Running is a great exercise that's not just for cardio - it’s a full body workout that can leave us feeling sweaty, accomplished, sore. In order to combat soreness and stiffness, be sure to try these stretches after a run.
Quad Stretch: The “quads”, or quadricep muscles, are made up of four long muscles on the fronts of our thighs. These muscles are responsible for being able to contract and extend the knee. They also aid in hip flexion and extension. A basic quadricep stretch to perform is literally called “Quad Stretch”:
1. Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Have a chair next to you for added balance if you need.
2. Bend your right knee so that your heel moves closer to your glutes.
3. With your right hand, grab your right foot and hold, or gently pull if you can do so to get a stretch in the quads, without knocking your hips out of alignment or falling out of balance. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat twice on each side.
Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch (pictured above): This exercise is great to do both before and after your stretch. It really helps not just to stretch the muscles out, but to work on range of motion - this will assist with getting you longer strides in your run and helping with every day activities like climbing stairs and walking.
1. Grab a bench, an ottoman, set up near a couch, chair, etc. Whatever you have.
2. Place your left foot, flexed, onto your "bench" with the knee on the ground and right leg bent at 90 degrees with foot flat on the floor.
3. Keeping your spine in a neutral position (no tucking or arching), raise your left arm and reach over your head to the right, stretching the hip and quad at the same time. Don't forget to breathe! Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring Stretch: The hamstrings act as the counterpart to the quadriceps. They are made up of three muscles and are located on the backs of our thighs and connect your thigh to your knee. They are responsible for the extension of our knee joint, among other functions. There are many hamstring stretches, but the Supine Hamstring Stretch is one of our favorites:
1. Lay flat on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Grab a resistance band or loop a towel around your foot.
2. Gently stretch the leg straight up, keeping both knees straight and your pelvis on the floor.
3. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on each side twice.
A bonus hamstring stretch is the Forward Fold:
1. Start in standing position with your feet slightly separated.
2. Engaging the abdominals, hinge at the hips and keep your weight in your heels.
3. Draw your fingers down your legs as far as you can, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. If you can lower your hands to the floor, that is great! - but just go as far as you can. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat twice.
Gluteous Stretch: The Gluteal muscles are responsible for extension and external rotation of the thigh at the hip joint. Yes, this is your butt! The gluteus muscles are made up of the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, and the Gluteus Minimus. The Maximus is not just the largest of the glute muscles, but the largest muscle in the human body! The Figure 4 Stretch is a great exercise to target these muscles:
1. Sit in a chair and place your right foot on your left thigh, just above the knee.
2. Keeping your posture aligned, lean forward to begin stretching.
3. Hold for about 30-45 seconds, and repeat twice through on each side.
This exercise can also be performed laying on your back on the ground. A good tip if you try it supine is to make sure your pelvis stays on the ground. This can cause more of a stretch in the lower back than in the glutes.