During a tough run, it's easy to find yourself counting down the minutes until the cool down. But when the glorious moment arrives, it's also pretty tempting to skip stretching in favor of chugging water and praising yourself for finishing as you head to the shower.
The re-hydrating and self love? Always a great idea. Skipping the cool down? Not so much. According to Nike trainer Traci Copeland in the latest episode of Trainer of the Month Club, a quick dynamic stretching routine after a run can help prevent injury and prepare you to get back out there the next day—which is important for consistency if you're trying to complete a running program like our United States of Running 5k or 10k plans.
To keep your mid-run mojo going through the cool down, try this tip: Don't switch off your music as soon as you hit your mileage goal. Keep the tunes pumping, and keep your hands free to really sink into your stretches with a pair of Bose Frames Tempo shades (sunglasses that double as headphones—seriously).
Now for the stretching specifics: Copeland created a seven-minute (one minute per move) stretching routine for runners that especially focuses on your lower body. "Whether you do all seven moves or just a few at a time, it's really important that you get a good stretch in after you run," Copeland says. The trainer has spoken.
Watch the video above for Copeland's stretching routine for runners, and get the details on each move below.
1. Butterfly Stretch
This classic stretch is Copeland's go-to after a run to help open up her hips. Focus on distributing equal weight on both sit bones and relaxing your head toward the ground as you hold for one minute.
2. Hamstring Stretch
Do double-duty: Reach your opposite arm overhead and lean toward your extended leg, so you're not just stretching your hamstring, but your side as well. Hold for 30 seconds on one side, then repeat on the other.
3. Hip Flexor Stretch
Start in a low lunge on your right side, and extend forward (it's okay to extend your knee past your ankle) until you feel the stretch in your left hip flexor. For more of a chest opener, bring both hands above your head. After 30 seconds, switch sides.
4. Half-Knee Hamstring Stretch
Remain in a low lunge and shift your hips backward, stretching your front hamstring. Breathe slowly in and out, and with each exhale, try to stretch a little bit deeper. Switch sides after 30 seconds.
5. Lying Side Twist
Lie down on your back, hug both knees into your chest, and slowly twist your legs to one side while you look in the opposite direction. Too much pressure? Try placing a yoga block between your knees. After 30 seconds, slowly bring your knees through center to switch sides.
6. Figure Four Stretch
This basic move stretches out your hips, hamstrings, and glutes—all muscles that tend to tighten up when you run. Make sure to flex your top foot to protect your knee, and stay tall and lifted in your chest.
7. Forward Fold
What better way to end a stretching sesh than a one-minute forward fold? Distribute your weight evenly through all four corners of your feet, hold opposite elbows, and breathe. Now feel free to lie down in savasana for as long as you need.
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