Five Post-Workout Stretches Every Runner Needs to Perform

Stretching is an important component of any fitness routine, but this is especially the case if you’re a runner. You might do a few stretches before you go out running, but then you’re really not in the mood to stop and stretch when you arrive home after a 10-mile run. Stretching has many benefits to your wellness, including increased range of motion and improved muscular coordination. Research shows that the more flexible your muscles are, the more quickly they will recover and fuel your next run.


However, if you’re worried about taking time out for extra exercise, Certified Personal Trainer Jen Mueller notes, ‘Your flexibility routine doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just five or 10 minutes is all you need at the end of your workout. While any full-body stretching routine will do, there are some specific stretches that can help improve your running performance and prevent the aches and pains runners commonly experience. Because running, while good for you in many ways, does put stress on your body—especially the lower limbs and joints.’ Mueller warns, ‘The most important thing to remember is to only stretch warm muscles…fitness experts recommend stretching after you workout; this is when your muscles are warmest and your joints are lubricated, and therefore primed to stretch. While it’s OK to stretch after your warm-up (but before your run), doing so might actually interrupt or negate the warm-up process, which is more likely to result in injury or problems.’


So, let’s take a look at the stretches you need to incorporate into your post-running routine:


1. Hamstrings Stretch: According to Mueller, ‘Runners are notorious for tight hamstrings that can cause lower back problems and lead to pulled muscles. Tight hamstrings also limit your range of motion, which can affect running stride, form and speed. To improve hamstring flexibility, try [a] lying hamstring stretch, which keeps the spine neutral whereas basic toe touches (forward bends) do not, thereby reducing risk of low back pain.’


2. Quadriceps Stretch: ‘Stretching the quads forces your hamstrings to contract, helping them get stronger,’ Mueller explains. ‘It’s important to have strong and flexible quads since these muscles help lift your knees and increase your speed.’


3. Piriformis Stretches: Mueller details, ‘Your piriformis muscle is responsible for the rotation of the hip. Although it’s very important in activities that frequently change direction, it tends to tighten up in runners. If the piriformis becomes too tight or spasms, it can irritate the sciatic nerve, which causes pain in the glutes, lower back and thighs. To prevent these issues, try asking your trainer about piriformis stretches.


4. Calf Stretch: ‘Flexible calf muscles can improve your ability to increase the length of your stride, which results in increased speed,’ says Mueller. ‘Loose calf muscles also take some of the burden away from your shins as you bring your trailing leg forward when running, helping prevent shin pain or shin splints. A basic calf stretch is an easy one to incorporate.’


5. Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch: Mueller comments, ‘The illiotibial band is part of a muscle that runs along the outside of the knee and can create pain when it starts to rub on the kneecap. This is typically an overuse injury (trying to do too much too soon or not giving your body adequate time for rest and recovery). Stretches that target the IT band can reduce pain and prevent future knee problems.’


Try incorporating these stretches into your post-running routine after you’ve cooled down, and see what a difference it makes to your flexibility and overall performance.

Comments are closed.