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8 Stretching Exercises After Running

Free Girl Stretching photo and picture

Imagine this scenario: after completing a demanding run for the week, you return home and properly replenish your fluids, take a shower, eat, and most likely flop down on the couch, prepared to indulge in some deserved relaxation for the remainder of the day. However, deep down, you are aware of the necessity to engage in additional stretches in order to properly cool down.

After a while, you find yourself getting into bed with aching muscles and tight legs, realizing that you never prioritized stretching. Although it may not appear significant, these omitted stretching sessions accumulate. Incorporating cool down exercises such as dynamic and static stretching is crucial for nearly all workouts, particularly running.

Why is stretching important for runners

When you engage in rigorous physical activity, your muscles may experience temporary contraction, which can result in reduced performance and higher chances of injury. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize stretching as it enhances blood circulation and returns your muscles back to their original length, enabling faster recovery before your subsequent run.

If you don’t practice stretching and mobility exercises, your muscles will become overly tight, your joints won’t move optimally, and this will result in compromised running movements.

When and how should you stretch after running

Static stretching after a run is most effective when performed while your muscles are still warm. Consider your muscles as a rubber band – the ideal moment to stretch it is when it is warm and more flexible. Otherwise, there is a possibility of breaking or harming the rubber band.

To see some benefit, the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (IJSTPT) suggests focusing on holding a stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds. If you are extremely tight, the stretch can be held for 60 seconds or more. The targeted muscle should be felt during the stretch, but it should not cause any pain.

To avoid pulling a muscle, it is important to perform static stretching without any bouncing or jerking motions. Instead, gradually move into the stretch while keeping your breathing in mind. Additionally, exhaling can help release any muscle tension and allow for a deeper stretch.

Dynamic stretches, demonstrated in the video above, can be performed prior to or following your run. These activities assist in awakening crucial running muscles while preparing your body to transition from sitting in a desk chair to running on the pavement. To be more precise, they generate warmth and enhance blood circulation in your muscles, resulting in increased involvement, flexibility, and preparedness for running.

Stretching is important after running.

1. Stretching deeply with a lunge.

The deep lunge stretch is considered one of the most effective cool down stretches for after a run. It serves to both awaken and stretch tight hip flexors. This stretch is particularly beneficial in loosening tight hip flexors, especially for those who spend all day sitting at a desk.

  • Lunge forward with your right leg.
  • Keep your knee bent at a 90 degree angle and your weight in your heel. 
  • Your left knee should be bent under your hip. Make sure your toes are pointing forward.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side

The Quad Stretch is performed while standing.

If you have tight quads, this is a highly effective cool down exercise to do after running. Running can be tough on your quads as they play a vital role in propelling your legs forward, along with your legs and glutes.

If you do a lot of hill running workouts, you may get sore quad muscles quite a lot.

  • Stand tall with your core engaged. 
  • Gently pick up your right foot and hold it behind you, pulling your foot close to your bum to feel a deeper quad stretch.
  • Focus on standing straight, not leaning forward or back.
  • Keep your core engaged so you also get a stretch across your hip flexors.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side.

3. Stretch the adductor muscles while standing.

Adductor stretches focus on the muscles located on the inner part of the thigh, which encompass the groin area. If the adductors are tight, they have the potential to result in strains, particularly during activities that involve rapid movements such as sprinting or hill training.

  • Start standing with your feet approximately 3 feet apart.
  • Shift your weight to the one side and allow your knee to bend.
  • Keep the opposite knee straight to feel a stretch on the inside of your thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side.

4. Engaging in a stretching exercise to target the muscles of the TFL while standing.

If you have experienced IT band problems, also known as IT band syndrome, you might want to examine your TFL more closely. A taut and excessively active TFL can result in heightened tension on the IT band, causing a sensation of tightness. Additionally, it can lead to inflammation of the tissue located between the IT band and the outer part of the knee joint.

The tightness of the TFL can restrict hip mobility and cause excessive anterior pelvic tilt, both resulting in hip and lower back discomfort.

  • Stand with your feet together then cross your left leg over your right leg.
  • Bring the left foot over and back across until the big toe is even with the big toe of the right foot. 
  • Reach your arms up overhead for a nice, big stretch. 
  • Push your hips out to the right as you reach upward so you feel a stretch down the outside of that right hip and side.
  • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the opposite side.

The act of swinging the legs in a dynamic manner.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Balance on your left leg, holding onto the wall if you need extra support. Engage your core muscles to maintain stability and good posture throughout the exercise.
  • Swing your leg forward in a controlled manner, keeping it straight or slightly bent at the knee. Allow your leg to swing to a comfortable range of motion.
  • Swing your leg back to the starting position.
  • Be sure to hinge from the hips and not the low back.
  • Switch legs and repeat. Do 10 to 20 reps per side.

The action of moving one’s hips in circular motions.

  • Stay standing with your left foot planted onto the ground, and slowly move your right foot backwards and downwards into a split lunge position.
  • Plant your hands on the ground with your right foot extended all the way backwards and your left leg forward with your heel level with your shoulders.
  • Rotate your hips in a circular motion.
  • You should feel a deep stretch within your hamstring and your glutes.
  • Do 10 reps in each direction, then switch legs.
  • Feel free to customize this stretch to suit your needs. If you want to do larger circles, do that. If smaller circles feel better, stay small. It’s all about what feels good for your body.

7. The downward dog pose allows for stretching in a downward direction.

  • Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
  • Lift your hips up and back, straightening your arms and legs to come into downward dog position. Your body should form an inverted V shape.
  • Bend your right knee slightly while pushing your left heel down into the floor. You should feel the stretch in your left calf and then do the same thing on the opposite leg.
  • Pedal your feet back and forth for 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe.

8. Stretching the quadriceps

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend your right leg behind you and take hold of your right ankle, pulling your foot towards your glutes.
  • Make sure your right knee is pointing straight downwards towards the ground and your left leg is straight.
  • Make sure you stay standing straight without bending your back. This will help you stretch all parts of your quadricep.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then release your right ankle and slowly lower your leg back down to the ground.
  • Repeat with your other leg.

The benefits of a cool down

Enables your heart rate to return to normal.

Forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as running, are acknowledged. Cardiovascular exercise, also known as aerobic exercise, significantly elevates your heart rate, particularly when engaging in faster activities such as interval training or tempo running.

By gradually cooling down and easing out of a run, your heart rate will have the chance to return to its pre-exercise level, and your blood pressure will also lower slowly, thus preventing the onset of lightheadedness or dizziness that often follows a run.

Taking each step into consideration, the text can be rephrased as follows: Causes a reduction in the pace of your breathing.

By allowing your breath to slow down and return to the same rhythm before exercise, cooling down ensures that when your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes deeper as well.

Encourages a sense of calm and ease

The cool down presents a wonderful chance to contemplate your run and acknowledge it as a significant accomplishment. Conducting a cool down assists in facilitating relaxation, enhancing self-assurance, and fostering a general feeling of wellness.

By reducing the risk of muscle fatigue, soreness, and stiffness, it helps mitigate these symptoms.

prevent muscle soreness, stiffness, and fatigue by assisting in the healing of micro tears in the muscles. The cool down period aids in reducing the likelihood of experiencing post-exercise muscle soreness by helping the muscles recover and heal. This guide includes various stretches and exercises that can be performed after a run to promote muscle healing and prevent discomfort.

The text can be rephrased as follows, step by step: 1. Take measures to avoid getting injured.

By taking the necessary steps, a cool down can greatly help in preventing typical running injuries like muscle tears and strains. It is important to stretch your muscles while they are still warm after a run, as they have exerted themselves significantly. Failing to engage in cool down stretches increases the likelihood of a prolonged and more painful recovery, thereby diminishing the advantages gained from your run.

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