8 Best Post-Run Stretches

man ad woman running on a bridge

Runners, Please Don't Skip These Stretch Exercises After Your Next Run!

Running is a tough sport. I know this because I have been something of a runner for a long time now. It’s a sport known for its high impact. Long runs can cause pain in your knees and feet, pain that becomes much sharper if you do not stretch on a regular basis.

Running without consistent stretching is little more than begging for an injury. And running injuries can be severe; pulled muscles, torn hamstrings, torn ACLs, stress fractures, etc. etc.

The risk of getting hurt increases the more you run, and the less you stretch. High school and collegiate athletes are at an especially high risk. But much of the risk can be abated simply by performing regular, targeted stretches.

On top of that, stretching makes your muscles feel better, allowing you to run stronger and better. Here is a list of 8 of the most essential post-run stretches.

#1 Wide Legged Forward Bend

Wide Legged Forward Bend stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This stretch targets two seemingly disconnected areas; your hamstrings, and your chest and shoulders. Start with your feet three to four feet apart, with your hands interlaced at the small of your back.

Begin to fold forward, very slowly. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible. If you have to bend your knees slightly, that’s okay, too.

Pay attention to your body; your hamstrings will tell you when enough is enough. Never try to push too hard; that’s when the injuries happen.

As you bend forward, you might find it is helpful to stop every inch and take a breath, allowing your body to relax into the position.

The farther forward you bend, the higher your interlocked hands will rise; you’ll feel it in your chest and shoulders. This is a great opener to a strong routine.

#2 Wide Legged Split

Wide Legged Split stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This stretch targets your inner thighs, which can become incredibly sore after a run. Yes, it is a form of a split, but don’t let that scare you.

The great thing about yoga and stretching is that each position has different levels to it; consistency and regular practice will allow you to progress along these levels, until you can do the ’full’ version of each stretch.

Begin by standing sideways on your mat, with your feet at the edges, wide enough so that you can place your hands flat on the floor.

A more intermediary position involves you placing your hands on a block or step; something that is elevated above the floor, which will ease the tension on your hamstrings.

Lower yourself onto your shoulders, with your chin tilted so that your head can rest comfortably on the floor (a cushion or rolled blanket helps with this).

Walk your hands back until they are loosely resting on the floor beneath you. Relax into the stretch, and feel your inner-thighs and hamstrings loosen.

#3 Butterfly

Butterfly stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

Chances are, you did this stretch as a kid, and it probably involved more than a little knee-flapping. Though it won’t make you fly, it is a powerful hip and back stretch.

Simply sit with the soles of your feet pressed lightly together. Place your hands on your clasped feet, and slowly lower your legs nearer the ground.

It helps to do this slowly; move an inch, then hold and breathe. This will allow your body to fall into the stretch, letting the stretch become deeper.

For added intensity, fold your torso forward over your legs.

#4 Kneeling Quad Stretch

Kneeling Quad Stretch stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This stretch can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the whole concept of stretching. Regardless, it is a great quad and hip stretch, again, with varying levels of difficulty.

Begin by falling into a low lunge. Start by placing your left foot in the center of your hands.

Take a breath, then lift your right leg, and, with your right hand, grasp the top of your right foot and pull it against your buttocks. You’ll feel the stretch in your quad immediately.

Hold this position, making sure to keep your breath even and slow. If you feel comfortable there, slowly allow your left hand to inch forward until you are resting on your forearm, and at the same time, allow your left leg to fall open.

This is one of my favorite hip stretches.

Try to hold each position for in between 30 and 60 seconds, then repeat with the other foot.

#5 Open Lizard

Open Lizard stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This again targets your hip flexors. Fall into a low lunge. Relax the left leg against the floor while your right foot is between your hands.

Move both your hands to the inside of your foot, and allow the knee to fall to the right, letting your weight fall onto the edge of your foot. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.

#6 Head to Knee

Head to Knee stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This stretch is more hamstring-focused. Sit with your left leg outstretched and your right bent, with the sole of your right foot pressed lightly against the inner thigh of your left leg.

Lower your head to your knee, again, slowly.

Reach out your hands and grasp the top of your left foot for leverage. Hold for 30-60 seconds; breathe. Repeat with the other leg.

#7 Camel

camel stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This one targets your quads and your upper body, including your chest and shoulders. It can be tough to get into, so definitely go slow, and definitely be careful.

Kneel on your mat, with your shins against the floor and the tops of your feet tucked beneath you.

Reach your hands back and grasp your heels, relaxing your head and neck.

Alternatively, you can rest your hands on your hips, if your heels are too far. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

#8 Happy Baby

Happy Baby stretch exercise Source: Louisa Larson Photography

This pose just feels amazing. Lie on your back with your knees bent above your chest. Hold the edges of your feet and gently push your legs towards the ground beneath your shoulders.

You can hold this for as long as it feels good. It’s a great lower-back stretch, and a great way to conclude the routine.

Just a few stretches, with a focus on breathing and relaxing into the poses, will make you feel so much stronger, as a runner. Your odds of injury will plummet, and your endurance will soar.

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.