After every run of any distance, it is important to stretch the muscles in a static 'still' manner. These stretches differ from dynamic 'moving' warm ups that we do pre-run. Here are my top 7 stretches which address all major muscle groups we use when we run. I like to hold these stretches for at least 1 minute, both sides, right & left. Please note, if you don't necessarily have a yoga mat ready to stretch on, do as I do, use the things around you like curbs, railings, chairs or grass nearby.
1. Calf & Achilles Tendon stretch - Forward lunge. You can also do this stretch off of a curb, letting your heels drop down.
2. IT BAND stretch - Your iliotibial band is a tendonous and fascial band that starts at the hip and extends down to the knee. The best way of stretching it is to cross one leg over the other and reach with your arms to the side of the forward leg letting your hips veer off to the side.
3. Hamstring stretch - There are many options for stretching our hamstrings. You can use the ground and take a Downward Dog, or you can use the support of a chair and place your hands on it lengthening your spine. Do this stretch with either both legs parallel, with one foot crossed over the other, or combine both variations. If you are very bendy, a forward fold is another great option, reaching your fingers right to the ground.
4. Quad stretch - One of the dominant muscle groups we use to run. Place knees together and reach for your back foot, drawing it as close to your glute as possible.
5. Crescent Lunge stretch - This runners lunge stretches the front of our hip flexors which are used not only when we run, but throughout our day, climbing stairs, walking etc.. The hip flexors power the knee drive when we run. Position your feet in cross country ski tracks and lunge forward with one foot, keeping the knee directly over the ankle. Maintain an upright torso and engage the back leg glute to stretch the front of that hip flexor.
6. Butterfly stretch - This stretch opens the hip and stretches the groin area. This stretch can be done on grass or any hard surface. Draw feet together and open the knees out to the side finding external rotation. If you are tight in your lower back, sit elevated on a towel.
7. Seated twist - This stretch allows us to stretch our lower back and release in the hips and glutes. If you are tight in your lower back, you can sit elevated on a towel, lifting the pelvis higher than the legs.
Happy FALL running and hiking !