Training Tip: The Three Best Stretches for Runners

Don’t be such a stiff — after running (or run/walking), stretch your muscles with these three moves.

By Alyssa Shaffer
female runner stretching image
Runners stretch at the 2008 MORE Marathon + Half-Marathon (Photo: Matthew Carasella)

Plan developed by Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City.

As you start to add on your weekly miles, you may notice that your muscles seem a bit stiffer. Since flexibility diminishes with each decade, it’s especially important for 40-plus women to take time to stretch. Runners need to concentrate on three areas: Hamstrings, which are generally affected as you run up hills; quads, which are affected more as you run downhill; and your calves, including your gastrocnemeus and soleus (deep) muscles, which are used as a springboard to carry you forward, says Solkin.

Her three favorite stretches to target these often-tight areas are based on something called the active isolated technique, which allows the opposing muscle to relax before you stretch the target area (for example, relaxing the quads before you stretch the hamstrings). "It gives you a greater range of motion, so you can move further into the stretch," says Solkin.

Hamstring Bench Stretch

  • A. Stand with your right foot on a bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Bend your right knee slightly, leaning into your leg, then stand up straight.
  • B. Straighten your right leg, hinging forward from your hips, keeping right knee locked. Hold about 2 seconds, relax and repeat. Do 6 to 8 reps on this leg; switch sides.

Standing Quad Stretch

  • A. Stand with hands at sides, feet hip-distance apart. Bend your right knee and grasp the top of your right foot with right hand. Lift your right knee forward, then bring the leg back to start.
  • B. From here, bring your heel as close as possible toward the right side of your butt. Hold here for about 2 seconds. Do 6 to 8 reps on this leg; switch sides.

Two-for-One Calf Stretch

  • A. Stand on a curb or step with right heel hanging off the edge. Bend left leg, pressing right heel straight down.
  • B. Straighten left leg, then bend both knees as you press right heel down for about 2 seconds, feeling the stretch in the deeper part of your calf. Return to start and repeat. Do 6 to 8 reps; switch sides.

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Originally published on, January 2009.

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