Cool down with deep stretches after a long run.
Running is great exercise. It can help you lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and build strong, lean leg muscles. You don’t see running’s benefits, however, if you don’t stretch properly after your run. Stretching your hamstrings, quads, hips, and IT bands is important for preventing injuries, relieving post-run aches, and maintaining strong, flexible muscles. Yoga is a fantastic way to stretch. Any yoga practice will have benefits for runners, but we’ve put together the 8 best yoga poses for runners. Try to hold each pose for at least 30 seconds on each side. Don’t force a stretch–your muscles will release if you relax and send your breath to the spots that are tightest. Your legs will feel long, loose, and ready for your next run!
1. Standing Forward Fold
This inversion is good for releasing your spine and hamstrings. You can have your feet together or hip-width apart, and you can let your arms dangle or hold opposite elbows. Keep a slight bend in your knees to avoid locking them. If your hamstrings are especially tight, bend your knees as much as you need to.
2. Standing Forward Fold with IT Band Stretch
Your IT band runs down your outer thigh from your hip to your shin. Tight or inflamed IT bands can cause knee pain, so it’s important to release your IT bands after running. Start by standing with your feet together. Cross your right foot in front of your left, so your little toes are touching. Fold forward and feel a stretch along your IT band. Bend your knees slightly, or more if your legs need more space. Switch legs after 30-60 seconds.
3. One-Legged Downward Facing Dog
Downward facing dog is another great inversion for releasing your spine and hamstrings. One-legged downward facing is a more intense hamstring pose, and lets you feel the stretch all the way down your calf to your ankle.
4. Lizard Pose
Lizard pose is a powerful hip opener. You can leave your back leg extended or place your back knee on the ground. For a deeper stretch, place your elbows on the ground, and breathe. If you want to add a quad stretch, reach for your back foot with the opposite hand, and work it towards your butt.