When you stretch after a run, you probably focus on the quads, hammies and calves, especially if you’re short on time. But a host of other muscles support your run, enabling you to stick with it over the long haul.
These five stretches will take care of the supporting cast of your cardio, preventing injury and improving performance. Hold each of these stretches for 30 to 60 seconds on each side. As you feel the muscles begin to release, gently move a little deeper into the stretch.
As you run, the hip flexors on one side work in concert with the glutes on the other — such that your push-off from the ground may be equally affected by your posterior power and the opposing knee drive.
Assume a half-kneeing position on a soft surface with your right leg forward, left knee on the ground, both bent 90 degrees. Keeping your chest tall, tighten your glutes to tuck the pelvis under without lunging or leaning forward. Reach your left arm straight up into the air, then lean to the right side. Want more? Add a slight twist backward, away from the left hip.
Rather than crushing tight iliotibial (IT) bands with a rock-hard foam roller, work instead on the attaching muscles of the hip, which are involved with flexion, abduction and internal rotation — primarily the tensor fascia latae (TFL).
Stand tall next to a fence or wall and cross the outside leg in front of the inside leg, knees straight but not locked and feet planted on the ground. Press your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch on the side of your inside hip and hold.
The adductors assist with both hip flexion and hip extension while keeping your turnover happening in the sagittal plane, saving energy and preventing injury.
Take a large step laterally and slightly forward, keeping your chest tall. Squeeze your glutes to tuck your pelvis under, and gently lunge into the forward leg until you feel a stretch in the opposite inner thigh (adductors).
Your adductors and deep hip rotators stabilize your hips, preventing side-to-side and rotational movements that waste energy and affect stride.
Find a hip-height, stable object like a park bench. Lift one leg and lay it flat on the top of the bench perpendicularly to your body, or as close as you can get to 90 degrees. Keeping your back straight and chest tall, hinge forward from the hips until you feel a stretch in the glutes and hold. Press down on your knee to encourage a deeper stretch.
Although you probably stretch your gastrocnemius regularly, your soleus does a lot of work during a run, especially on a hilly course.
Adopt a half-kneeling position with your right leg forward and sit back on your left heel. Slide your right front foot backward as far as you can alongside your left knee while keeping your heel on the ground. Lean forward and place a little weight on your right thigh to deepen the stretch.