My daughter Ashley is a runner. She has run Track since middle school and is now on a full track scholarship for college. Additionally, she runs Cross Country for her school and that also has contributed towards her scholarship. As a mom, I couldn’t be happier since she has a way to help offset the expensive costs of school as well as has a nice healthy activity of regular cardiovascular exercise when many people don’t.
Now as any dedicated runner knows (especially competitive runners), it is an activity that can be both great and yet hard on the body. On the positive side, running has definitely contributed towards Ashley being lean and in great shape. However; on the not so positive side, she has had her fair share of injuries which have resulted in wearing the boot or even surgery. And if you ask Ashley, she’ll tell you how miserable the boot is.
Yoga is the Perfect Compliment to Running!
Ashley regularly takes yoga classes in addition to her running. She often pursues classes through her college community fitness center, a nearby studio known as Cambio, Lifetime Fitness’ Life Yoga studio, DVDs, and of course with me. Additionally, she has gotten permission from her coaches to share a few yoga poses during track practices with her teammates. Overall, she loves yoga for its benefits and has told me it just feels good along with her running.
So as you might suspect, she has been on the lookout for good Yoga DVDs designed for runners and to my knowledge she has found one. But according to her, there aren’t a whole lot of DVDs to choose from. (If you have recommendations, comment away). Anyways, earlier this year, Ashley asked me if I would design a yoga practice specifically for runners. And as you can guess, of course, I said YES!
The great thing about a regular yoga practice is that it WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER RUNNER!
1. A regular yoga practice contributes towards improvements in form and balance.
2. A regular yoga practice will decrease your susceptibility to overuse injuries that often occur in the lower extremities!
3. For those who are competitive, a regular yoga practice will improve your focus both before and during a race. This crucial mental staying power is just as important as one’s physical endurance.
SOME PERFECT POSES FOR RUNNERS:
These all target strength and flexibility in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. (I’ve presented the below selection of poses in the order you might pursue them).
1. Do a little warm up and limbering.
2. Do a few Sun Salutations to build initial heat.
3. Working Warrior/Standing Poses: (Benefit: All encourage a fluid range of motion)
• STANDING FORWARD FOLD WITH FOLDED ARMS: Stretches: Hamstrings and back. Surrender your head and shake it yes and no a few times. You can slowly twist to the corners of your mat if that feels OK.
• STANDING WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD FOLD: Step out wide and slightly pigeon toe your feet then forward fold to the mat. You can keep one hand on the mat and twist lifting your other arm up towards the sky. Benefits: Opens the hips. Stretches: Hamstrings
• LOW LUNGE: You can pursue a modified version with the knee on the mat or keep it lifted. Stretches Hip Flexors, Calves, Achilles Tendons. Strengthens: Back and legs. All in all, it helps with Plantar Fasciitis, knee pain, and IT Band Syndrome.
• DRAGONFLY TWIST: From the Low Lunge, plant your opposite hand on the mat next to your foot, twist your torso towards your forward leg and extend your other arm in the air. Stretches: Outer hip and IT band of the front leg. The twisting also relieves lower back tension. Benefits: Helps with plantar fasciitis, knee pain, IT Band Syndrome.
Transition: Inhale as you untwist and pursue a Crescent Lunge (High Lunge). Swivel your back foot down and step in a little.
• PYRAMID POSE: This stretches out your hamstrings nicely as well as strengthening your legs in general.
4. Standing Balancing Poses:
• DANCER POSE: This is a great balancing pose and working on balance is important for runners as better balance contributes towards a more efficient stride and fewer injuries from landing improperly. (Important if wearing those minimalist shoes). Benefits: Helps with plantar fasciitis, knee pain, IT Band Syndrome, and hip pain.
5. Mat Work/Deeper Stretching
• DOWNWARD FACING DOG/WALL DOG: Either version lengthens your back and essentially stretches everything from the arches of the feet up through the shoulders. It builds upper body strength to include core. Benefits: Helps with plantar fasciitis.
• PIGEON: You can do any version (Prone, Supine, Standing, Even the Chair version). Stretches: Piriformis (Deep muscle under the glutes (butt)) which is hard to target generally when stretching. Thighs, groin, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and neck. Benefits: Opens the hips and improves flexibility. Make sure you do both sides. You can even shake out your leg in 3-Legged Dog if you’d like.
Transition: From Downward Facing Dog, drop to your hands and knees.
• HERO POSE: Stretches: the quads and ankles. For deeper sensation, maybe lean back. If you tuck the toes under, it really stretches the soles of the feet as well as strengthens ankles.
• CHILD’S POSE: Benefits: Lengthens the back. Stretches: Hips, thighs, ankles, and feet. Also helps with focus and tension relief.
Transition: From All 4’s, swing/swivel legs so they are out in front of you and you are sitting on your butt.
• SEATED FORWARD FOLD: Stretches: Spine, back, and hamstrings. You can even bend a leg in especially if you suffer from Sciatica for HEAD TO KNEE POSE.
• SEATED WIDE ANGLE FORWARD FOLD: Stretches: Hamstrings and calves. Benefits: Straightens and lengthens the spine.
• HALF LORD OF THE FISHES: Benefits: Opens the shoulders, neck, and hips. Also stretches the IT Band. Don’t forget to do the other side.
• COW-FACE POSE: Stretches: Piriformis, hips, and IT Band.
• BOAT: Lot’s of modifications are available with Boat. Strengthens: the core and hip flexors. Benefits: Improves posture and helps prevent injury.
• BUTTERFLY: Benefits: Opens the groin and hips. Stretches the inner thighs and back.
Transition: Gently roll onto your back.
• LEGS UP THE WALL/UP THE CHAIR POSE: Legs swell for a few days after long runs. This is a great pose to alleviate the swelling and I’d recommend staying in this pose for a little while if you are comfortable. You can do this in addition to wearing those compressions socks. Benefits: Helps with recovery and reduces swelling.
• SAVASANA: Who doesn’t benefit from this pose? Slow the breath to help with relaxation. If you like, you can even put a rolled up blanket under the knees so they are slightly bent for more of a Restorative approach. Stay here as long as you’d like also!
Gosh, there are actually numerous poses that benefit runners but I had to just pick a few or otherwise, my list would be really long. If you notice, I didn’t include “prone poses” (laying on your belly) with my list. That is not to say that there aren’t some great ones out there because there certainly are. For instance, Bow Pose is a great one!
Anyways, I hope you’ll find some wonderful relief with the poses I’ve presented. In the near future I’ll put together a YouTube video for those of you who would prefer to follow along with a guided practice. (Plus, the video is what Ashley really wanted me to do in the first place).