8 Essential Stretches for Runners

If you’ve ever read any article on running, you’ve read about the importance of stretching. But how exactly should you stretch? You probably have the basic stretches for runners down – hamstring stretch on a bench, or holding your foot behind you to stretch your quads. But if you have a few minutes extra to spare after you run, try this full body stretch routine for runners – I promise, your sore muscles will thank you!

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

As well as referring to my usual disclaimer (since not every workout I post will be right for you), please bear in mind I am a runner, not a yogini, so in the yoga-inspired stretches, please forgive my form (I’m guessing it’s woeful). 😉

8 ESSENTIAL STRETCHES FOR RUNNERS

FORWARD FOLD

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Start with a forward fold. Bend from the hips and let your upper body just hang. You can shake your head out side to side and sway a little as well – you want to feel gravity just pulling on your upper body. This is a simple, but surprisingly relaxing position. Stay in it for about 20 – 30 seconds.

FORWARD BEND FLAT BACK

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

From the forward fold, come up into a flat back, hands on your legs. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your chest and gaze forward, for 20 – 30 seconds.

CHEST OPENING FOLD

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Next, interlace your hands behind you and pull back, getting a stretch into your shoulders and across your chest. You can move your hands closer to your lower back to move the stretch slightly more into your traps, as well. Hold for about 30 seconds.

FOLDED FORWARD LUNGE

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Moving on into a couple of lunging positions. From the chest opening fold, stand up, then lunge one foot forward. Straighten the back leg and fold your upper body over the lunging leg, letting your fingertips touch the floor. You’ll feel a stretch in your gluteus maximus on the lunging side and you can also push your back heel down to include a stretch for your calf as well. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs to stretch the other side.

STATIC LATERAL LUNGE

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Shift into a lateral lunge and hold it as a static stretch to get a stretch in your adductor muscles, which can be tight for runners. Be careful not to overstretch in this position, because there’s nothing more aggravating than a strained groin muscle. Just hold the stretch where you can feel it working for about 20 -30 seconds, then slowly ease into the lunge on the other side. (With all static stretches like these, you want to avoid bouncing into the stretch – think slow, deliberate movement instead.)

GENTLE SEATED TWIST

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Move down to the floor, to a seated position now. Cross-legged is best for this next active stretch. Raise your arms high overhead, palms facing inward, then slowly twist to one side, lowering your arms as you do, so that your fingertips come to rest in front of your seat and behind. Hold here for about 15 seconds, then raise your arms as you come back to center and repeat the twist on the other side. Whenever you’re doing a spine rotation movement like this one, remember that your neck is an extension of your spine, so you want your head and neck to follow along with the movement. Only twist as far as it feels like a comfortable stretch.

SEATED SIDE STRETCH

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Still in the cross-legged position, place one hand on the floor next to you and lean into your hand, extending your other arm overhead. Gaze up at your extended fingertips if that feels comfortable, otherwise look straight ahead. To go deeper into this side stretch, you can lean until your forearm is resting on the floor. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

PIGEON POSE OR MODIFIED PIGEON

Want a great routine of stretches for runners? These easy, yoga inspired exercises will have you feeling flexible and relaxed following your next run. Work on your fitness while running, then your mobility with these stretches.

Finally, end with a stretch that’s incredibly beneficial for runners, since it targets your hips. In yoga, this is called pigeon pose and I find it almost impossible (if you can’t tell from the photos above! 🙂 ) The top photo shows the nearest approximation I, with my postpartum runner’s body, can attempt pigeon. (You might want to check out Christine’s Yoga for Runners to get a better idea of how this pose should look!) Start by getting into all fours, then sliding your left knee forward toward your left hand. From there, move your left foot toward your right hand, without letting your left knee slide out to the side (almost impossible for me). Your right leg should lie flat on the floor and check to make sure you are resting on the front of your leg (called squaring your hips when you do this pose in yoga). With hands or fingertips on the floor in front of you, keep your torso upright. Hold for about 30 seconds, then slowly reverse the movement, come back to all fours and repeat on the other side.

If this is too intense for you, you can try a variation I learnt in prenatal yoga class, using a bolster to prop underneath your hips, then folding forward over the cushion. In the photo above I’ve used a couch cushion, because it’s a similarly firm, thick pillow.

Whenever you’re holding static stretches like these, your muscles should be warm first. Pre-run is not the time for static stretching – all you’re doing is telling your muscles it’s time to relax, which is not ideal if you then want those muscles to go run! This routine is ideal for right after you finish a run, but if you want to do them at the gym or in your living room, just make sure to warm up a little first with some cardio, or a quick yoga flow.


I need to tell you I delayed publishing this guide to stretching for runners. Why? Well, it is really hard for me to look at photos of myself in all my postpartum glory. My body looks totally foreign to me and I haven’t quite come to terms with it yet. I even almost considered retaking all of the pictures to try to get some more flattering angles. (And honestly, if it didn’t take such a long time to set all these up and take them myself, that’s exactly what I would have done!) And yes, you know I will be writing about body after baby soon.


Do you always (or never) stretch after running?

Where do you feel tightest after you run? For me it’s the hamstrings.

(P.S. My tights are from Spandits! I’m a Spandits ambassador, so you can get 10% off if you enter the code SPANDITSLOVE at checkout and tell them Carly sent you. This pattern is called ‘Take Me Away’.)

Comments

  1. You look beautiful! I love these stretches and especially your pigeon modification 🙂
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…10 reasons I’m happy I’m not running this summerMy Profile

    • Carly Pizzani says:

      Thanks friend! I’m so happy I learnt that pigeon modification because now I actually do it at home and I love that pose.

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