If you’re a runner, it’s essential to take some time to stretch those stems… and what better way to do it than by rolling out your yoga mat?
Sore legs are so yesterday! Recent studies have shown that a consistent yoga practice helps combat common ailments runners tend to endure, such as soreness, tight hamstrings, and knee and lower back pain.
“Running is a repetitive exercise that can create excessive tightness in the leg muscles, which makes your body unstable,” according to research from fitday.com. “If you don’t stretch properly before and after a run, your muscles will become shorter and tighter, and your body more unbalanced and unstable.”
Enter yoga — the answer to all your workout woes.
“Yoga helps loosen and lengthen all the muscles of the body to reverse the muscle tightness caused by running, and to make your body more flexible and stable,” the article notes. “Yoga helps align the muscles and bones, so that your body functions more efficiently, you experience less stiffness and you’re at a lower risk for injury. Yoga’s focus on alignment can help correct the postural and gait problems that often lead to knee, hip and back pain.”
Given the obvious benefits of yoga for runners, the SheKnows team thought it would be a good idea (for our sake, as well as yours) to talk to a yoga guru in order for tips loosening up our limbs and launching us across our next finish line as we prepare to run a half-marathon in January.
So who did we call? (Hint: Not the ghostbusters — they were busy). We phoned in none other than Kim Crotty — an ATC-certified yoga instructor at One Love Hot Yoga in Ridgewood, New Jersey, who specializes in yoga therapy including Thai bodywork, sports medicine and post-rehabilitative fitness.
“Yoga teaches you to communicate with every part of your body, therefore when you run, you’re able to do so more efficiently,” she says. Crotty adds that there are many proven benefits of a consistent yoga practice for avid runners, including reduced injuries, faster recovery, increased strength and flexibility, and a greater range of motion, as well as improved agility, balance, circulation, concentration and overall performance.
She notes that it’s recommended for runners to stretch two minutes for every minute they run; however, that may not be realistic for most people, so instead, she stresses the importance of holding a few key stretches for a little longer, especially after you run.
Check out Kim Crotty’s top six super-stretches for runners!
1. Hero’s pose
Increases energy and blood circulation throughout the feet and body.
Stretches foot muscles and quadricep tendons, and helps the knee joints.
Starting on your knees, sit back on your heels with the tops of your feet flat on the floor and hold for five to eight deep breaths. This will help stretch out the anterior muscles of your feet.
From there, curl your feet under so that you are sitting back on your toes and hold for an additional five to eight breaths. This pose helps the plantar fascia, which is the thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot.
To take the stretch one step further, clasp your fingers behind you, pulling your shoulder blades back and reaching your hands toward the ground. This will help open up your chest and shoulders.
2. Downward dog
Stretches the entire body, especially the calves, hamstrings,
back and shoulders, while strengthening the core and quadriceps.
Starting on your hands and knees in table-top position on the floor, spread your fingers wide, press into your palms and curl your toes under as you begin to lift your knees off the ground and hips up toward the sky. Keeping a slight bend in your knees, reach your ankles back and try to get your feet as flat on the ground as possible. Continue to press your chest in toward the tops of your thighs, gazing toward your legs and pressing the shoulders away from your ears to create a nice, straight spine.
3. Runner’s lunge
Stretches hamstrings, hip flexors and calves.
From downward dog, step your right foot forward between your hands, aligning the right knee over the heel. Keeping the back knee lifted off the ground, and fingertips on the ground framing the front foot, lay your torso on your front thigh and lengthen it forward.
4. Crescent lunge
Stretches hip flexors, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps.
From runner’s lunge, lower the back knee to the floor and begin to sink deeper into those hips by allowing them to drop closer to the ground. Either keep your hands on the ground, framing that front foot, or lift your arms overhead as you gaze toward the sky.
For an additional stretch, bend the back knee and kick your heel up toward your bottom as you grab the back foot with the opposite hand.
Stretches calves, hamstrings and glutes.
From crescent lunge, switch your weight to your back leg as you extend your front leg straight and lower your hips toward the back of the room, making sure you’re still keeping the hips lifted off the back heel, as opposed to sitting on it. Keep your fingertips on either side of the front leg and gaze forward toward your front foot. For an additional stretch, walk both hands to the outside of the front leg, getting a gentle twist through the side body.
6. Modified pigeon pose
Stretches the hamstrings, glutes, lateral iliotibial band, hip flexors and hip rotators.
Lying on your back, bend your knees, bringing both feet flat on the ground. Keeping your left foot planted on the floor, bring your right knee in toward your chest, crossing your right ankle over your left knee and letting your right knee turn out to the side. Reach your arms in between your legs and around the back of your left thigh as you pull your left knee in toward your chest. For more of a stretch, lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground and in toward your knee as you continue to hold this stretch. Hold for six to eight deep breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
More: Yoga posesfor athletes