I Should Go Do Yoga...For Runners
Whether you’ve been running for ages, or have put a couch to 5k on your 2019 resolutions list, it’s no secret that the hobby can leave you with tired, tight muscles, without the right warm-up & cool down. Incorporating yoga into your routine, both immediately before/after a run, and on your off-days, will help keep the muscles and fascia supple & healthy to keep you running for longer!
Here are my favourite yoga routines/postures suitable for all levels of runner!
Start with some half-run salutations to start. Begin standing you’re your feet hip distance apart. Inhale & raise the hands overhead. As you exhale, fold forwards from the hips with a long, straight spine & soft knees. Inhale & lift your chest away from your thighs, to parallel to the floor. Exhale & fold again. Inhale & rise up to standing again. Repeat 3-4 times.
Come to all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders & your knees under your hips. From here, send the right leg behind you & tuck the toes under. Press the heel back to stretch the calf muscle. Breathe & hold for 5-10 breaths & repeat on the other side.
Working the core will help take the pressure off your lower back & enable the rest of the muscles of the lower body to fire correctly. From all fours, swing your right foot out to the right slightly, to create a sort of kick-stand for your body with the leg. Extend the left leg straight to the back of the mat & bring your right hand to underneath your shoulder. Turn the chest to the left & lift the left hand straight to the sky. Keep the lower abdominals hugging in, like you’re trying to fit on those tight jeans again. Hold here & breath for 5-10 breaths before repeating on the other side.
For a further challenge, try raising the top leg & hovering it off the floor, or lifting & lowering it 5-10 times. For an even further challenge try this with the bottom knee lifted into a full side plank.
Keep an eye on your hips & side body – keep them lifting upwards towards the ceiling & don’t forget to keep breathing!!!
This one is great for stretching out the hamstrings & calves as well as the lower back. From all fours, walk your hands out to the top of the mat. Spread your fingers & engage your arms so they’re straight, squeezing the elbows in towards each other. Press the shoulders into their sockets (like the dipping down movement we just did on all-fours) and roll the upper arms outwards. Tuck the toes under & lift the hips up and backwards. Allow the chest to press back towards the thighs. Keep the knees soft (bent) & alternate pressing one heel and then the other down into the mat.
Continuing the back-body stretch, we’ll come into a forward fold. Bring the feet hip distance apart, bend the knees and allow the belly to rest onto the thighs. Let the back of the neck be long & the top of the head heavy. You can hold on to opposite elbows & rock side to side here or nod the head yes / shake it no to release anything in the upper back / shoulders. Breathe into the lower back & backs of the legs for 5-10 breaths.
Now bring your feet to as wide as the mat & bring your right hand to the top of a block on its highest height, or a box/book. Bend the right knee & keep the left leg straight. Press backwards with the left buttock & hip, twist to the left & lift the left hand straight into the sky. You should feel a stretch through the left hip / lower back. Breathe for 2-3 breaths and then change to the other side. Repeat as many times as feels good!
This posture really strengthens the legs, hips & core while continuing to lengthen the backs of the legs. Stand with your feet hip distance apart, and then step your right foot back a pace. You want your feet to stay hip distance apart, & your toes to be pointing forwards, keeping the heel of the back foot on the floor. If the heel lifts up, bring the foot in closer.
Place your hands on your hips & try to keep them aligned with one another throughout the posture. Imagine you’re sliding your front foot forwards & your back foot backwards – you should feel the muscles in the legs engage here. Keep both legs straight but don’t let the knees lock out.
Gently start to fold forward from the hips, keeping the spine long & straight & the hips in line. Place the hands on to blocks, books, or on the floor, depending on your flexibility. Breathe into any tightness in the legs & lower back for 10-15 breaths. Gently rise up by pressing into the floor with the feet and hugging the lower belly in. Swap to the other side.
Chair Pose & Goddess Squat
Build strength with these postures!
Start with your knees & big toes together, and your heels slightly apart. Inhale & raise your hands up overhead, exhale & bend your knees & send your buttocks back like you’re sitting on a chair. Squeeze the inner thighs together & engage the buttocks. Ensure the weight is in your heels (lift your toes to check!).
Engage the lower abdominals to flatten the lower back slightly. Breathe here for 5 breaths, rest in forward fold & then repeat on the other side.
Now, widen your feet & turn the toes outwards. Bring the weight into your heels, exhale & bend the knees like you’re sitting down onto a chair. Try to bend your knees so much that your thighs go parallel to the floor. Engage the buttocks, pelvic floor & lower abdominals. Inhale & press down through the heels to stand up. Repeat 10-15 times.
Stretch out tight hip quads & hip flexors with this posture. From all-fours, step your right foot forward & bring it to the edge of your mat. Allow the hips to hip down to the front of the mat, taking a hip flexor stretch. From here, place the right hand on the inside of the knee & gently press the knee outwards, rolling onto the outer edge of the foot. Breathe here for 5-10 breaths, allowing the hips to stretch.
To go deeper and get into the quads, reach around with your right hand and pull your left heel into your buttock. Open the chest to the right & look over your right shoulder.
Breathe for 5-10 breaths before releasing & changing sides.
Reclined pigeon & butterfly
To cool down we’ll stretch out the hips & lower back. Lay down on your back with the knees bent. Cross the right ankle over the left knee creating a triangle-shape with your right leg. Press the knee gently away from you to locate the stretch in the right hip. Try to keep the right foot flexed & active (so no pointed or relaxed toes!). If you want to deepen the stretch, loop your hands around the back of your left thigh & pull your thigh in towards the chest. Stay for 10-15 breaths & then change to the other side.
To finish, bring the soles of your feet together & let your knees fall apart. You can bring your feet as close to you as feels comfortable & let the knees be heavy. Place your hands on your belly & follow the rise & fall of your belly as you breathe in and out. As an alternative you can support yourself with a cushion or pillow & let the hands fall out to the sides, palms facing upwards & allow yourself to relax! Stay for as long as you like & enjoy.
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