5 Post-Run Stretches That Unwind Miles and Miles in Just 5 Minutes

It's just a fact: Runners are known as some of the tightest athletes out there. The miles we put in on a daily basis wear down the foam of our shoes and our hamstrings, quads, and calves in equal measure.

That's why we have an episode dedicated to post-run stretches on Well+Good's YouTube series Good Moves. Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland is serving up a series of stretches you can move through directly after you've crossed the proverbial finish line—and you only really need five minutes to complete the whole sequence.

Why is stretching after a run so important?

"Your post-workout recovery is often ignored," Copeland says in the episode. "We want to make sure we're getting a stretch in after any workout that we do—whether you've done a 10-mile run, a three-mile run, done a dance class, or done a strength or high-intensity workout. You want to give yourself enough time to stretch, whether it's just five minutes or even less."

In case there was any doubt in your mind, a little bit of muscle TLC is way better than none. Why? Well, first of all, it's the secret to actually getting stronger. When you don't recover properly with stretching, days off, and plenty of foam rolling, you don't allow your body to properly recover from the micro-tears caused by your activity.

As a result, your muscles won't be able to rebuild themselves stronger. Skipping out on recovery practices may also cause soreness to turn into injury, so it's definitely worth your while to tack five minutes onto your run for Copeland's quick running cooldown stretches.

These 5 post-run stretches will cool you down after miles of effort

Watch the stretching routine for runners video above, and “hold each stretch as long as you want to, or repeat as much as you want to. I just recommend you do it for at least 30 seconds," Copeland says.

1. Seated butterfly

"This one is great because it stretches your inner thighs, and for me, I tend to get really tight not just in my hamstrings but in my inner thighs—especially after I run," Copeland says.

  1. Sit on the ground and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you so that your legs form a diamond shape.
  2. Sit tall and grab a hold of your ankles.
  3. If you're able to do so, fold your torso forward toward your ankles as far as you can comfortably go. Keep your back flat the entire time.

2. Seated tree pose

  1. From seated butterfly above, bring the sole of your left foot to your inner right thigh and extend your right leg out straight.
  2. Square your hips toward your right leg and reach your right hand to your right foot.
  3. Keep your back flat as you do so, and rest your left hand on the ground.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Seated quad stretch

  1. Still seated on the ground, bring your legs straight out in front of you and bend your right leg so that your right shin lays alongside your right hamstring.
  2. Your right foot should be flexed.
  3. If you feel like you need a little bit more of a stretch, go ahead and slowly lower your body down to the floor, tucking your tail bone under as you do.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Seated spinal twist

  1. Sit on the floor and extend both legs in front of you.
  2. Bring your right foot to the outside of your left knee.
  3. Twist your torso to the right, starting from your core, and hook you left elbow outside your right knee.
  4. Bring your right hand to the floor behind you and gently twist your chest open to the right.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Downward dog with leg stretch

"If you're doing a lot of explosive work or power work, your calves are going to be the first things that tighten up," Copeland says. So downward dog is perfect for stretching your calves.

  1. Start from a tabletop position on your hands and knees with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Curl your toes under and press through your hands and toes to lift your knees away from the mat or floor.
  3. Extend your arms while lifting your hips up and back. Your body should form an inverted “V.”
  4. Let your head relax naturally toward the ground.
  5. Bend one knee while keeping the other leg straight, then switch again and again.

“Your post-workout recovery is often ignored. We want to make sure we're getting a stretch in after any workout that we do.” —Traci Copeland, Nike Master Trainer

Dynamic vs. static stretching: What's the difference?

Who needs fancy terms—stretching is stretching, right? Well, not really. Allow us to explain.

Dynamic stretching involves moving your joints through their full range of motion, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). These types of stretches are usually mimic the activity you'll be doing and are typically done before you start said activity so your muscles are primed and ready to go.

Let's take running, for example. You may want to warm up for a run with dynamic stretches like power skips, high knees, and butt kicks because these movements are similar to running and warm up the muscles about to be worked.

Static stretching, on the other hand, involves moving a muscle as far as it can go and holding it there for up to 20 to 45 seconds, per the HSS. Add static stretches—like the ones above—to your cooldown routine after you exercise to increase flexibility and prevent injury.

Tips to get the most out of your stretches

To ensure your muscles recover and that you don't hurt yourself, follow these tips from Harvard Health Publishing:

  1. Stretch when your muscles are warm, like after a run.
  2. Stretch with proper form. If you're unsure, ask a fitness professional.
  3. Don't hold your breath when holding a stretch.
  4. Stop stretching if you feel any pain.


1. Should runners stretch every day?

There's no one-size-fits-all stretching routine—what works for one runner may not work for another. So, it's best to chat with a running coach or physical therapist for individualized recommendations, according to the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). With that being said, aim to stretch at least three or four times a week, per Harvard Health Publishing. You can slowly work up to seven days a over time.

2. What stretches should you do after a run?

It's important to stretch the muscles you worked during your run to allow them to recover. Stretch your hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves after a run. Some of the best lower-body stretches for runners include seated butterfly, seated tree pose, seated quad stretch, and downward dog. Learn how to do them—and more—above!

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