Running can be one of the most intense physical activities around -- it can be hard on both your joints and your leg muscles. When you push yourself to new limits, it can take a toll on your body, unless you help to soften the blow. Stretching after your run can help keep your running muscles supple, release tension on the joints and help you stay in the game to run longer.
The hamstrings are the long muscles that run along the upper back of the leg, between the glutes and the knee joint. Hamstrings are partially responsible for your speed and endurance when running, and because of this they are often very tight. Tight hamstrings not only limit your stride, but they can also cause injury to the muscles themselves, as well as to the connecting knee, glute, and lower-back tissues. Stretching the back of the leg after a run will help release this tension and prevent injury. Try a single-leg stretch to focus on lengthening the back of the leg such as a seated or reclined knee-to-nose stretch. To perform, lie on your back. Lengthen your right leg to the ceiling and hold onto the back of your leg. Draw the leg toward your upper body and lift your head and shoulders off the ground. Hold for five counts and switch sides.
The calves are the smaller muscles along the bottom portion of the back of your leg. These muscles are contracted when you are on your toes, which happens in part of every step when you run. Tight calves can pull on the knees and ankles, causing soreness or even injury. Stretching the lower back of your leg can help alleviate this pain. Try stretches such as the heel dip. Stand on a step. Bring your right toes to the edge and let your heel hang off the step. Press your heel downward to lengthen the back of your leg. Hold for five counts and switch sides.
The quadriceps, commonly referred to as the thighs, are one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in the body. They are used in most athletic activities, especially in running. Your thighs help to power you forward and keep you moving when you run. Because of this, the thighs are often tight and tense after running, which can pull on the knee and hip joints. To release this tension, prevent injury and keep them ready for the next run, stretch the thighs after you run. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend your right knee and hold onto your ankle with your right hand. Flex your foot and pull your heel toward your glute. Press your hips forward slightly and bring your knees together as you stretch. Hold for five counts and switch sides.
Hips and Glutes
The hips and glutes are two powerful areas that become tight when you run. The more you run, the tighter they become. When the hips and glutes are tight, it can cause pain around the hip joint and into the lower back and reduce your range of motion. To increase your endurance when running, these areas need to be mobile and not tight. To prevent in jury and tightness, try stretches such as the standing or reclined figure 4 stretch that stretch both the hips and glutes. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bring your right ankle over your left knee. Flex your right foot and keep your right knee and ankle in line. Hinge at your hips and bend your left knee into a squat. Hold for five counts and switch sides.
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