Help keep yourself injury-free and in top performance shape by integrating post-run stretches into every workout

running a marathon

While many runners are aware that stretching can be beneficial, they don’t always implement stretching routines into their workouts.  This may be because they don’t understand the reasons why this practice is so important.  This may also be because they aren’t sure which stretches are most effective.  Additionally, guidance over whether stretching should be done before or after exercise, or both, as well as the kinds of stretches recommended, has evolved, leaving many runners confused.


The good news is that it’s never too late to integrate a post-run stretching routine into your workouts–and to make sure that these stretches are backed by the latest research and recommendations by sports medicine experts.


Why is it so important to stretch before and after running?


Most of us spend a great deal of our time seated, and this shortens, or contracts, our muscles and tendons.  During running, these muscles and tendons are stretched.  If the muscles have not been stretched or “warmed up” prior to running, injuries (particularly musculotendinous injuries) are more likely to occur.  Missing this important step in your running routine may also impact the quality of your workout.


Stretching after your run is also essential because during a workout, the heart rate increases to deliver oxygen to the muscles. Stretching helps reduce stress on your heart as it allows time for your heart rate to gradually return to normal. It can also reduce the accumulation of lactic acid throughout your body, which helps prevent sore and achy muscles. In addition, stretching after activity activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you feel calm and relaxed and aids in digestion.  Finally, post-run stretching helps to relax tension that has built up in your muscles during your workout and it also helps limit joint strain, which can prevent pain and stiffness later on.


What is the difference between “static” stretches and “dynamic” stretches?

When we think of stretching, it is likely static stretching that comes to mind; this is the time-honored variety of stretching that was likely drilled into you in gym class!  

Static stretching involves moving a joint or muscle as far as you can and then holding it there for at least 20 seconds. An example of static stretching is a groin stretch for adductors:

  • Stand with your legs wider than shoulder distance apart. Keeping your hips pointed forward, lunge to one side allowing that knee to bend and keeping the opposite leg straight and outstretched to the other side. The stretch should be felt in the inner thigh of the outstretched leg.

Dynamic stretching involves using controlled movements of multiple muscle groups to gradually increase your range-of-motion with each successive repetition.  An example of dynamic stretching is arm swings:

  • Stand in a steady position with your legs shoulder distance apart.  Using both arms at once like a windmill, begin to swing the whole arms so that they come up straight in front of you and then around behind you. Start with small circles and gradually increase the size of the arm swings.

Although there’s debate in the fitness and research community regarding which type of stretching is better to do pre-workout, the general consensus is that dynamic stretching is most helpful pre-run, and static stretching is most helpful post-run.  While static stretching is not advised before activity, as it may negatively affect performance and increase the risk of injury, it is effective after activity when your muscles are more supple. These stretches target areas that often tighten up during and after running, so including them as part of your post-run routine will help improve your flexibility, comfort, and performance.

Why is it important to stretch both sides of the body?


In order to avoid overuse and injuries, it is important that both sides of your body have an even and consistent movement pattern, such as a running gait.  Stretching is a key part of creating this symmetry and balance in flexibility and range of motion.


Which static exercises are the best ones to do after a run?


We’ve compiled a list of five of the top post-run stretches, but first, keep in mind these pointers:



This stretch will help ease muscle pain in your hamstrings, as well as your lower back. 

  1. Start in a lunge position with your left leg in front of you at 90 degrees and your right knee on the ground directly underneath your body.
  2. Extend your left leg in front of you, and place your heel on the ground. 
  3. Keep your back straight, bend forward at the hips, and reach toward your left foot.
  4. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above.  Keep your back straight, bend forward at the hips, and reach toward your left foot. 
  5. Repeat on the other side.


This will stretch out the largest group of muscles in your legs that work hard when you run: the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis, and the vastus intermedius.

  1. Stand straight and lift the foot of your cramping leg up behind you, and grab your foot with your hand on that side.
  2. Pull your heel gently toward your butt, feeling a stretch in your quad.
  3. Keep your other leg straight and try to keep your knees as close together as possible.
  4. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above. Release and repeat. 
  5. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.


This stretch is a great one for your hip flexor muscles, which are responsible for lifting the legs during running. 

  1. Start on all fours, and then step your left foot up between your hands into a Low Lunge stance. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees with the knee above the ankle.
  2. Slide your right leg back until you feel a stretch in your hips.
  3. Rest your fingertips on the floor.
  4. Tuck your back toes and squeeze your back thigh to lift the knee.
  5. Press down firmly through your left heel, keeping your knee directly over your ankle and your hips squared forward.
  6. Squeeze your inner thighs toward each other.
  7. Pull your chest forward and up to form a straight line from back heel to head, using your core to maintain the position.
  8. Hold the stretch, inhaling through your nose as you lengthen the body, and exhaling through your mouth as you sink deeper. To challenge your core and balance, hover your hands above the floor, intensifying core and hip engagement.
  9. Repeat on the other side.


This stretch will help stretch out your calves, which work hard when you’re running.  It will also help prevent shin splints. 

  1. To begin, stand facing up a flight of stairs.
  2. Position yourself so that the ball of your foot and your toes are on the edge of the step. Hold onto a railing or wall for support.
  3. Drop the heel of one foot toward the ground, while bending the knee of the opposite leg. You should feel the stretch in the calf of the leg dropping the heel.
  4. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above. 
  5. Repeat on the other side.


The iliotibial band (ITB), a tendinous and fascial band that starts at the hip and goes down to your knee, is an area that often gets tight in runners.  Doing this stretch will reduce your risk of getting IT band syndrome.

  1. While standing, cross your right leg behind your left.
  2. Lean slightly forwards and to your left side until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right leg.
  3. Raise your right hand over your head and extend it to your left side.
  4. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above. 
  5. Repeat on the other side.


This stretch is helpful for tight outer hips and glutes.  As these muscles run into the lower back, it will also alleviate pain and tension in this area.

  1. Lie faceup on the floor.
  2. Bending your right knee, place your right ankle on your left thigh, just above your left knee.
  3. Interlace your fingers behind your left thigh (not behind the knee), pulling it toward your chest (Your legs should look like the number 4).
  4. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above. 
  5. Repeat on the other side.


This stretch is perfect for your arms and side abdominals. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart.
  2. Stretch your arms above your head, and hold onto your left fingertips with your right hand, making sure you are dropping your shoulders away from your ears.
  3. Grab your opposite wrist, and lean back as far as you comfortably can.
  4. Straighten up and lean to the left. Hold the stretch, using the breathing technique outlined above. 
  5. Repeat on the other side.

What’s the best way to hydrate after a run?

After stretching, proper hydration is essential.  Water is not enough to prevent and control heat stress. For fluid and electrolyte balance to be maintained, you must replace the fluids you have lost through sweat and expiration during and after your run. Our Race/Nutrition Calculators can help you determine these losses so that you are optimally hydrating at all phases of your run.   

Sodium and potassium are the two most abundant electrolytes in sweat, so replacing them in the ratio in which they are lost greatly reduces the likelihood of succumbing to heat stress. Your drink should contain 3-5 times more sodium than potassium, and most sports drinks do not follow the science and adhere to this ratio. 

Many runners are unaware that calcium loss through sweat is also an issue as it may predispose athletes to bone loss and stress fractures when inadequately replaced. An average loss of calcium per liter of sweat is 50 milligrams.  Our eload™Recovery Formula Sports Drink, formulated by renowned sports medicine physician Dr. Douglas W. Stoddard, is ideal for post-run rehydration as it provides you with the levels of sodium, potassium and calcium required to ensure your safety and optimal performance.

The bottom line

Post-run stretching is an essential part of every workout. Learning and integrating these stretches into your workouts, and ensuring that you are properly hydrating after your runs using our eload™Recovery Formula Sports Drink, are key to staying injury-free, comfortable and performing at an optimal level.