If you’re a runner, you’ll know – probably all too well – the aftermath of most runs. I call it my post-run slump, which consists of returning home and collapsing on the sofa. The next 15 minutes are usually spent checking all the data from Runkeeper (my favourite running app) and sipping on some ice-cold water. After my phone has run out of charge (and often storage, gee thanks Spotify), then comes the brutal struggle to get my cement-like legs off the couch up the stairs and into the shower.
The remarkable thing is, I never ever skip pre-run stretches. I guess that’s because I’m not yet a sticky, sweaty, stinking mess, but also because I’ve known what agonies lie ahead if I don’t do pre-run stretches. However, I’m a little more susceptible to ignoring the post-run stretch. Arguably, the soreness can be quite satisfying; it makes me think I’ve worked hard and that my muscles are growing. On the other hand, recovery is all-important in any form of exercise.
So, in order to help me and other runners, I’ve comprised 16 of the best stretches for both pre and post-run, in the hope that I’ll never be sore again!
1 – 8: pre-run stretches
9 – 16: post-run stetches
All the pre-run stretches should be ‘dynamic’ (ie: on-the-move, not static), this is because they warm up your muscles most effectively. Also, ideally, you should gently jog for a couple of minutes beforehand.
1. LUNGE WITH TWIST
Imagine you’re stepping over a box, then sink your hips into a lunge and twist your upper body towards your front leg for this first stretch.
2. HAMSTRING SIT-BACK
Place most of your weight on your back leg, which should be bent. Lift the toes of your straight leg, which should be slightly in front of the other, and reach down with your hands. Sit your butt back before swapping to the other leg.
3. QUAD HOLD
Pick a point in front of you and focus on it (to help you balance), whilst lifting up one leg and holding tight to your butt. Keep your knees together and your hips facing forwards.
4. SIDE LUNGE
Set your feet wide apart, lean to one side, keeping most weight on your bent leg. Make sure that the knee of your bent leg does not go past your foot. Sink down, deep into the stretch.
5. STAR REACH
Stand in a star position, before lowering one hand to the opposite foot. Keep your other hand in the air, and remember to keep your knees and back straight for a deeper stretch.
6. STAR PULL-THROUGH
A variation from the last stretch, this time grab onto both ankles and pull your head through your legs. First with a wide stance, followed by legs together.
7. SIDE REACH
Again, with a wide stance, hold onto the side of your leg whilst reaching the other arm over. Try to keep your body in line whilst doing this one.
8. GLUTE ANKLE SIT-BACK
This stretch looks very peculiar, but works wonders for your glutes and ankles. Sit back with one leg and slowly bend your other leg to rest atop of the opposite knee. Rotate your foot to stretch out your ankle.
The post-run stretches should be held for a little longer (30-60 seconds) and are more static. This should ease the cooling-down process and also help recovery.
9. HALF PIGEON
Cross one leg in front of your body, and extend the other leg backwards. Sink your hips down and arc your back to get a deep stretch.
Rest one leg on the ground and bend the other, with most of your weight on the front leg. Raise your arms and push your hips downwards to deepen the stretch.
11. REVERSE LUNGE
From the previous stretch, straighten your front leg and place your hands next to your foot. Lower your head to your knee.
12. CROSS-BODY KNEE HUG
Sit on the ground with one leg straightened out, cross the other leg over your body, and pull your knee into your chest. Try to keep a good posture.
13. GROUND LEG CLASP
Keeping your hips straight, pull one leg to you chest. Try to keep your other knee towards the ground.
14. GROUND GLUTE
Lift one leg up and loop your arms around your thigh. Cross your other leg over the other.
15. DOWNWARD DOG
On all fours, push backwards from your hands, keeping your back straight. Lean your heels down to feel the stretch all the way up the back of your legs.
16. ARMS UP, HEAD DOWN
With your feet slightly apart, keep your legs straight and lower your upper body towards the ground. Raise your arms and clasp your hands together at the top.
And finally, this post comes with an apology from my Mum about the state of our garden. It’s patently obvious that we spend more time getting out there and being active than we ever do tending our borders!