Running is excellent for building up your quads and your calves. A few targeted post-run stretches will help keep those muscles long, lean, and limber. These stretches are also great to do after a ballet leg exercise like this one or this one or before bed after an active day.
Be sure to always stretch slowly and carefully to avoid pulling any muscles. To enhance your stretching experience, visualize breathing into any tight area. This is a neat trick I learned from doing yoga that can help us be more present for the stretch.
Each stretch can be held anywhere between twenty seconds and one minute and repeated as many times as feels good to you. Wait until you exhale to push your stretch further, and release your stretch on an inhale.
1. Downward Dog – Targets calves.
Turn yourself into an upside down “V.” As you inhale, draw energy up through your arms and into your core. As you exhale, send the energy down your legs as you ground you heals towards the floor. Allow your head and next to relax.
2. Ballet-Inspired Tendu Cross-body Stretch – Targets lumbar spine and hamstring.
I love this graceful stretch and often do it after I’ve been sitting at my desk for a while.
Stand with one foot pointed in front of you and keep your front leg straight. Bend your non-pointing leg and reach towards your pointed toes with the opposite arm. Repeat on the other side.
3. Sitting book stretch – Targets hips and ankles.
A yoga instructor once told me that my shin splints were partly due to my tight hips, a common problem among runners. This sitting book stretch helps open hips and just feels so right after a hard run.
Sit with your knees splayed and your feet pressed together. Keeping your back straight, gently lean forward to increase the opening in your hips. As your stretch, hold your feet open like a book to stretch the tendons around your ankles.
4. Pigeon pose – Targets hips and outer thighs.
With one leg stretch long behind you, fold your opposite leg under your hips. This position may be enough of a stretch for you. If not, slowly lean forward to feel your hip and outer thigh opening. You may always want to turn from side to side to work different angles. Repeat on the other side.
5. King pigeon pose – Targets quads and abs.
Building off the previous position, clasp your back foot with one or both hands and bring it towards you until you feel a good stretch in your quad. Repeat on the other side.
6. Legs against the wall – Time to relax.
Perhaps not so much of a stretch, putting your legs against the wall helps your body relax after a long run. Not only does this position improve circulation, it takes some of the pressure off your feet. When I’ve been running in hot weather, my feet are usually puffy and on fire.
Sit facing a wall, lie back, and prop your legs against the wall. Scoot your rear as close to the wall as possible and straighten your legs (or keep them bent). Relax for at least five minutes.
Also see: 7 Fun, Thigh-Slimming Exercises
Photos: Mary Hood