Everyone knows you should do some stretching after a run, just like everyone knows you should eat at least five servings of fruit and veg a day. But knowing something and doing it are very different things. Most people just want to take off their trainers and hit the shower as soon as they finish.
To help you do the right thing after your next run we enlisted Tom Evans, an ultra runner and Red Bull ambassador who’s promoting the Red Bull Race The Moon on Strava, for a simple three-stretch routine you can do in five minutes after every training session. And if you want to spend more time on your stretching once in a while, we also have suggestions from Richard Tidmarsh, strength and conditioning coach and founder of Reach Fitness, and Chris Magee, head of yoga at Another_Space.
Once you’ve added them to your post-run routine and realised how much a little stretching and mobility work can benefit your running, check out some of our other running articles on the topic. We have round-ups of great yoga poses and Pilates stretches for runners, as well as a foam rolling routine you can use to ease any aches and pains in your muscles after a run.
If you then decide short routines like these are no longer enough for you, check out our YouTube round-up of the best post-run stretches and yoga routines for runners. As keen runners ourselves, we’ve tried a lot of YouTube stretching videos and it can be a very hit-and-miss experience, so skip the searching and use our carefully compiled list of great sessions.
Tom Evans’s Post-Run Stretching Routine
“I like to keep things light and very basic with my stretches,” says Evans. “You don’t need to do loads – five minutes on either side of your run is ample. While there should be movement in pre-run stretches, post-run stretches should be static because you are already warm. These three exercises tick off the three main areas of your legs.”
“The first stretch I like is just a very standard calf stretch – pushing through your hands against the wall, one leg forward and bent, stretching the calf in your straight rear leg,” says Evans. “I run up and down a lot of hills, which puts the focus on my calves, so this is a really good stretch for me.”
“For my hamstrings, I do another very simple stretch,” says Evans.
In a split stance, flex your front front so your toes come off the ground. Reach down and grab the foot, feeling the stretch in the hamstring of your front leg. Keep both legs as straight as you can, but bend your knees slightly if needed to feel the stretch.
“Finish with a quad stretch, standing on one leg and holding your other ankle in one hand behind you. Pull your leg back so you can feel the stretch in the front of your quads.”
More Post-Run Stretches
You start this stretch in the runner’s lunge position, which just happens to be another great stretch. From a standing position, put your hands either side of your feet. Then take a big stride back with one foot so the back leg is straight and your front knee is bent at a 90° angle.
“From the runner’s lunge position, drop your back knee to the floor and untuck your toes,” says Magee. “Turn your chest in the direction of your front leg. This may be enough of a stretch for your quad and hip flexor – if so, stop here and breathe. If you need more of a stretch, bring your back foot up and reach your hand back to catch your foot. If you can’t reach your foot, use a belt or strap. Hold the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.”
Seated Forward Fold
Start this stretch by sitting down with your legs straight out in front of you.
“Keeping your and your feet feet flexed, sit upright so your spine is as straight as possible, then fold forwards over your thighs,” says Magee. “Focus on lengthening your lower back while squeezing your quads. Grab your toes and pull your elbows back towards your hips to go deeper into the pose. If you can’t grab your toes, use a belt or strap around the balls of your feet. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds.”
“From a press-up position, bring your right leg up and place it so your knee is by your right wrist and your right foot is by your left wrist, with your shin parallel to your chest,” says Tidmarsh. “From this position sit down into the stretch, initially keeping your chest up and making sure your hips are square with your shoulders. Then slowly drop your chest forwards and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You will feel a deep stretch in your right glute and lower back. Breathe, stretch and enjoy. Then repeat on the other side.”
“This is a great move to open your hips and stretch your quads after a run,” says Tidmarsh. “Sit on the floor with your legs out straight. Then bend your right leg and place the sole of your right foot on your left thigh. Then bend your left leg out to the left. Then place your right elbow on the floor behind you (if you can) and feel the stretch in your right hip and left quad. To increase the stretch, place your elbow further away from you. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.”
“The scorpion is a great way to stretch a long chain of muscles all the way from your quad to your upper back,” says Tidmarsh. “Lie on your front with arms spread to create a T shape. Lift your left leg and move it over your right in a wide arc, aiming to land your left foot as close to your right hand as possible. Do two or three reps to create distance, then hold at your maximum range for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.”
“This is a simple and effective way to stretch your entire posterior chain, lengthening your back and hamstrings,” says Tidmarsh. “Stand on a small step, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Tuck your chin into your chest and slowly “roll” your spine forwards to your full extension, with your arms hanging in front of you. Keeping your chin tucked, take six deep breaths, trying to increase the depth of the stretch on the exhale.”
Training on Demand is a series of video workouts devised by Richard Tidmarsh. For more info visit r4reach.com