8 Best Stretches for Runners featured image

Try our 8 Best Stretches for Runners

You walk in the door while it’s still dark out, stagger red-faced into the shower, and head off to the office. Or you hit the gym after work, hop on the treadmill for a few miles, and then rush home to make dinner. Sound familiar? That’s because, as runners, we try to squeeze in a run whenever we can. Mornings, evenings, and weekends are all fair game. All too often, we’re maximizing what little free time we have available by using every free minute to do what we love: run. Unfortunately, when that happens, one of the essential parts of your run gets left out: stretching. Stretching isn’t nearly as common as it should be. Let’s be real: if you’re pressed for time, you’d rather pump out an extra mile than spend time stretching. I get it. And judging by their half-hearted post-run stretch or two, most runners would agree with you.

Why Do I Need to Stretch?

Stretching is crucial if you want to be a runner for life. It’s one of the most important things you can do to maintain your physical fitness year after year. It keeps your muscles supple and flexible. When you stretch properly after a run, it also accelerates your muscle recovery and helps prevent injuries. That’s a lot of good reasons to incorporate these best stretches for runners into your routine.

There are two kinds of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretches are stretches that incorporate movement – think leg swings, neck rolls, and similar stretches. Static stretches are the ones you hold for 30-60 seconds: a standing quad stretch or hip flexor stretch.

When your muscles are loose and flexible, just after a run is a perfect time for static stretches.

Best Stretches for Runners

Stretching after a run is crucial for flushing out metabolic waste and accelerating your recovery. When you stretch, you should not feel pain. Soreness, sure. We’re runners; we’re constantly sore. But if anything causes actual pain, stop immediately. Try to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds. Breathe deeply while you stretch, and deepen the stretches on your exhales.

Coach Andrew Taylor demonstrates a Glute Stretch
Glute Stretch

1. Glute Stretch

  • Lie on the floor, flat on your back.
  • Extend your left leg straight in front of you.
  • Bring your right knee up to your chest.
  • Rotate your right foot up towards your torso and grasp it with your left hand, letting the right knee turn away from your upper body.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: glutes, hips

Child's Pose
Child's Pose

2. Child’s Pose

  • Get into a tabletop position on the floor (palms under shoulders, knees under hips).
  • Push the palms of your hands against the floor to push your hips back onto your glutes.
  • Walk your hands away from your body as you try to place your forehead on the ground.
  • Shift weight further over to one side (glute) and then to the other before going back to the center.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.

Stretches: lower back, glutes, hips, inner thighs

Downward Dog

3. Downward Dog

  • Get into a tabletop position on the floor.
  • Straighten your legs as you push your hips up and back.
  • Don’t let your shoulders ride up – push them away from your ears.
  • Press your palms against the floor, pushing your weight back.
  • Bend one leg and then the other, taking turns stretching both sides.
  • Alternate sides for 30-60 seconds.

Stretches: spine, hips, hamstrings, calves

A special note about the demonstrated downward dog. I am not known for flexibility. If the lower back is rounded, rather than V-shaped it is a sign of tight hip flexors, shoulders, or hamstrings. The goal is to lengthen the spine but a rounded back shortens it. This is a beginner and inflexible person mistake and takes practice to correct.

4. Figure 4 Stretch

  • Lie on your back, legs extended.
  • Bend your left knee, placing your left foot flat on the floor close to your glutes.
  • Place the outside of your right ankle on your left knee.
  • Using the palm of your right hand, gently push your right knee away from you.
  • Hold for 60 seconds.
  • Interlace your fingers behind your left thigh.
  • Slowly lift your left foot off the floor and pull your left thigh in close to your chest.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: glutes, hips

Coach Andrew Taylor demonstrates a hamstring stretch
Hamstring Stretch

5. Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie flat on your back, legs extended.
  • Bend your right knee in towards your chest.
  • With your knee close to your chest, extend your right leg up towards the ceiling.
  • Wrap your fingers around your left, anywhere between the calf and back of your thigh, avoiding the knee.
  • With your leg still extended, pull it in closer.
  • Hold for 30- 60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: hamstring

Coach Andrew Taylor demonstrates a Seated Twist exercise
Seated Twist Stretch

6. Seated Twist

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended.
  • Bend your right knee, cross your right leg over your left, and place your right foot on the ground on the outside of your left thigh.
  • Bend your left knee, bring the left foot close to your right glute, with the outside of your left shin towards the floor.
  • Keep both glutes evenly on the ground.
  • Gently twist your body to the right, reaching your right hand behind you with your fingertips pointing to the back of the room.
  • Lift your left-hand overhead, then either hook it around the left leg or place your elbow on the inside of the left knee (careful not to put pressure on the knee).
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: hips, glutes, back

Coach Andrew Taylor demonstrates a Standing Quad Stretch
Standing Quad Stretch

7. Standing Quad Stretch

  • Stand with both feet planted firmly on the ground.
  • Bend your right knee, bringing your right foot straight back behind the right glute.
  • Grasp your right foot with your left hand (if possible) or right hand. Use the other hand for balance on a chair, table, or wall, if necessary.
  • Keeping both knees together and hips parallel to the floor, pull the right foot in as close as possible.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: quads

Coach Andrew Taylor demonstrates a Standing Calf Stretch
Standing Calf Stretch

8. Standing Calf Stretch

  • Stand facing a wall, arm’s length away, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping both feet facing forward, step back with your left foot.
  • Bend the right knee slightly, and straighten the left leg.
  • The further you bend your right knee forward, the deeper the stretch in your left calf.
  • Hold 30-60 seconds, then release and switch sides.

Stretches: calves

 

It’s okay if you don’t do all eight of these best stretches for runners every time you run. But, try to hit most of the major muscle groups in your lower body at least once. Just adding in 5-10 minutes after a run will make a noticeable difference in your recovery time and soreness.

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