Cooling down after a run allows your heart rate to slow down gradually. Stretching your muscles not only helps prevent soreness and injury, it also gives you time to congratulate yourself for getting through a difficult workout. According to exercise scientist expert and professor Michele Olsen in an interview with Shape.com, static stretching before a run can cause muscle strain, so save such stretches for afterward, when your muscles are warmed.
Walk it Off
Transition from running to stretching with an easy jog and then a walk. The length of time you take for cooling down depends on the length and intensity of your run -- after a half-hour jog, slow your pace for three to five minutes. After a harder run, cool down for five to ten minutes. If you're running outdoors, you might choose to perform stride drills as you cool down. Drills include lifting your knees high with each step, kicking your feet up toward your butt with each step and swinging your arms high while skipping. Perform each drill two to four times for at least 55 yards.
Quads and Hamstrings
After you've slowed from running to walking, perform static leg stretches. To stretch your quadriceps, the large muscles on the front of your thighs, kneel with your knees hip-width apart and your hands at your sides. Lean back as far as you can and hold for five seconds. To stretch your hamstrings, lie on the ground with your knees bent. Stretch one leg into the air and grasp the ball of your foot with both hands. Hold for five to 10 seconds, pulling your foot closer to you if you need a deeper stretch.
Clasp your hands behind your lower back, straighten your arms and lift your chest. Lean forward at the waist, keeping your arms and legs straight. Raise your hands higher behind your back, which pushes your chest forward. Lean forward over your legs, imagining your forehead touching your chin. Let your arms fall toward the top of your head, with your hands still clasped. Stand up, release your hands and walk easily, swinging your arms in circles going forward and back. Stretch one arm across your chest with your hand extended and hold your forearm in place with your other hand for five seconds. Repeat on the other arm.
Calves and Ankles
Release your calf muscles by standing with the balls of your feet on a stair or aerobics step. Let your heels hang off the step so they are lower than the balls of your feet. You'll feel the stretch all the way through your lower legs. Raise your feet, coming up onto your toes. Gradually lower back down so your heels hang off the step again. Do this stretch as many times as necessary to sufficiently relax your calves. To stretch your ankles, sit up straight with your legs extended in front of you. Lift one leg 3 inches and point your toes away from you. Slowly circle the ankle clockwise and then counterclockwise. Repeat 10 times in each direction.