For many people, running is fun, exciting, adventurous, mind-clearing, and even meditative. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s very taxing on the body. That’s why warming up beforehand and stretching after your run are both crucial for recovery. Here are five effective lower-body stretches you can incorporate into your routine.
A Low and High Lunge
Both of these exercises are incredibly effective when it comes to after-run recovery as they tackle big, lower body muscle groups. You will mostly feel the stretch in your hamstrings, but if you add on a few twists, you’ll be able to extend your hip flexors, calves, and even lower back.
Once you enter the low lunge position, use the leverage of your palms on the floor to push yourself off the ground and really find a good spot for your feet. Dig in with your front heel and come high on the ball of your back foot to fully extend your leg and feel the stretch all the way up to your glute.
You can stay here and breathe through the stretch for three to five long inhales and exhales, or take it a step further and push your back heel towards the floor in order to feel a stronger stretch in your calf. Take a deep breath in before you start and a deep breath out as you slowly push the heel down.
From your low lunge, enter high lunge by keeping your base as is, activating your core muscles, and lifting your upper body off the floor and straight up. Bring your arms over your head, shoulder-width distance, and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. Make sure your back leg is straight and strong, with your heel high, pushing through the ball of your foot.
Feel the newly added stretch of your hip flexor and keep pushing your hips down to get deeper. Stay here for three to five long, deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Runners’ legs are constantly activated, from hips to heels, and there’s no better stretch that tackles those sore hips than pigeon pose. Start in a comfortable seat with your legs crossed and place one leg in front of you, shin as perpendicular to your body as you find comfortable.
You might notice your hip mobility doesn’t allow you to lift your shin forward so feel free to leave it diagonal. Send the other leg straight behind you, leaving it resting on the floor. If your front shin is diagonal, try to place your heel under the hip flexor of your extended leg and rest your hip on top.
Shimmy your hips so they’re centered and place your palms next to your body. You can stay here or walk your hands forward and rest them on the floor, coming into a forward fold. Stay here for five to eight long, slow, deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Also known as triangle pose, trikonasana is an amazing post-run recovery stretch as it gets into your hips, hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back, and quadriceps all at the same time. Talk about a one-stop-shop pose!
Start in a standing position and separate your stance double than hip-width distance. Turn your right foot 90 degrees outward and extend your arms like airplane wings. Inhale and move your upper body slightly forward toward your right leg. Pivot down so your right hand grabs your ankle, foot, or hooks the big thumb. Keep your legs straight and strong and look towards your upper hand.
With every inhale feel the stretch in your legs and left hip, complete left side body, and lower back. Try to extend your spine as much as you can and push your feet firmly into the ground. Stay for three to five long inhales and exhales.
On your last exhale look down, bend your front knee and slowly, using your core, lift your upper body up to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Wide-Leg Forward Fold
Some stretches take a while to master, and that’s exactly why staying consistent with them will yield progress. Wide-legged forward fold is definitely one of them, so stay patient with yourself even if you feel like you’re not getting any closer to the floor.
Sit with your legs open wide and make sure your sitting bones are digging into the floor. Take a big inhale and place your hands in front of your seat, palms pushing into the floor. Inhale and straighten out your spine and exhale by walking your palms an inch further forward. Repeat for as long as you feel comfortable. The moment you feel your spine curving stop and take one step back.
Stay here and breathe through your stretch for five long inhales and exhales, trying to grow from your seat with every inhale. Slowly retrace your steps back and grab your legs from under your knees to bend them and close them.
A Seated Twist
Twists are incredible for flushing out toxins from your system, as well as the lactic acid build-up you’ve accumulated during your run. Be careful with them and always make sure to enter and exit each pose correctly in order to avoid pinched nerves or overstraining.
Start in a seat and bend your right knee, leaving the left leg straight in front of you. Bring your right leg over your left and grab your knee with your right hand, pulling it towards your body. Place your left hand behind your seat and push the ground away from you, creating leverage to straighten up your spine. Inhale to prepare and exhale by slowly twisting your upper body backward, looking behind you.
With each inhale try to extend your spine, and with each exhale try twisting a bit deeper. Stay for three to five long breaths and on your last exhale, untwist starting with your lower back and finishing with your head. Repeat on the other side.
Having a proper post-run routine that includes stretching and foam rolling will help you recover much faster and more efficiently, so you’re always ready for your next run.