Most runners and walkers know they should stretch after a workout, but not everyone does it. Stretching improves flexibility, decreases soreness, improves athletic performance, and decreases risk of injury. Stretching after exercise is the most effective because your muscles are already loosened up and will adapt best to stretching.

For the stretches below, do each at least twice, and hold for 30 seconds. However, do not stretch to the point of pain, and be sure not to bounce while stretching, as this can cause injury. Finally, stretch slowly and gradually increase the amount of stretch through the 30 seconds.

  1. Calf Stretch — Stand about three feet from a wall, feet at shoulder width and flat on the ground. Put your hands on the wall with your arms straight for support. Lean your hips forward and bend your knees slightly to stretch your calves.  
  2. Hamstring Stretch — Lie down with one leg straight up in the air, the other bent with foot flat on the ground. Loop a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel as you push against it with your foot. Push only to the point where your muscles contract. Stretch both legs.  
  3. Quad Stretch — Stand on one foot, with one hand on a wall for balance. Hold the other foot with the opposite hand and raise the heel of the lifted foot to the buttocks (or as close as comfortably possible), stretching your quadriceps. Keep your body upright throughout. Change legs and repeat.  
  4. Groin Stretch — Seated, put the soles of your feet together. With your elbows on the inside of your knees, gradually lean forward and gently press your knees toward the ground.