Running is taxing on your lower body, especially the quadriceps muscles, and it’s important to stretch them out after your run in order to prevent soreness, muscle fatigue, and even potential injuries.
Many people skip the stretching part of their run because they’re worried it will take too much out of their time. In reality, all you really need is five to ten minutes, and you’ll improve your muscle recovery, increase oxygen distribution, and prevent lactic acid build-up.
With every exhale, try to take it one step lower, really breathing into your muscles and feeling the muscle fibers elongate. Stay here for three to five long breath cycles, and then do the same with your left leg.
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Start in a kneeling position, legs separated hip-width distance. Try to avoid spreading them further apart as that might cause more tension in your lower back. Place your palms at the small of your back, fingers facing down. Take a big inhale and first push your palms down to elongate your lower back and then slowly start pushing your hips forward, stretching your quadriceps and at the same time getting into a back bend.
This pose is intense by itself, and if you’re only just starting to work on your spinal flexibility, this is as far as you’ll go. Stay here for two to three inhales and exhales, and then gently come back into a neutral position by first bringing your chin to your chest and then sitting down on your heels for a spinal reset.
You can repeat this pose twice more or take it a step further (only if you’re advanced in stretching or have a really flexible spine) and place your palms on your feet, creating a higher lift in your chest and a bigger back bend. The more you push your hips, the more intense the quadriceps stretch, so take it one breath at a time.
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Another great stretching pose for your quadriceps coming from yoga, the hero pose might look easy, but it’s actually one of the hardest sitting exercises. Sit on your knees in a kneeling position and then bring your shins and calves out from underneath you, placing your sitting bones on the floor instead.
This position can already be pretty intense on your knees and quadriceps, so if this is your limit, listen to your body and respect your boundaries. If you feel comfortable, interlace your fingers and bring your arms over your head. Slowly head into a back bend and place your elbows on the floor behind your seat.
You can stay here or take it to the final pose and lie down on the floor, stretching your arms over your head. stay here for three to five long inhales and exhales, and then slowly come back the same way you entered the pose. First, climb on your elbows, then lift yourself into a seat, and then slowly bring your legs underneath you for a safe exit.
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Stay here for three inhales and exhales, and then pull the foot towards your glute. This will intensify the stretch in your quad. Stay for three to five inhales and exhales, and then repeat on the other side.
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Pigeon pose is a great passive quadriceps stretch that isn’t the most comfortable but delivers great results over time. Start in a plank position with palms right under your shoulders. Lift your right leg up, bend your knee and bring it diagonally under your body, trying to place your left hip on top of your right foot. The exact position differs from body to body, so you might need to shift a little to find your best spot.
Extend your left leg behind you and relax it on the floor. Place your palms right next to your hips and take a big inhale, stretching the front side of your body and creating space in your spine. Exhale and come into a forward fold over your right leg. You can place your forearms on the floor and rest your head or take it all the way and stretch your arms far away from you.
Make sure your hips are in a squared position and one hip isn’t dropping to the side. Stay for three to five long inhales and exhales before doing the same on the other leg.
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Come into a comfortable seated position and then bring your right knee on top of your right, really trying to stack one knee under the other. Your feet will come to the sides and try to place the tops on the floor. Shimmy your hips so that both of your sitting bones are on the floor and breathe. This might look easy, but it’s actually really intense.
You can take it a step further by slowly leaning forward, but it’s not recommended to do so before the basic pose becomes comfortable. Stay for three to five long breath cycles and then repeat the same on the other side.
Stretching and recovery set
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Stretching after a run is important so add these quad stretches into your full lower-body stretching routine and reap the benefits!