Whether you have just started training for your first ever fun run or you’re an experienced distance runner, your body will benefit from striking a few yoga poses. Here, we explore how yoga complements your training, and share an easy sequence that you can do at home.
Pounding the pavement week after week can take its toll on your body. Runners can be prone to injuries in the hips, hammies, knees, calves, ankles … the list goes on. To avoid injury and keep up with your training, you need to maintain flexibility, strength and balance within your body. Enter yoga. This tried-and-true practice is a great counter-balance to running training. Here’s how it helps:
Flexibility – yoga stretches all those muscles that have tightened after a hard training session or a long run. It also increases range of movement in your muscles, which helps you stride out and run a little easier.
Strength – while your running muscles (primarily, your quads, hammies, glutes and calves) get a great workout on your training runs, many other muscles don’t. Yoga is all all-body strength session. As well as looking after your legs, it will strengthen your core and your arms, which are going to help you run better.
Balance – the repetitive nature of running can actually throw your body off balance, particularly if you’ve had an injury before. Yoga restores balance and symmetry, which is so important for staving off further injury.
Aerobic capacity – breathing is so important in yoga and in running, yet the two practices are quite different. While running, your breath is shallow; in yoga, you take deep, long breaths to awaken the deeper parts of your lungs.
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of yoga for runners, let’s look at an easy sequence that you can slot in after runs or on your rest days.
You could move through the following sequence four times, making sure to balance it out by doing poses 2, 3 and 4 on each leg. Depending on how long you’ve got, you could complete the whole thing in a couple of minutes after a run (with a minimum of five slow breaths in each pose), or you could really stretch it out with about 30 seconds in each pose. The intensity of your session depends on where you feel tight. For some, the hamstrings are a killer; for others, the pigeon pose is really hard on the glutes. Listen to your body and don’t push it to the point of pain.
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) When you run, your hamstrings get shorter and tighter. If this tightness is not corrected over time, it can lead to ‘issues in your tissues’ like lower back problems. Downward facing dog stretches the whole back line of your body, creating more space in the backs of your legs/hamstrings and strengthening and stretching your ankles/feet.
Low lunge with clasp (Anjaneyasana) We spend so much of our time sitting down these days. This contracts the tissues at the front of our hips, and running exacerbates this contraction. A low lunge is a fantastic way to open up through the front of the hips, creating more mobility and ease of movement. Clasping your hands behind your back, drawing the shoulders back and lifting the heart further opens up the front line of the body and improves your breathing capacity.
Hamstring stretch (Ardha Hanumanasana) This is another ‘hamstring opener’, and has the same benefits as the pose above. The more mobility you create in your body, the easier it is to move and run.
Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajkapotasana Prep) Sitting and running can also exacerbate lower back and glute issues. If you don’t regularly stretch the area out, then tightness in your glutes can lead to lower back issues, sciatica and piriformis syndrome. Pigeon pose will help to loosen things up.
Cobblers pose (Badakonasana) This pose works the tissues in the inside of your legs, as well as your lower back and hips, to create more space.
That’s it! Simple stretches, done mindfully and done often, will help you ward off injury and keep running for longer.