Don’t think you have time after a run? These stretching moves are fast, easy, and get the job done.
A postrun routine of stretching is ideal, but when trying to fit running and stretching into a busy schedule, the latter often gets left out.
Try stretching even if it’s hours after the run. Let’s say you run in the morning and can’t stretch afterward because you have to rush off to work. When you get home, take a warm shower or bath—this increases your circulation and warms up muscle tissues much like a run—and then stretch.
Target the major muscle groups of the lower body for an effective, yet efficient stretching routine. Take each stretch to the point of resistance, not pain, and hold each stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Repeat each stretch three to five times for each leg.
Avoid bouncing and do not force the movement. Stretching should be a time of relaxation, not another workout. With a regular routine, you should begin to notice improvement in your flexibility and joint range of motion within a few weeks.
Try these five basic stretches that target the large muscle groups of the lower body. This complete routine should take you only 15 to 20 minutes.
- Standing Quadriceps Stretch
Stand with your back straight, shoulders back, abdominal muscles tight, and pelvis tucked under you. Hold on to a chair or wall for balance. While standing on your left leg, bend your right knee behind you bring your right heel back, grabbing your foot or ankle. Gently pull your foot toward your tailbone, and avoid arching your back. Repeat with the other leg. You’ll feel the stretch on the anterior aspect (front) of the thigh.
- Hamstring Stretch
Begin this stretch in a seated position on the edge of a chair or while standing in a crouching position (pictured). Extend one leg out in front of you with your knee straight and your heel on the ground. Keeping your knee straight, lean forward with your back straight, toward your straight leg, bringing your chest toward your knee. You’ll feel the stretch on the posterior aspect (back) of the thigh.
- Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your left knee over your right, making a figure 4 with your legs. Grab the leg with the foot still on the floor, and gently pull your thigh toward you. You’ll feel the stretch on the back of your gluteal (butt) muscles.
- Kneeling Psoas Stretch
Kneel on one knee, with the front leg forward and knee at a 90-degree angle. (Place a pillow under your knee for more comfort.) Keep your front foot directly below your knee as you tuck your pelvis under you and slowly lunge forward. Avoid arching your lower back. Raise your arms overhead for an added abdomen stretch. You’ll feel the stretch in your hip flexors, which are located in the anterior upper thigh and hip.
- Bent Leg Calf stretch
Stand with your feet slightly close together, but stagger one foot behind the other. Bend both knees until you feel a comfortable stretch just above the ankle of your back leg, where you’re shifting most of your weight to. Bending the knee allows you to stretch a deeper calf muscle, the soleus.