Long runs push your muscles to the max. Ease muscle tightness that comes with the miles by doing this post run stretching routine.
According to experts, the key is not just stretching in general, but stretching the right areas. Jillian McLaughlin-Wirtz, a certified yoga instructor, says, “yoga promotes flexibility, mobility, strength, and breath awareness. All of these things will benefit a long-distance runner.” She continues, “when we run, our body repeats the same motion over and over again, yoga allows us to mindfully release all those muscles that tighten up during a long run.”
Your Go-To Post Run Stretches
Here are six of the best yoga stretches to eliminate the back, quad, neck, and shoulder tension that is often a side-effect on a long run. Hold each for 30 seconds to 1 minute for maximum benefits.
Seated Side Angle Pose
Sit on the floor with your legs out straight and wide, about 3-4 feet apart. Curl your spine forward, dropping your chin toward your chest. Walk your hands to your right side, and then walk your hands to your left side. McLaughlin-Wirtz explains that this move “creates a deep stretch in many of the lower body muscles used during running, specifically the hamstrings, groin, and hips.” Your legs will thank you after this a minute in this pose.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand with your feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward from your hips, and place your hands on your shins or even the floor. You’ll feel a productive stretch in the hamstrings and calves. This is a great stretch after a hill run workout. McLaughlin-Wirtz recommends “beginning this pose with your knees deeply bent and focusing on really allowing your head to hang heavy from the base of your neck.” A mere 10 seconds into this stretch and your whole body will feel better.
This pose stretches the hips and hamstrings. Begin on your hands and knees. Bring one leg forward in front of your body, and place it so the outside of your knee and ankle is resting on the floor. Slowly extend the other leg out behind you with your kneecap facing the floor. “If I had to pick one yoga pose that offers my long-distance running students the most release, it would be Pigeon Pose,” says McLaughlin-Wirtz. She also says that this stretch really targets the piriformis, a key hip muscle used in running. For an extra stretch, walk your hands forward and drop your chest to the floor into Sleeping Pigeon Pose.
Scorpion Downward Facing Dog Pose (Scorpion Dog)
This is not your typical post-run stretch, but it’s definitely one worth trying. Begin on your hands and knees. Next, lift both knees up off the floor, extending both arms and lifting your hips high to the ceiling. Tuck your chin in and push your heels to the floor. This is known as Downward Facing Dog Pose.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Lift one leg up to the ceiling, and then bend that knee to face outward with your foot facing inward toward your glutes. This pose stretches your low back, hamstrings, and front hip muscles known as the hip flexors. McLaughlin-Wirtz recommends “drawing circles” with your raised knee to add range of motion. Inhale and exhale into this one for full body relaxation.
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Crescent Lunge Pose
Stand with one foot about 3 feet in front of the other. Bend the back knee and lower it about 6 inches. “The back leg in Crescent Lunge will feel a huge stretch in the hip flexors, which is super beneficial to runners looking to increase flexibility and stability in this part of the body,” explains McLaughlin-Wirtz. This pose is a great one to try regularly after a hard spring workout.
Standing Mini Backbend
Begin standing tall. Next, reach both arms straight up overhead, and then bend your arms and lower your elbows out to the side of your body, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lift your chest and enjoy. McLaughlin-Wirtz recommends this for distance runners because “it’s common to start rounding the shoulders forward or slouch at the end of a long run.” You’ll likely see improvements in your running posture once you start logging this stretch.