Running is a great workout. However, while running is full body movement, it is a repetitive movement that tends to utilize certain muscle groups more than others. Common imbalances that may develop in the legs include: tight IT bands; tight and weak posterior leg muscles such as the hamstrings or calves; weak glutes and hips; and tight hip flexors.
Post running stretches, releases and mobilizations are great ways to loosen and release muscles that can get overworked. Adding this work to a post exercise regimen can be also be useful in resetting the muscles and getting blood flow back to aid in recovery.
Here are 7 easy post run stretches that a must add to your training routine! For the stretches with holds, try to maintain the position for about 5- 6 breaths or about 30 seconds. For the moving releases, try to move gently and with ease, not forcing and gripping during the movements.
Supine Windshield Wipers
Lying on the back with knees bent and feet wider than the hips, allow the knees to drop towards the floor to one side. Rotate the legs up and over to the other side. Focus on allowing the knees to move back and forth, gently and with ease, without forcing them to any specific range of motion.
Supine Knee Stirs
Lying on your back, pull the knees in towards the chest, with one hand on each knee. Stir the knees in opposite directions, making circles. Repeat the circles gently, release the femur bones deep down into the sockets. Repeat to the other direction.
Supine Figure 4 with Rotation
Cross one foot over the opposite knee, creating a “4” shape. Thread the hands through the legs, to grab a hold of the back of the leg. Use the hands to bring the legs towards the chest while keeping the pelvis and head on the floor. For an added release, add rotation to the stretch, by rotating the pelvis and bringing the foot to the floor.
Side Lying Hip
Lying on your back, pull both knees into the chest. Place the arms out at your sides in a “T” position with palms facing upward. Allow the knees to drop over to the floor on one side. The top leg can extend for a deeper stretch. Hold the position while trying to reach the top hip away from the shoulders. A bolster or pillow can be used under the bottom leg to decrease range of motion. Repeat to the other side.
Wide Legged Forward Bend
Begin with legs in a wide “V” shape, with feet in a parallel position. Place the hands on the hips or at a “T” out to the sides. With the abdominals active, bend forward at the hips, bringing the torso towards the legs. Allow your head to hang freely. Soften the knees to release the hamstrings and any tension felt in the lower back.
To stretch the gastrocnemius, stand facing the wall with hands shoulder height in front, bend the front knee and keep the back leg straight, getting into a lunge position. The back heel should be connected to the floor. Make sure to also stretch the Soleus, the smaller calf muscle beneath the gastroc, by stepping in the back foot. For this variation, keep the back heel grounded, but the slightly bend the back knee, while continuing to bend the front knee. Make sure to switch legs!!
Begin on hands and knees. Bend one knee and place it directly behind the same side elbow, forming and L shape on the floor. Extend the opposite leg behind in a parallel position. Lift the chest, extending the upper spine, and then walk the hands forward until the upper body is folded over the bent leg. The forehead can rest on the floor or propped as needed. Repeat on the other side.