Regular stretching should be an important part of every runner's routine but it's something that is easily put on the back burner. If I had a dollar for every time one of my running or CrossFit friends said to me, "I should really go to yoga," I would be a very rich woman! I totally get that it can be tough to carve out the time to make it to a class, especially when you feel like you already have a full workout schedule. Luckily, many beneficial yoga poses are easy to do on your own at home.
Today I'm sharing with you three yoga poses that every runner should be doing. I have even used some of these stretches mid-race or training run on days that I'm feeling extra tight. Nothing like getting some strange looks from cars passing by as you're doing a down dog on the sidewalk!
WHAT?Downward Facing Dog
WHY?The benefits for runners include stretching the calves, achilles, arches, hamstrings, low back and upper back.
HOW?Come to hands and knees with wrists aligned under shoulders and knees under hips. Tuck your toes and push your hips up to straighten your legs. Spread your fingers wide and press into your hands. Feet should be about hip distance apart. Think about tilting your hips upwards, almost like you are trying to curve your low back. Press down through your heels to feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings and achilles. You might want to “walk your dog” by alternating bending and straightening your knees to really get into the legs. Relax your head and neck (gaze should be at the navel) and try to pull your shoulders away from your ears.
If you are so tight that you cannot straighten you back or legs, then modify the pose by putting hands on a wall with feet directly underneath the hips and arms extended. Think about the motion of pulling your chest to the floor.
Hold for at least 30 seconds.
WHY?Low lunge is beneficial because you stretch the psoas which is the muscle most commonly responsible for low back pain. The psoas is the main hip flexor and connects the lower body to the torso. When it’s tight, runners can lose range of motion in their hips, low back and shoulders.
HOW?Step one foot forward between the hands and drop down to one knee. Make sure that your knee is aligned over your ankle. Slide the back leg back until you feel a comfortable stretch in the thigh and groin. Place your hands on the top of the front thigh and press into the palms to lift the chest. Hold for at least 30 seconds on each side and then proceed to the second variation.
The second variation you want to take is placing the hands or forearms on the ground. This will help you achieve a deeper and slightly different opening in the muscles. Hold for at least 30 seconds on each side.
WHY?Amazing hip opener that also stretches the groin, thighs, back and psoas.
HOW?From down dog, take the right shin across the top of the mat, bending the right knee. You want the knee to be outside of the side body so be sure that you’re not laying with it in the center of the chest. Pull the toes back towards the shin on the bent leg and reach through the heel. Your hips should be square and you should be resting on the top of the quadricep of the leg that is behind you. It’s common in this pose to want to cock the hips to the side but roll it all back into the center and don’t worry about trying to make contact of the hip with the floor. Option one is to sit up and press into your hands to feel the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds on each side if not much longer – up to 3-5 minutes. Option two is to come to the forearms or lay down over the front shin.
If you are unable to get into pigeon on your stomach due to flexibility limitations or knee pain, try the seated variation. Sit on the floor and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Walk your palms in as close to your hips as possible and press into the palms to lift through the chest. Try to roll the shoulders back and sit up as straight as possible. Press the knee away from you to deepen the stretch.
Jen DeCurtins is the content manager for Run Charlotte Run. She is a certified personal trainer, 200-hour registered yoga teacher, CrossFit coach and food and fitness blogger.