But pushing your muscles to the limit comes with a price: soreness and tightness the next day.
Especially for runners who are training for longer distances like half and full marathons, that tightness you experience after your long runs can negatively impact your next run and even future training.
To find a cure for your tight quads, sore calves and other running-induced aches and pains, we spoke to physical therapist and three-time Ironman finisher Marisa Rose to reveal the best stretches for runners.
“Adding a few minutes of stretching to your post-run routine can help with some of the most common running injuries, including runner’s knee and IT band syndrome,” she says. “I like to do 30 seconds per stretch.”
Even if you’ve clocked the last split of your workout, that doesn’t mean you can hang up your Floatride running shoes for the day yet. Taking the time to incorporate these stretches into your workout schedule will help you recover faster and set your next PR.
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
Stand on one leg and bend the other knee back, resting the top of your foot on a chair or couch. Pull your belly button toward your spine and then push your hips forward and stand up straight until you feel the stretch in your upper thigh.
“The hip flexor stretch helps with patellofemoral pain, otherwise known as runner’s knee, which is one of the most common running injuries,” says Rose. ‘This stretch also helps to elongate your stride.”
By engaging the hip and pelvis muscles, the hip flexor stretch also helps to alleviate lower back pain and to treat IT band syndrome, which is the pain many runners feel on the outsides of the their knees.
You can also do this stretch while kneeling on the floor, although the standing version is more comfortable for runners who are experiencing soreness in the kneecaps.
2. Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back and pull your knee up and across your body toward the opposite shoulder until you feel the stretch in your outer thigh.
“The piriformus stretch targets all of the external and lateral rotator muscles of the hip, as well as the glutes,” says Rose. “It helps with the common runner afflictions of IT band syndrome and runner’s knee but also helps with hip inflammation and lower back pain.”
Make sure you pull your knee across your body rather than directly up, as doing so will make sure to engage all the hip muscles and maximize the stretch’s benefits.
3. Soleus Stretch
Stand with feet staggered facing a wall. Using your hands on the wall for balance, bend both knees. Move your weight forward and focus on deepening the bend in the back knee and stretching the lower calf.
“In addition to helping with plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, this stretch improves roll-over of the ankle during the push-off phase of running,” says Rose.
The push-off motion supplies the power for your stride, and doing the soleus stretch will keep your ankle joint healthy and able to extend explosively.
All it takes is a few minutes of stretching to help improve your recovery routine, and these three essential stretches will help keep you healthy.
What are your favorite running stretches? Let us know by tweeting @Reebok!