Stretching: an activity we know is good for us after any form of exercise, but also an activity that we don’t particularly feel passionate about. Over at Qured, our physiotherapists are always looking for fun ways to make stretching seem less like a chore and more enticing, because while we know the full list of benefits and importance of stretching, sometimes there simply isn’t enough time in the day to follow up our run with a Piriformis or Lying Spinal Twist.
Whether dynamic or static, sitting or standing, there are a few key reasons why you should be doing full-body stretches for running. Stretching activates the joint-lubricating synovial fluid, which is important for flexibility, range of motion and injury prevention. It has even been proven that stretches can release tension in your body, correct your posture, increase your stamina and energy levels, therefore leading to an overall improvement in performance. For those fitness enthusiasts out there, you’ll already know about this one – but stretching can also reduce soreness, meaning that your recovery period between runs and workouts can be shortened (and less painful!).
So there it is, a list of important reasons why you should add stretching into your fitness regime. If you’re unsure of how to start a stretch routine or simply don’t have much time on your hands, we’ve put together a list of 7 static stretches for a seamless post-run recovery that make a good starting point. Keep in mind that some of these are pretty basic, but still very effective. Make sure to do each stretch for at least 30 seconds to get the most of them!
1. Calf stretch
Stretching out your calf muscles after a run can prevent injuries such as achilles tendonitis and calf strains. Face a wall for this stretch, and place both hands against it. Take one foot back, and plant the heel into the ground. Next, bend the knee on the opposite leg toward the wall, and you should feel a gentle stretch on the calf of your back leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds at least, and then repeat on the opposite leg.
2. Quad stretch
The quads are a muscle of power, helping to drive you forward and push you up those steep hills. To avoid injuries such as runner’s knee, try this stretch: stand with your feet hip-width apart, and keeping your thighs parallel, left your foot backwards towards your buttocks. Grab your ankle with one hand to feel the stretch, and when complete, repeat on the opposite side. Keep in mind that you can use your other free hand to hold onto a chair or wall for balance.
3. Bent-leg hamstring stretch
The hamstrings are responsible for extending and flexing the knee, so to avoid the risk of hurting your knee or straining the hamstring, always stretch it out. There are quite a few hamstring stretches you could try, but you’re guaranteed to feel the burn with this one: with one foot on a chair or ledge, bend your upper leg and move your chest down onto your thigh. Keeping your chest low, gently try to straighten your bent leg – unless you’re flexible, it should be a challenge!
4. Iliotibial band stretch
Did you know that one of the most common running injuries is iliotibial band syndrome? Luckily, you can prevent this by stretching your iliotibial band (IT band), a muscle that runs down the side of the legs, hips, and core. First, stand to the side of a chair, placing your hand on it. Next, move the leg furthest from the chair backwards, across the opposite foot, and simply lean towards the chair with your upper body. Your upper body should be mimicking the motion of that crossed-over leg, and the stretch should be felt in your abdominal, hip and leg muscles furthest away from the chair.
5. Seated spinal twist
Even if you aren’t a runner, all-day sitting can lead to tightness in your glute muscles, so it’s important to stretch them regularly. Sitting down, extend your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right heel as close to your left sit-bone as you can. Reach your right arm behind you, plant your palm on the floor. Next, place your left hand on your right knee and gently pull it towards you until you feel the stretch in your glutes.
6. Kneeling hip flexor stretch
Many people forget to stretch their hip flexors, which can alleviate hip soreness and muscle imbalances. To stretch your hip flexor, kneel on the ground in a lunge position: your back knee and shin should be on the ground with your knee directly under your hip. Your front leg should be bent with your knee directly on top of your foot. Keep your back straight and lean your body forwards towards the front knee. You should feel this stretch in the front of your back leg around the hip area.
7. Downward-facing dog
This stretch hits more than one muscle group at once, including your upper body which is often neglected when it comes to stretching after runs. On the ground, put your hands and feet on the floor. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your hands at shoulder-width. This pose is all about keeping your legs straight, hips high, while at the same time pushing your heels towards the ground – but don’t force anything painful. You may feel this stretch in your hamstrings, calves, back and shoulders.
Always contact a physiotherapist when struggling with sports injuries, aches in the body, or requiring advice regarding mobility and function. With the Qured, you can see a physiotherapist at a time and location of your choice. For more information and to book an appointment, check out -> qured.com/physiotherapy