In this series, we look at how to optimize your post-run recovery. Good run recovery has benefits across the board, from reducing the amount of time needed between runs to less overall fatigue, fewer injuries, and improved performance. In fact, what you do after your run is arguably as important as the run itself.
Today’s we’re looking at why and how stretching should be a part of your post-run recovery. Let’s go!
Before your run, you might stretch to get your muscles warmed up and ready for the upcoming effort, just like you might do a warm-up run with a few strides or pick ups to prepare your heart. However, after running, we stretch to improve range of movement and to aid recovery.
Your muscles are warm and pliable immediately after finishing a run. This is the perfect time to stretch out your calves, quads, IT band, hip flexors, and glutes to improve long term range of movement. It also goes some way to flushing out deoxygenated blood and encouraging a fresh supply of oxygenated blood into the muscles.
While static stretching is not advised and may even be detrimental before your run, it’s perfectly acceptable to do a few of these exercises once you have finished running. Here are a few examples, but there are many more.
Quads - Stand on one slightly bent leg. Pull the other leg up behind you, holding the foot at the toes, bending your knee and bringing your heel up towards your backside. Hold for 30 seconds.
Hamstrings - Lift your leg onto a raised surface like a wall or a chair. Slightly bend your other leg and lean in. Hold for 30 seconds.
Calves - Step forward with one leg, keeping the other leg straight and the foot flat on the floor behind you. Lean in against a wall and hold for 30 seconds.
Glutes - Sit on the floor. Bend your right knee and cross that leg over the left. Turn your head to the right and push your right leg away to the left.
As the names suggest, static stretches involve minimal movement, whereas dynamic stretches require movement. Done at the end of a run, they effectively achieve our goals of improving overall range of motion and encouraging oxygenated blood back into the muscles.
Quads - Put your hands on your backside with the palms facing out. Keep your back straight and run on the spot or slowly forwards kicking back to make your heels touch your hands.
Hamstrings - Hold your left arm out in front of you and kick up with your right legs towards it. Then repeat with the right arm and left leg. The motion should be fluid and rhythmic.
Glutes and Hip Flexors - Take a step forward with your right foot. Bend your knee and keep your left leg straight behind you. This should take the form of an exaggerated walk forwards, lunging down but keeping the core and upper body upright and inline.
By stretching after your run, you are increasing your range of movement and flexibility. This reduces the risk of getting injured in future run sessions. Furthermore, you will aid your recovery by increasing circulation, which will reduce post-run pain and stiffness and encourage cell regeneration and muscle tissue repair.
It’s easy to neglect stretching if you are tired after a run or short on time. But if you can, do it. It’s an important part of your training and fitness regime and will only be beneficial for you!