After crossing the finish line of a race, an inevitable sequence of events ensues:
First, you’re given a medal for successfully completing the race. Next you walk through the barrage of water and sports drinks, drinking everything in an attempt to quench your thirst and put an end to that dry mouth. After that are the food tables where you’re faced with a crucial decision: banana or bagel? Last, you find your friends or family before sitting down to rest your tired legs. But you’ve forgotten something that will ease the pain and stiffness of the coming days and also maximize the training effect of the race: a post race stretch.
A good activity to add to your post race routine is some light stretching. Find a piece of grass (and perhaps some friends to join you) and give yourself a much needed stretch-out. It doesn’t have to be long. It’s important that you do this static stretching within 30 minutes of your race or competition when your muscles are still warm. Stretching more than 30 minutes after competition when your muscles are cold, increases the risk of injury.
Shoulders – eagle arms
Stretch your arms out to the side at shoulder height. Cross your arms in front of your body with your left elbow stacked on top of your right. Bend at the elbows and reach your arms up to the ceiling. Try to press your right fingers into your left palm. Raise your elbows to shoulder height.
Abdominal muscles and hip flexors – upward-facing dog
Lie on the front with the tops of your feet pressing into the ground and your hands under your shoulders. Press your hands down into the mat moving your body forward while you lift with your chest. Begin to straighten your arms and hug your elbows close to your side. Roll your shoulders back moving your shoulder blades down your rib cage.
Hamstrings, calves, achilles – downward-facing dog
From upward facing dog, pull your hips up and back (use that strong core) and tuck your toes under. Your wrists should be line with your hips. Relax your neck and make sure your ears are inline with your inner arms. If you feel tightness in your hamstrings and your back is rounding, simply bend your knees to maintain that straight line from your wrist to your hips.
Quadriceps and hip flexors – crescent (low lunge) variation
Start in a kneeling position. Step your right foot forward, bending your right knee to 90 degrees. Slowly slide the left knee back, pushing your hips downward until you feel a stretch. Keep your back long and straight. Make sure your right knee does not extend past 90 degrees and that your back and neck are not rounding forward. To deepen this stretch, bend the knee of the back leg and hold your toes with the arm on the same side. Repeat on the other side.
Note: if you have a knee injury or experience and pain, modify the pose.
Hips and gluteal muscles – reclined cow face
Begin on your back and cross your right leg over the left, stacking the knees keeping them closely together. Wing your feet out towards the opposite hip. Reach forward and grab your feet, shins or knees, hugging your knees closer to your chest. Make sure your shoulders and your head are resting on the ground. Repeat on the other side, so that the left leg crosses over your right.
Feet and ankles – kneeling toe squat
Begin kneeling on the floor with your knees, ankles and feet together. Using your fingertips to support you, tuck your toes under and sit back on your heels. To deepen the stretch begin to walk your knees forward keeping your feet in the same position.
Spine and back – reclined twist
Lie on your back with your arms out to the side at shoulder height in a “T”. Bend your knees and draw them into your chest. Allow your knees to gently fall to the left towards the ground. Try and keep your right shoulder from peeling away from the ground. Repeat on the left side.