stretching for runners

November 7, 2011

With my recent IT band issues, I have become even more neurotic than normal. Usually my craziness comes out in things like keeping the house clean, finding dog hair on the floor, and making sure I have snacks in my purse at all times. However, now I have become a little obsessed with making sure my muscles are nice and stretched before and after my runs. There is nothing worse than not being able to run, regardless of the time frame in which you are sidelined. With that being said, I am taking every single precaution to make sure my legs are nice and limber (weird word) while running.

I have a few favorite stretches that I do before and after runs. I have a hard time stretching out my hip flexors and my IT bands (obviously), so the stretches I do try to target those specific areas.

Pigeon Pose — by far my favorite stretch in the world. Pigeon pose is a great yoga pose that stretches just about everything out. From your hips to your quads and hamstrings, pigeon pose is a great stretch to loosen up many of your leg muscles.

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Butterfly Stretch — For some reason this stretch always reminds me of elementary school gym class. Regardless, it is a great stretch for your hip flexors and groin area.

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Hamstring Stretch — I have found in my years of running that my hamstrings get tight very quickly, but I don’t necessarily know it until I am midway through my run and the back of my legs feel too tight to move even one more step. To stretch out your hamstring, you can use either your arms to grip your calf (or wherever is comfortable on your leg) or you could put your raised leg against a wall instead.

 

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Low Lunge — Another great yoga pose I do regularly when stretching before and after runs. This stretch also helps with your hips as well as your quads and hamstrings. For a variation, you can lift your knee off the ground for a high lunge as well.

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One thing to remember is that stretching should never be painful or hurt in any way. If you are experiencing any kind of pain while stretching, you might want to look at your technique or how deep your stretch is. 

In the past, I have definitely slacked off in the stretching department, so I am hoping with consistent stretching, I can continue to improve on my flexibility and lower my changes of injury!

Question: What is your favorite stretch?

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Aine @ Something to Chew Over November 7, 2011 at 6:03 am

Pigeon pose does me so much good! But my favourite is probably downward dog – it always feels great :)

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Katie @ Peace Love and Oats November 7, 2011 at 6:04 am

Haha I did think it was weird you didn’t stretch much before our run! I’m a stretching freak, and I roll out before and after! Although I have weirdly tight muscles and constant IT band issues… Pigeon is my favorite too, especially because I can lay my torso down flat when I do it so it’s relaxing; like my version of child’s pose.

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cleaneatingchelsey November 7, 2011 at 6:25 am

um yeah – and then I hurt myself! haha! note to self: stretch more!!

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Jen@FoodFamilyFitness November 7, 2011 at 6:07 am

I hardly ever stretch, I know I need to…I’m loving these poses though, I can almost feel relief just looking at them. Off to stretch now, since I did 3 miles this morning.

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Ellen @ Undercover Runner Eats November 7, 2011 at 6:07 am

Pidgeon. It hurts SO good!

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Maria @ Beautiful Busy Bee November 7, 2011 at 6:08 am

I used to have good stretching habits… now I’ve gotten too lazy and I head straight to the shower after my run! My favorite though is butterfly because I can do it and still look up to watch TV. :)

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:56 am

I have to cool down before I take a shower otherwise I continue to sweat when I get out!

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga November 7, 2011 at 6:08 am

I love all the ones you listed, love love pigeon. And I also love backbends. You stretch your back, abs, legs/quads, shins, glutes…all in one!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:56 am

Backbends are the best!

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khushboo November 7, 2011 at 6:13 am

I am the biggest slacker with stretching and can only imagine how much better my runs would be if I made more of an effort! Thanks for this reminder as well as examples- hopefully the variety will make me more inclined to stretch often now!

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Kayla @ Sprouty Buns November 7, 2011 at 6:22 am

ooooh pigeon pose! I have such a love/hate relationship with this one. My hips are so tight, but after a few seconds in the pose I begin to relax and enjoy the stretch!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:56 am

Totally agreed.

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Lauren November 7, 2011 at 6:28 am

Pigeon pose, then right into fire log pose. That one is the best hip stretch!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:56 am

You’re making my hips feel better just saying that!

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Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy November 7, 2011 at 6:36 am

I’m kind of terrible about stretching…I really need to work on it too! I like low lunge though…I do that in my Barre3 workout DVD and it really stretches me out.

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Jen Doyle November 7, 2011 at 6:41 am

Quad stretch! Pigeon pose is amazing too! Did you ever try those foam rollers on the floor to massage your muscles?? They’re about 6 inches in diameter. Its wonderful for the IT band!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:57 am

Yes! I don’t own one, but I have been using one every time I go to the gym. I have to invest – they’re cheap!

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Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun November 7, 2011 at 6:44 am

A lot of my favorite ones too. And boy did they feel SO good after Saturday’s race. :)

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:58 am

Yeah my muscles would be screaming too if I whipped out a 7:49 mile!!!

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin November 7, 2011 at 6:49 am

Haha the butterfly stretch reminds me of gym class too! I guess it stuck with me though because I do it after every workout. My favourite stretch is lying on my back with one leg’s ankle resting on the other leg’s knee to make a “4″ shape.

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:57 am

Oh I did that one yesterday! Felt so good!

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Jen November 7, 2011 at 7:01 am

I use a foam roller to help with my IT bands. I have had so much less knee pain since starting to do that for a few minutes after every run!

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Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile November 7, 2011 at 7:04 am

Pigeon and butterfly are my absolute favorites! I love hip openers and I try to stretch more too!

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Julie H. of Spinach and Sprinkles November 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

You would post this after I get back from a run and think “yikes- when did that start pulling. Ouch!” –While thinking a million other things and hopping into the shower before I go to school. That first stretch- I want to cry just looking at it. Seriously.
Dang it. I need to stretch. End of story.

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:59 am

I’m good at reading your mind.

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Lauren @ What Lauren Likes November 7, 2011 at 7:20 am

Love the butterfly strech! Great post :)

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Lori Lynn November 7, 2011 at 7:21 am

Do you have a stretch you do for your lower back? I’ve been looking for some new ones, as I have been really sore in that area.

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cleaneatingchelsey November 7, 2011 at 7:22 am

Backbends are good for your back – or just doing a rag doll pose where you hang down while standing up. Those feel so good.

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char @ char on a mission November 7, 2011 at 7:23 am

Butterfly stretch is SOO from school – I think the same thing! I probably need to start stretching more. Especially since I used to dance competitively…boy, has that flexibility just gone right out the window over the years!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 5:59 am

I hear ya. I used to be able to touch my nose to my knee. Now I’m lucky if I can touch my toes.

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kathleen @ the daily crumb November 7, 2011 at 7:26 am

my IT band issues were alleviated significantly when i started regularly practicing yoga. i’m pretty sure it was all those crazy hip openers… but whatever it was, it helped! my favorite stretch (though it hurts like crazy) is double pigeon.

hope you’re feeling better :)

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:00 am

Yeah, I have definitely been slacking on the yoga end lately. I have to get back this weekend.

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Lauren @ Forward is a Pace November 7, 2011 at 7:37 am

Oh pigeon pose. I love, love, love pigeon pose. I am a notorious non-stretcher, and I really need to get better about it. I know what I’ll be doing after my run today! :)

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Gina @ Running to the Kitchen November 7, 2011 at 7:41 am

Pigeon pose is my favorite. I abuse that stretch after every long run. Hurts.so.good. I just started getting a weird “tingle” under my left knee this past week and with only 2 weeks until the Philly half marathon I’m sort of freaking out. I’m refraining from googling what it could be and trying to just stretch things out really well. You can find me in every single one of these stretches on my living room floor :)

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:01 am

When my IT band was acting up, the twinges were under my kneecap as well. Foam roll it out!!

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Gina @ Running to the Kitchen November 8, 2011 at 7:55 am

I just went back and re-read your “what was it” post and now I’m convinced it’s got to be the same thing! I didn’t do anything to hurt my knee either, just woke up one morning with a tingle. I’ve never had IT band issues before so I didn’t even think of that. I’m supposed to run 12 miles today as my last long run and I’m thinking I should do what you did and rest, roll and ice for another day or two to be safe.
Thanks for the advice!

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chelcie @ Chelcie's Food Files November 7, 2011 at 7:52 am

this post is so helpful! lately after my run’s my left hip flexer has been really sore, and I was wondering what stretches were best but now I know! thanks!:)

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:01 am

No problem! I hope your hip feels better soon.

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Lindsay @ biking before bed November 7, 2011 at 8:22 am

Thanks for a great stretching reminder. If I am crunched for time stretching is always the first thing I skip. My favorite part about exercise classes at the gym is the organized stretching. If someone is guiding me I am more likely to do it. I love the butterfly stretch. The other great elementary one is “figure 4″

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Amanda- The Nutritionist Reviews November 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thanks for the stretches! After a run, stretching feels amazing.

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Christelle November 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

I’m a terrible at stretching…I hardly ever take the time to do it after my runs…my favorite are probably pigeon and a really good quad stretch, I had a bad quad injury last summer and it finally feels completely recovered over a year later.

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Anna @ On Anna's Plate November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

Pigeon is SUCH a great stretch. I’ve also been digging a lot of child’s poses in my pregnancy– they’re actually great for stretching out the hips!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:02 am

I agree! Child’s pose always feels great with my hips!

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Alyssa @ Life of bLyss November 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

that pigeon pose is my JAM. I learned it when I was on the hurdling team in high school track, and I do it almost every day for my poor 80 year old hips.

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nicole marie November 7, 2011 at 11:08 am

haunuman! aka, full split.
i’m extra flexible so from the full split position, i enjoy bending the back knee, bringing my toes to the outside of my hip, stretching that quad even more deeply!
one great stretch for the IT band is this: from your lunge (right leg forward, left leg back), straighten both knees, folding over the front leg (right leg). then walk your arms to the right, rolling to the outside of both feet, keeping both knees straight, and folding forward.
i will be certain to include this stretch in wednesday’s video blog of “kitchen yoga.” just for you!
i’m naturally flexible (and grateful for that), but this was certainly one stretch that shocked me as really working something to which i had never paid any mind. yoga is amazing. x

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:02 am

Yeah, I could NEVER pull out a full split!!

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Anna @ The Guiltless Life November 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Oh so many yoga stretches that I love, but saddle pose in yoga is probably my favourite – sitting on your knees on the ground, you slowly go back until you feel the stretch in your quads. It’s soooo relaxing and a great quad stretch. My issue is that my quads are really open, so of course I love that stretch because it’s easy to me. The best stretches for me are the ones I hate doing the most – the ones that challenge my tight areas, like my hamstrings…!

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:03 am

I smiled just THINKING about how good saddle pose would feel! Thanks for another stretch to add to my list!

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Lauren November 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

Like my favorite yoga teaches always says, “You should feel sensation, never pain.” I used to be a major stretcher as a dancer, and have cut back sooo much. I need to get back into the habit.

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kaity November 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

hey i no wen i had my knee problems my trainer n doctor told me to add potassium i forgot the reason y it helps with the bones and muscles i no but it would make it feelbetter even just for alittle i just wouldhave a banana before i did anything, and def stretches those are pretty much the ones i did, love emm

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shea November 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I need to stretch more. Especially a lot of hip openers.

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katie @KatieDid November 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Love pigeon pose too- hurts so good!

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Pure2raw twins November 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm

all of these poses our some of my fav!! today i finally did about 20 mins of yoga, it was so wonderful to stretch out the body

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Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn November 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Ohhh pigeon pose. Truly the “AHH OH MY GOD OW OW AHHH wait that feels good” of runners stretches.

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cleaneatingchelsey November 8, 2011 at 6:04 am

hahaha – way to tell it how it is!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles November 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I <3 pigeon pose!! So good. Actually, I love stretching in general. I need to get back to yoga, stat!

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Emily November 7, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Pigeon pose is the best/worst feeling when it comes to stretching. I love it and loathe it, all at the same time. I’ve started running more frequently again (I took a break for a while because my hips were giving me problems) and stretching makes SUCH a big difference. I always skimped on it before and it showed.

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J @ ... semplicemente j ... November 11, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I got injured by not properly stretching … so important … I love stretching, however when I am trying to use my will power to get a run in after a long day at work … still today I am quick on my stretching pre-run … big MISTAKE! Bookmarked this post to remind me to properly stretch!

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