Erin Taylor — yoga instructor and author of a book about yoga for athletes to be released in early 2013 — offers up a quick post-run stretching routine.
Hey runners, let’s be real — stretching might be one of the last things you want to do when you’re wiped out after a long run, but it’s one of the best things you can do to help maintain a healthy stride. If you’re serious about your sport, you must acknowledge that recovery is just as important to your training as the work itself.
Yoga is a powerful tool that can help you maintain flexibility and restore range of motion, both of which are critical components of recovery. Scrimp on stretching and you’ll most definitely be hearing from your legs later. Just five minutes of post-workout stretching will help you stay limber, run better and reduce your risk of injury. After all, pliable muscles are more powerful, more efficient and less likely to be injured. Plus, when you limit your flexibility and range of motion, you limit your athleticism. So kick off your shoes and hit reset!
Reclined Hamstring Stretches
You guessed it — this sequence will help you refresh by re-lengthing your hamstrings and the entire back of your body. You’ll need a belt, tie or towel. Hold each stretch for 10 deep breaths.
Tip: If you feel the stretch in the back of your right knee at any point during the sequence, be sure to bend that knee a bit more — this will help ensure that you’re stretching your hamstrings and not straining your knee.
Step 1: Leg Up
- Lie flat on your back.
- Lasso your right foot with your strap and straighten your leg toward the ceiling, finding an angle where you feel a stretch in your right hamstring.
- Flex your right foot and press up through your right heel, without locking the knee.
- Walk your hands up the straps until your arms are nearly straight, shoulders on the floor.
- Straighten your left leg to the floor so that it lines up with the left hip.
- Press your left leg into the floor. Drop your shoulders. Relax your neck.
Step 2: Leg Open
- Take the straps into your right hand and lower your right leg to the right, keeping your left leg heavy on the floor.
- Take your right foot toward your right shoulder.
- Flex your right foot and press out through the heel.
- Place your left hand on left hip as a reminder to keep that hip, leg and shoulder heavy on the floor.
Step 3: Leg Across
- Lift the right leg back up to center and take it across your body to the left — Just a little, until you feel more stretch on the outside of the leg, around the glute/outer hip/IT band area.
- Rotate your right foot to the left and you might also feel it in the outer ankle/calf.
- Keep the right hip heavy on the floor, and move that right hip away from the right shoulder.
Repeat this sequence with your left leg.
Bonus: Legs Up the Wall
Got three to five extra minutes? This one is just what it sounds like. Lie down and put your legs up the wall to help recirculate your blood and drain excess fluid from the legs. It’s a tired runner’s best friend.
- Get as close to the wall as you comfortably can, and extend your legs straight up the wall.
- If your legs feel like they’re still engaged/working hard, back away from the wall a bit more.
- Bend your knees slightly and let your feet turn out.
- Bring your arms into a goal post shape or reach them all the way overhead so that your chest broadens.
Now get up slowly, shake it off, and enjoy that shower — you earned it!