Having spent the past year or so working hard to not only complete our Yoga Teacher Training, but complement our intense ultra marathon training regime with an effective yoga practice to speed up recovery and build mental strength. We thought we would begin to share some of our favourite yoga poses that we spend a ton of time in post workouts, on rest days and even while at work! 😛
Whether it’s a group runs, running talks, or at our races, we hear so many people throw out the all to common phrases such as “all runners have tight hamstrings”, “plantar fascitis is something you can’t do anything about” or one of our favourites “I used to be able to touch my toes, but then I started running!” What we want to get people thinking is that these RULES aren’t concrete, you can break through these social stereotypes, and all it takes is a little bit of work each day. So here are 4 places to start, we find that these poses will address some of the most common tight or problematic areas runners tend to have.
There are a number of variations of runners lunge out there, depending on what studio you attend. However, this version will target not only your hamstring, but also your glutes and IT band.
Start by stepping back into a short lunge stance, feet hip width apart. With a flat back, fold forward over your front leg, allowing the front knee to take a slight bend. Note: You should not be feeling a stretch in the front hamstring…YET, so take a bend to the knee. Now slide your back foot across and behind your front foot, resting the knife edge of your foot on the ground. NOW, begin to straighen your front leg and say “HELLO hamstring!”
Variations –> Placing your hands on blocks will help if you’re have trouble rooting your hands to the ground when folding.
This is a simple posture that can target your adductors, hip flexors, or even your quads, all depending on how you move in the pose. Once you’ve found your alignment in this one, feel free to make subtle movements to explore and find your body’s sticking points.
From down dog or from standing, find your way to a deep lunge. Drop your back knee to the ground and place both hands on the ground inside of your front knee (might have to heel/toe that foot out a tad). Square your hips to the front and choose between OPTION A: lower your chest to the ground, coming down to your elbows or fully outstretching your arms and bringing your chin to the floor. This option will stretch deep into your hips, but be sure to not let your front knee fall out. OPTION B: bend your back knee and reach your opposite arm back to grab a hold of your back ankle. This will bring a deep stretch to your back quad.
#3 – Kneeling Arch Stretch
This one is so simple yet extremely important. Many runners don’t notice any foot or arch issues until they have set in and it’s often too late. We’d suggest to most people find a daily routine that you can sit back into this, such things that would work great would be while eating breakfast, while brushing your teeth, or simply reading for a few minutes before tucking into bed.
Bend your knees and sit back onto your heels. Curl your toes under so the bottoms of your feet are stretched out (making sure EACH toe is curled under…that includes you baby toe!). That’s it!!! Your toes may begin to hurt a bit, allow yourself to go to the point of intense sensation, but never to the feeling of pain. Place a folded towel under your shins if your ankles are uncomfortable, or under your buttocks if your knees are feeling strained. Whether you can only last 15 seconds, or sit for a comfortable 15 minutes, simply try to stick with it and go longer than you went yesterday.
Piriformus is something every runner has heard about, and most of us have likely felt its wrath when it gets overworked. Well this is a great posture to passively and safely stretch and relax it.
From down dog, bring your R knee forward and place it on the ground behind your R wrist. Place your ankle on the ground wherever comfortable (the more parallel your shin is to the top edge of your mat, the more intense this stretch will be). Check back and make sure your left leg is outstretched directly behind you and not swaying to one side. Focus on drawing your R hip back and your L hip forward and to the ground. At this point press your legs down into the ground and find stability in your hips. Now choose one of the below options;
–> Walk your hands forward and lower your chest to the ground. If comfortable in this position, feel free to explore a bit by drawing your chest to either side, changing the angle of the hip stretch.
–> Bend your back knee up and grab hold of this foot with one hand or if your balance is there, with both hands. Pushing down into your front leg for stability, kick your lifted foot back which will pull your chest open. Once your at this stage, one at a time bring your hand forward and up overhead and grab a hold of your foot. **If your can’t quite reach your foot this way, sling a strap around your lifted ankle and slowly with time you’ll find the strap gets shorter and shorter until your grabbing your foot.
Give these 4 postures a try, let us know how it went, feel free to ask us any questions and if you find any variations that really hit a tight spot for you, please share with everyone! More to come in the near future 🙂
Mel and Jon
Psst – be sure to check out our version 2 of Yoga Poses for Runners