Stretches for Runners: Cooling Down
Stretches for runners are a great way to gain a little more flexibility and get your muscles ready for the day’s training session or run ahead.
But did you know that it’s just as beneficial to stretch after a run, as well as before?
In fact, most doctors would recommend only light stretching before a run, with a much more in-depth stretching routine coming once you’ve crossed the finish line.
At The Running Bee Foundation, many of the people that participate in our running events are often seen stretching during their cool-down after a hard race, so you know it must be effective!
If you’re looking to create your own routine for your post-race cool down, here are a few suggestions of stretches for runners that might help you on your way:
Hamstring tightness is a notoriously common problem for runners.
If you feel a pain or burning sensation at the top of your hamstring that doesn’t seem to go away, you could be on the way to a strain. Don’t worry, though – more serious hamstring issues are mostly reserved for sprinters.
If you’re worried you are developing this symptom, a good hamstring stretch might help avoid further injury – this is one of the most popular stretches for runners.
Lying on your back, with one knee bent and the foot of the bent leg flat on the ground, grab your opposing leg with both hands just above the ankle and slowly begin to stretch that leg above you, until it’s as straight as possible.
Ideally, you should end up with your foot directly above your face as you are lay down. But even the most flexible of us might struggle with this.
As long as you can feel your hamstring begin to stretch and tighten, you’re doing a good job.
Hold this pose for twenty to thirty seconds, then repeat with the opposite leg. Hopefully this should help avoid any hamstring strain.
But if you do suffer hamstring strain on any level, try your best not to continue running on it. This could cause some more serious damage and take you out of action for a while!
The quadriceps are one of the most powerful and essential muscles in the body, and work exceptionally hard when you’re training for a run (or on an actual run).
So it’s important you do your utmost to look after them.
However, because they are in-use so much during a run, much like the hamstrings, they are prone to strains. But a torn or a blown quad (where the muscle completely detaches from its fixation in the knee) can make it difficult or impossible to walk, let alone run.
These kinds of injuries can take months to heal properly and are only treatable by a medical professional and may require surgery.
Stretching these muscles after a run can help them maintain their strength and flexibility and keep you training at your absolute best.
To do this, simply stand on one leg and pull your opposing leg behind you, until your foot is virtually touching your back. Hold this for up to 30 seconds, then repeat with the opposite leg.
Look like you’re missing a leg from the front? You’re doing it right!
Everybody knows about this one – it’s the one you always see in the posters or ads for exercise classes!
Lunges are relatively easy to perform but have a wide range of muscle benefits.
It’s particularly good for your hip muscles, but can also assist with loosening up your quads, hamstrings and lower abs.
Simply step one leg forward into a lunge position (Your front let should resemble a ninety degree angle) and stretch your opposing leg straight back behind you, with your heel off the ground on your toes (If you want to keep your full back foot on the ground this will also begin to work your back leg calf and hamstring more).
Then, keeping your back as square as possible, lean into your lead leg and push your hips forward.
Hold onto this position in 30 second spurts before switching legs.
This stretch will be particularly helpful in keeping your upper legs and hips feeling fluid and free to move.
Before you ask, no – this is nothing to do with computers!
The iliotibial band, or IT band, is a tendon that stretches from your knee to your hip via the side of your leg.
An inflamed IT is a very, very common injury in runners who tend to over-train. So if you feel a sharp pain running down the side of your leg, that’s no accident – your body is telling you to stop!
But, even for such an intricate part of the body, there are stretches you can do to avoid picking up a nasty IT band injury:
Crossing your right leg behind your left leg, and leaning forwards and to the left until you feel the relevant muscle begin to tighten and pull a little, lift your right arm above you and begin to lean it across to your left in a sort of “side-curve” motion.
Holding this for thirty seconds and repeating with the other leg will help your IT remain loose and flexible as you need it to be.
Who said stretches for runners just covered your legs?
Even though the majority of work is done in your lower half, your upper body is very much active during a run and needs just as much care post-race to keep muscles and joints from stiffening up.
One of the muscles that can be affected is the tricep(s).
The large muscle found on the back of the arm, it’s quite easy for these muscles to become worn-out or even pulled thanks to the constant movement of the arms during a run.
To avoid this, a simple triceps stretch will work wonders:
Bring your right arm across your chest and pull the arm into your body using the opposing arm. Hold for thirty seconds and repeat with the other arm to achieve desired results.
But don’t pull to hard! Many people aren’t used to activating their triceps and if they’re on the softer side it is possible to pull them during the stretch.
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