your ankle up and back, feeling a stretch in your left quad
- Gently lean forward and reach your right arm out in front of you
- If it’s too difficult to balance, you may do this stretch in front of a wall and gently place your right hand on the wall to steady yourself
- Once you hold this position for 30 seconds, switch legs so that you are standing on your left leg
- Runner’s Lunge
Muscles stretched: hip flexors, groin
- Extend your right leg out in front of you in a lunge, and bring your hands down to the floor on either side of your foot
- Your right knee should be directly above your right ankle
- Your left leg should be fully extended behind you
- Deepen the stretch by lowering your hips closer to the floor and pushing back through your left ankle
- Your may start with just your fingertips on the floor and progress toward having your hands flat as you loosen up
- Once your hold the position for 30 seconds, switch legs so that your left leg is in front
- Side lunge
Muscles stretched: adductors
- Stand with your legs spread out wide, then bend your right knee to come down toward the floor
- Bring your hands down on either side of your right foot
- Keep your left leg fully extended to feel a stretch in your left adductor
- Once your hold the position for 30 seconds, switch legs so that your left knee is bent
- Dead Pigeon
Muscles stretched: piriformis, glutes, outer hip
- Begin by laying on your back with both legs bent
- Bring your right ankle to rest in front of your left knee
- Thread your hand through the triangle between your knees so that you can clasp your hands behind your left knee
- Gently pull your left leg toward you, feeling a stretch in your outer hip
- Once your have held this position for 30 seconds, switch legs so that your left ankle is resting in front of your right knee
- Spinal Twist
Muscles stretched: Glutes, back muscles
- Lay completely flat on your back
- Extend your left arm out and look to the left
- Keeping both shoulders flat on the floor, bend your left knee and twist to the right
- Once you have held this position for 30 seconds, switch sides to that you are looking to the right and twisting to the left
Looking to further improve your recovery efforts? Check out our selection of foam rollers and self-massage products here.
Tracie is a former teacher and a lifelong learner who loves exploring. Most at home in the mountains, she enjoys tearing up and down the trails on her mountain bike, and occasionally leaves the wheels at home for a run through the trees. Having recently earned her personal trainer certification, Tracie thrives on helping others reach their athletic goals.