Face it: if you run your Mudder hard enough, you’re gonna be sore the next day. Sometimes, that soreness is a nice, welcome reminder of how tough it was, but other times it’s a debilitating ache that makes the simplest of tasks (walking up stairs) and the even simpler tasks (walking in general) near impossible. And whereas your yogi friend swears by an hour-long stretch sesh, let’s be real here. 1) You don’t have that kind of time, and 2) science hasn’t actually shown that you need to go to such great lengths to achieve the full benefits of static stretching. Seriously - studies have found that the main reason to stretch is a potential reduction of “bothersome soreness.” So don’t overdo it.
Harvard health experts recommend that you hold your stretches for 30 seconds, refraining from any bouncing or movement. “You'll feel tension during a stretch,” they advise, “but you should not feel pain.” Try these on for size after your next race:
Standing Quad Stretch
Hold onto a wall (or a teammate) if you need more balance. Reach back with one (or both) hands and hold onto one foot. Actively press the hip forward of the side that you’re stretching, feeling the back lengthen, and quad and hip flexor release. Switch to the other side.
Flex one foot out in front of you, shift your hips back, and keep your chin and chest lifted. Let the back of your leg (aka those hamstrings) release and switch sides.
Another situation where a friend or some sort of support might be helpful: cross one ankle over the opposite knee so that the legs make a figure four, and sit back, letting the hips open up. Switch it out.
Crossed Ankles & Side Reach
Last one: bring one ankle across the other, reach up then to the side, lengthening from the outside of your heel all the way through your fingertips. Take up space and finish that last side up.
See? Nothing to it, really. If you’re looking to reduce your soreness after an event or a workout, this should be plenty for you. If you’ve got other goals, though, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. If you’re trying to touch your palms flat on the ground while folded over or go for a full split, a more regular, intensive stretching regimen will be more likely to get you there. Time to call that yogi and ask for an invite to class.