Stretching is really the most neglected aspect of running. Think about it – we spend an hour maybe two hours running but we can’t even spend 10 minutes stretching. Doesn’t it sound like a recipe for disaster? After a run, your muscles shorten and become tight. Stretching after your run allows your muscles to maintain that range of motion in your joints. Stretching also helps your muscles relax and prevent soreness the next day.
Cool down stretches are static stretches. This means your hold your stretches for approximately 30 seconds to a minute before coming out of your stretch. This is to be done 3 – 5 times repetitively. The stretches are to be done gradually and not forcefully.
#1 Calf Stretch
As runners, we need to take good care of our calves. Our calf muscles are called into action in every run – whether it’s a speed workout or up a hill. We are always using our calves. Additionally, tight calves can lead to a number of injuries including the much dreaded plantar fasciitis. This is why you should always do the calf stretch after every run.
Lean towards a wall. Keep one leg straight as you lean in towards the wall. You should feel a nice stretch in your calves. Remember to do it for both legs.
#2 Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings will create a downward pull on your pelvis which will affect your hips. It can also put a pressure on your lumbar spine, given you back pains. So, yes, tight hamstring are a problem. You should always stretch your hamstrings after every run.
Fold one leg inwards with one leg out straight. Point your toes upwards and reach out for your toes. You should feel the back of legs – your hamstrings stretching. Repeat on both legs.
#3 Glutes Stretch
Tight glutes can cause you severe discomfort. The piriformis muscle lies under the gluteus muscles. When your gluteus and piriformis muscles are tight, it causes your lower back and hamstrings to be sore. You may also get a nerve pain that shoots down your leg. This is due to the sciatic nerve that shoots through your piriformis. This pain is not a pleasant experience hence you should give importance to the Glutes stretch.
Lie on your back and position your ankle on the opposite thigh. Grasp behind your thigh and pull it towards you. You will feel the stretch on your glutes! Repeat on both legs.
If you are pressing for time, make sure you at least do these 3 stretches. It will really help keep pain and injury at bay!