Here’s how to stretch after running.

You’ve just finished a run; you know you should stretch but don’t know what stretches to do.

Good news: you’re in the right place! In this blog post, we explain the benefits of stretching for runners and then provide six of the best stretches after running. Start stretching to improve your running, limit your injury risk, and ultimately, take better care of your body.

Stretches after running benefits

After running, perform static stretches to improve your recovery and flexibility and to help tight muscles relax (think: hips, quads, and calves). Static stretching involves holding a stretch in one position, whereas dynamic stretching includes constant movement (e.g., leg swings and hip circles). Dynamic stretching is better suited to warming up, and static stretching is better post-run.

Try to include at least one stretch per muscle group when creating your stretching routine. Also, avoid making a routine that is too lengthy and includes too many exercises; naturally, you’re less likely to stick to it.

If we asked you to stretch for 30 minutes after every run, the chances you’d do it are minimal. Or if you did, the probability of you sticking to it routinely would be slim.

Instead, create a routine that lasts 5-10 minutes. The easier it is to do, the more likely you will stick to it and get results. We’ve created a short stretching routine ideal for after running below.

What stretches should you do after a run?

  1. Standing quad stretch

Tight quads are common in runners and, if left unattended, can cause shin splints or hip pain. There are quite a few options for stretching the quads and relieving quad tightness – but the standing quad stretch is a staple that should be in your routine. It’s easy to do and can be done anywhere.

To perform:

  • Stand up straight with your feet together
  • Grab one foot and push the heel into your glute
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

  1. Lying hamstring stretch

Tight hamstrings are more common the faster you run. However, all runners can encounter fatigued or tight hamstrings. The lying hamstring stretch is easier on the back while providing a deep stretch.

To perform:

  • Lie on your back (lower back flat on the floor)
  • Bend your right knee and keep your hips level
  • Grab your left leg (just above the ankle)
  • Slowly straighten your left leg and pull towards you
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds 
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

  1. Wall calf stretch

Tight calves place excessive strain on the Achilles tendon (which connects the calf muscle to the heel of the foot). Further, runners with tight calves are more likely to get shin splints, calf strains, and other calf-related injuries.

Often, when a runner goes to a physio for an assessment, tight calves are one of the common problem areas. Take care of your calves to avoid a mixed bag of injuries.

To perform:

  • Stand an arm's length from a wall or sturdy object (e.g. a chair)
  • Place your hands on the wall and slowly bend your elbows while keeping your back leg and knee straight
  • Keep your heels flat on the floor and drive your hips close to the wall
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

  1. Downward facing dog 

The first yoga pose in this list, the downward-facing dog, will stretch the hamstrings, calves, and lower back. 

To perform:

  • Begin on all fours (place your hands shoulder-width apart)
  • Push upwards with your glutes as if trying to stand up
  • Straighten your arms 
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

You can get on your tiptoes and push back onto your heels (alternating) for a better calf stretch. 

  1. Pigeon pose

Although originally a yoga pose, the pigeon pose is excellent for stretching the hips, lower back, and the hard-to-get-to piriformis. Add the pigeon pose to your stretching routine to improve hip mobility and flexibility. These are key for optimal performance and a reduced likelihood of injury.

To perform:

  • Starting on all fours, bend the right knee in front of you 90 degrees so it’s parallel to the ground (or as close as you can get it without pain)
  • Push your left leg backwards and lean forward into the stretch
  • Aim to get your head close to the ground 
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

  1. Kneeling quad stretch

To finish, we’ve got a kneeling quad stretch that opens up the hips and hits the psoas muscle (this muscle contributes to major flexion of the hip joint). 

To perform:

  • Start in a lunge position with your right foot forward and left knee touching the ground
  • Grab the left foot and push the heel into your glute
  • Hold for 30 seconds
  • Repeat on both sides 1-2 times

What happens if you don’t stretch after running

Not stretching after running is likely to increase muscle imbalances, decrease flexibility and mobility, and may even delay recovery between runs/workouts.

Spend as little as 5 minutes stretching after your run to improve your recovery, reduce your injury risk, and take care of your body.

Are you looking for an extra way to boost your recovery? Try the Styrkr muscle-cooling sports cream – it reduces inflammation, soothes your muscles, and improves your recovery.