It’s just a fact: Runners are known as some of the tightest athletes out there. The miles we put in on a daily basis wear down the foam of our shoes and our hamstrings, quads, and calves in equal measure. That’s why this week on Well+Good’s YouTube series Good Moves, Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland is serving up post-run stretches you can move through directly after you’ve crossed the proverbial finish line—and you only really need five minutes to complete the whole sequence.
“Your post-workout recovery is often ignored,” says Copeland in the episode. “We want to make sure we’re getting a stretch in after any workout that we do—whether you’ve done a 10-mile run, a three-mile run, done a dance class, or done a strength or high-intensity workout. You want to give yourself enough time to stretch, whether it’s just five minutes or even less.” In case there was any doubt in your mind, a little bit of muscle TLC is way better than none.
Why? Well, first of all, it’s the secret to actually stronger. When you don’t recover properly with stretching, days off, and plenty of foam rolling, you don’t allow your body to properly recover from the micro-tears caused by your activity. As a result, your muscles won’t be able to rebuild themselves stronger. Skipping out on recovery practices may also cause soreness to turn into injury, so it’s definitely worth your while to tack five minutes onto your run for Copeland’s quickie cool down.
“Hold each stretch as long as you want to, or repeat as much as you want to. I just recommend you do it for at least 30 seconds,” says Copeland. Let’s cool down, runners.
Try these 5 post-run stretches that will cool you down after miles of effort.
1. Seated butterfly: Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you so that your legs form a diamond shape. Sit tall, grab a hold of your ankles, and go ahead and fold forward (if you can keep your back flat). “This one is great because it stretches your inner thighs, and for me, I tend to get really tight not just in my hamstrings but in my inner-thighs—especially after I run,” says Copeland.
2. Seated tree pose: From your diamond shape, bring the sole of your left foot to your inner right thigh and extend your right leg out straight. Square your hips toward your right leg and reach your right hand your right foot. Keep your back flat as you do so, and rest your left hand on the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
3. Quad stretch: Still seated on the ground, bring your legs straight out in front of you and bend your right leg so that the shin lays alongside the hamstring. Your foot should be flexed. If you feel like you need a little bit more of a stretch, go ahead and slowly lower your body down to the floor, tucking your tail bone under as you do. Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Seated spinal twist: Extend both legs in front of you. Bring your right foot to the outside of your left knee. Twist your torso to the right, starting from your core, and hook you left elbow outside your right knee. Bring your right hand to the floor behind you and gently twist your chest open to the right. Repeat on the opposite side.
5. Downward dog with leg stretches: Flip onto your stomach and push back into downward facing dog. Bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight, then switch again and again. “If you’re doing a lot of explosive work or power work, your calves are going to be the first things that tighten up,” says Copeland. So this stretch is pretty much golden.