How to Stretch After Running

You've finished your daily run and are ready to hit the shower before raiding the fridge, because like most people you've neglected to learn how to stretch after running. In your mind, the most important thing is to replace all the calories you've just burned, right?  Well, not so fast buddy. Regular stretching after running can do wonders for your muscles, allowing them to properly cool down and loosen up, ultimately leaving you better prepared for you next run. So before you sprint to the shower or dash to the table, remember to perform the following routine of basic stretches.  Your muscles will thank you for it.

Hamstrings The muscles in the back of your upper leg perform much of the work during any form of running. If there is any muscle group to focus on most, this is the one that should receive your direct attention.

  1. Find a flat surface to sit down on, and extend both legs to form a V.
  2. Slowly reach your arms toward one foot and hold this pose for a count of twelve. It is important to gradually lower your reach while refraining from bouncing your weight forward. Sudden movements could cause undue stress on your hamstrings and result in damaged muscles, so it is critical to perform this stretch in a slow, fluid motion.
  3. Repeat this stretch three times with ten second rest in between.

Quadriceps The front muscles in your upper leg balance out the hamstring muscles used to propel you forward. They become intensely noticeable for any person who has run downhill for any period of time. After stretching out your hamstrings, it is also important to loosen up the opposing muscles—your quadriceps.

  1. Find a wall that you can brace yourself against, and stand facing towards it. While holding the wall with your left hand, reach back with your right hand to pull your right foot to your butt. Again, you should slowly pull the muscle until you feel a comfortable stretch.
  2. Hold the pose for a count of twelve and repeat with your left leg. It is important to use the left hand for the left leg and right hand for the right leg rather than crossing over and pulling the opposite foot. Performing a cross stretch can put unnecessary pressure on the knee and could cause damage to the ligaments. Therefore, you should keep the leg in line as much as possible.
  3. Again, repeat this stretch three times on each leg with a ten second rest in between.

Calves The calves are located on the back of your lower leg can also bear a great deal of force throughout your run. This is especially true for runners who find themselves primarily striking the ground with the balls of their feet. This extra pressure can often result in stiff, sore calves. For that reason it is recommended to stretch this muscle group in your post run routine.

  1. Again, find a sturdy wall and stand facing it with your feet about 24 to 36 inches from the base of the wall. Extend your arms forward to brace against the wall, and slowly lean forward while keeping your heels planted to the ground.
  2. Allow your weight to shift towards the wall and feel the pull in your calf. Find a comfortable point of stretch, and hold for twelve seconds. You can perform this with both legs at one time or one leg at a time, whichever you prefer.
  3. You can also adjust the distance you stand from the wall to modify the angle of incline and severity of stretch.  As you did with the previous stretches, perform three sets of twelves seconds for each calf.

Adding a stretching regimen to your post run routine can leave your legs feeling more fresh and less heavy the next time you step out for a run.  Start with these three simple stretches and remember to begin conservatively.  As you gain flexibility, you can increase the duration or number of repetitions to build upon the routine you've begun.  You'll quickly notice that you're increased flexibility will positively affect your overall running form.  

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