Cooling down after a run is important for bringing your body back to a balanced state, letting your heart rate and breathing rate lower. It’s also the perfect time to perform a few post run stretches that help loosen up spots that might get tight from clocking all those miles. The key: Doing these post run stretches right after your workout, when your muscles are warm.
At the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) in Greenville, South Carolina, we hear from runners who want to get faster, from those who simply want to enjoy the sport for life, and from those who’ve given up on running entirely. They’ve stopped because injuries have made it too frustrating or too painful to continue.
The two of us—both longtime runners—spend a lot of time discussing what we can do now to increase the likelihood that we’ll log miles well into old age. We want to be able to keep doing what we love to do—and that’s probably a goal of yours, too.
Based on our experiences as athletes, coaches, and exercise scientists, we developed the 7-Hour Workout Week, which is detailed in our new book Train Smart, Run Forever. The plan includes activities to enhance cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility. Many runners have confessed that they skip the resistance training, stretching, and cross-training we recommend, but these post run stretches are critical for staying healthy as you become fitter and faster. Add them to your regular routine to run strong for life.
How to use this list: Perform the stretches below immediately following a run or workout. Each move is demonstrated by Runner’s World coach and certified trainer, Jess Movold, so you can learn the proper form. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds on each side. Repeat as many rounds as needed. An exercise mat is optional, but will make each move more comfortable.
Lie faceup and loop a strap or resistance band around right foot. Extend left leg straight out on the floor. Gently lift right leg up toward the ceiling then pull it back toward chest until you feel a light stretch along the back of the leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Then switch sides.
Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Cross right ankle over left knee. Thread hands behind left thigh and gently pull left thigh toward torso. You can use right hand to press right knee down for a deeper stretch. Keep both feet flexed. Hold for 30 seconds. Then switch sides.
Lie faceup. Bring bent knees into chest and grab opposite wrists, around knees. Gently pull toward chest. Hold for 30 seconds.
This workout was adapted from Runner’s World Train Smart, Run Forever: How to Become a Fit and Healthy Lifelong Runner by Following the Innovative 7-Hour Workout Week, by the experts at FIRST, Bill Pierce, and Scott Murr.