Why Stretch After Running | Your Guide To The Zone

If you’re wondering why stretch after running, this post is for you. In fact, If you’re not stretching after your run, well, you’re just making it hard on your body!

Well, the truth is that other than the right running shoes — taking the time to warm up before and cool down after running is key to everything you expect to gain from your run.

Why Stretch After Running?

Did you know that warm muscles are much easier to stretch than cold muscles?

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That always makes me wonder why I see so many runners, or even walkers, taking the time to stretch prior to starting — than I do after. In fact:

I see very few people taking the time to cool down when they’ve finished their run?

woman stretching after a run

And elongating muscles after you’re through is just as, if not more, important than when you begin.

We all believe warming up beforehand helps us stay injury-free, but too many of us just don’t understand how beneficial stretches are after the run?

Should I Stretch After Running?

1. Stretching Improves Flexibility and Recovery After A Run

Running is using your entire body, and can take a toll on it, whether you run on a treadmill, the pavement, or trails. especially your muscles and tendons. Running is a workout for every area of your body. Muscles contract and get shorter as they tense and adapt to different surfaces. By lengthening everything afterward, you’ll:

  • Re-lengthen contracted muscles
  • Improve flexibility
  • Promote faster recovery time

It will help with that stiffness you been feeling after running as you remember how great you should feel after a run.

2. Stretching Reduces Lactic Acid After A Run

When you’re exercising, your body is working overtime to produce energy for your muscles.

Your body’s calling for a continuous flow of energy to keep your muscles flowing, and exerting movement for you.

If your oxygen starts to get low, your body begins producing lactic acid. Now you become more susceptible to exhaustion and start slowing down.

Gentle stretches after a run will help to stretch out contracted tendons and muscles and speed up the process of expelling the lactic acid from your body.

When lactic acid is built up in your muscles, they are more susceptible to small tears.

Using the exercises below, you help to relax the muscles, extend shortened muscles, and expel lactic acid.

Cool down your body with these gentle stretching exercises:

Instead of jumping in the car, or sitting down to rest — walk around for 5 minutes to relax your muscles

  • Stretch your calves
  • Do hamstring stretches
  • Stretch out your Quadriceps, the muscles in the front of the thigh
  • Be sure to stretch out your lower back

Stretching out after a good run can help:

  • Relieve back pain
  • Stiff necks
  • Sore knees
  • And keeps your muscles elongated

Keeping your muscles elongated is really the key to all of the benefits of your stretch routines because any exercise naturally causes your muscles to draw up in length.

This drawing and shortening is part of the reason for the soreness and stiffness that occurs after exercise.  Stretches will help keep you active and flexible longer which a healthy range of motion.

You will be less prone to injury,  notice far less post run soreness,  and better body response and performance.

Tip: Try running without stretching afterwards , and the next time you run — do the following stretches for 10 minutes or so when you’re through. Now it will be easy enough to compare how you feel and if you notice the benefits of stretching after you run.

The Right Way to Do Stretches

The best time to do your stretches is within 10-15 minutes of finishing your run — while your legs are still warm. If you wait longer, your legs will cool down, become tight,  and cause injuries. You’ll have a much safer stretch and be more flexible while your legs are still warm.

==> Always stretch right to the place that you can’t go any further, and hold that for a couple of seconds before releasing. It’s important to remember to never overstretch: that’s more pain and risking torn muscles.

For all too many runners, stretching is only an afterthought when it comes to their physical fitness routines.

And far too often the runners who do stretch  —  don’t stretch the right muscle groups. In fact, there may be more to this than you think?

But it’s hard to get around the fact that a few minutes afterward can:

  • Relieve soreness
  • Improve performance for you next run
  • Make you feel more dedicated and focused on the sport

How to Stretch Hamstrings the Right Way

Tight hamstrings are likely to hamper the most basic leg and knee movements and are often involved in lower back pain.

Failure to stretch out your hamstrings can lead to muscle strains, knee, hip, and back pain. Why leave a good run with tight ankle and calf muscles?

Taking the time to properly stretch can help you avoid tight neck muscles, not to mention those side muscles contracting later in the evening?

How to Stretch Warm Muscles

The key to proper stretching is the method you use, or in other words, how you stretch. Do it wrong and you actually increase your chances for an injury.

One of the worst things you can do is bounce (quickly stretch) a muscle.

When bounced, a muscle’s natural tendency is to contract. This instant contraction is what can rip or tear a muscle and cause an injury.


  • stretch slowly
  • hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds
  • slowly relax the stretch

Never push a muscle (even slowly) past the point of where it feels tight.

Use the sequence above and you can gently push the muscle to safely stretch further. After a run, stretch the large muscles groups that were worked.

The muscle groups to concentrate on are:

1) Quadriceps:

  1. With your knees together and your back straight, lean up against a wall with your right hand.
  2. Bend your left knee and bring your heel towards your buttocks.
  3. Hold your left foot with your left hand.
  4. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat using your other leg.

2) Hamstrings:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent ensuring both feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Draw one knee up to your chest and extend that leg straight up.
  3. Hold onto the back of your calf with both hands.
  4. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, slowly pull the leg towards you.
  5. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.

3) Lower Leg Calf Stretch:

  1. Stand on a raised surface.
  2. Move both feet back until your heels are just off the raised surface.
  3. Slowly lower your heels down until you feel the stretch in your calves.
  4. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

4) Hip Flexors and Glutes:

To stretch out these two large muscles groups requires two different stretches.

Stretch One

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent ensuring both feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Place your right ankle on your left knee.
  3. Grab your left hamstring with both your hands by lacing your fingers together behind it.
  4. Inhale deeply and while exhaling, lift your left foot off the floor and draw your legs towards your chest.
  5. Keep your head, back and shoulders flat on the floor.•
  6. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  7. Repeat using your left ankle.

Stretch Two

  1. Kneel on your right knee with your left leg forward ensuring your knees are at 90-degree angles.
  2. For stability, place your hands on your left thigh or on the ground.
  3. Take a deep breath in and slowly bend forward until you feel a stretch in your left hip.
  4. Hold for at least 30 seconds.• Repeat with the other knee.

Performing these static stretches after a run will help improve your flexibility, prevent injury and speed in the recovery of your large lower body muscle groups.

Avoid overstretching With These 4 Tips

  1. It’s important to remember to be gentle and patient with your stretches. Most of us aren’t that flexible, and if you dig in and overstretch you’re inviting unwanted injuries.
  2. Remember not to bounce in your stretches, or you risk tearing and pulling muscles. Gradual and gentle are the two keys to effective stretching.
  3. You want to generate tension in your muscles without overdoing it. Just keep your mind on finding that sweet spot that’s just right. And you can stretch injured muscles also — just be kind to it.
  4. Consistency is what you’re looking for when it comes to stretching after running. You’ll see your flexibility and endurance levels improving along with running faster and longer with less effort.

Why Stretch After Running

When you’re running you use virtually every muscle in your body. Even though those muscles are stretching out during the run, they quickly start shortening when you stop.

By spending a few minutes stretching after a run you allow them to cool down slowly as they return to normal. Stretching after your run will help you avoid all sorts of pitfalls, including sore muscles and cramps.

So remember to reward yourself with proper stretches after running to get the most from your exercise.

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