Running is a great exercise for the body but often runners are prone to injuries if they do not stretch their body before and after properly. Yoga is a great tool for stretching before and/or after running. Yoga is great for runners because it helps strengthen your muscles and prevent future injuries. If you are a runner, you want to strengthen and lengthen leg muscles, improve flexibility and prevent injury then you should consider a consistent yoga practice.
Runners should try these 10 poses to help improve their running game and to improve their health overall.
1. Downward Facing Dog
Runners often have injuries common in the legs, hips and pelvis areas because those are the body parts that are being used the most. Excessive use of anything will begin to show wear and tear after a while, if not taken care of properly. This pose caters to those body parts by stretching that region of the body out. If you want to get the most out of the pose, lift your hips bones to the ceiling and press your feet including your heels flat on the mat and you will receive the best stretch for not only your lower body but your whole body.
2. Upward Dog
While runners have lower body phenomenal strength, their upper body is often neglected because it’s not used as often while running. As you know when a body part is not used often, it becomes weak. This pose helps to strengthen the upper body. Go into plank from the downward-facing dog and lower halfway keeping your upper body lifted. This pose is great for stretching out not only your upper body but your lower back as well.
3. Forward Fold
Talk about heavenly stretching. This pose stretches your lower body unlike any other pose because you are stretching your hamstring and calves, possibly the most used regions of your body during a run. Sitting up straight with your legs straight together in the front reach for your toes. If you cannot touch your toes continue to reach for the direction of your toes or bend your knees and you will still receive the benefits of the stretch. This can be done seated or standing.
This pose can be done lying down or sitting straight up. No matter the position of the pose, it still provides a tremendous stretch for your lower back, hips and inner thighs. If you tend to rush through your pre and post run stretching routines, you may want to stay in this pose longer because it targets those areas that are neglected as a result of rushing. Lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together in front of you and allow your knees to naturally fall to either side, please do not force this.
5. Reclining Pigeon
If you are looking for a great stretch for your hamstrings and Gluteus maximums (glutes), this is the pose. This pose can be done seated or lying down but often when the pose is done seated, there is too much pressure on your knees if not done correctly. To avoid injury, try this pose lying down. Lie flat on your back, bend your knees and cross one ankle over the opposite quad and gently bring your legs towards you for a nice stretch. Don’t strain your neck, just naturally allow your legs to come as close to you as possible. Repeat this pose on the other side.
What a great pose to open your shoulders and the front of your body. Lie flat on your back, keep your upper body on the ground and lift your hips up to the ceiling. You will also notice that this pose strengthens your core region. If you would like a deeper stretch for your upper body, clasp your hands together underneath your lifted hips and you can even lift your body further up if it allows.
7. Seated Spinal Twist
This pose wrings out your spine. Runners are in an upright position for however long their run is and that tends to move their bodies forward which can be put strain on your back, including your spine. Sit straight up and cross one leg over the other with the top leg upright and twist your body to the opposite side with your arm against your opposite thigh. Talk about wringing out a wet rag, this pose will do wonders for your back and your spine.
8. Low Lunge/Lizard
Lunges, in general, are great for stretching your lower body. Your whole body receives the stretch as well because it has to work to hold you up on your legs. Lunges and lizard poses stretch out your back and front legs and not mention opens your hips. These poses also strengthen the core and force you to improve your balance.
Balancing poses are always great for runners because it helps to activate your leg muscles, which are already strengthened from running. In this pose, you balance on one leg, which helps improves flexibility and continues to strengthen your leg muscles. Balancing poses help prevent injury of the legs, ankles, and feet because of the improved flexibility, those areas of the body will no longer be weak and prone to injury. Stand straight with both feet on the ground, then out all of your weight on one side and begin to balance on the standing leg.
As a runner, your hips and glutes are extremely tight because they are used the most during your runs. This pose can be slightly difficult for runners because of that but it’s not impossible. The more you do this pose, the more your hips and glutes will begin to loosen and open up. Stand straight, open your legs into a straddle shape, then open your arms on either side and move forward and reach for your toe on one side, staying in a side position. If you cannot reach your toes at first, reach for your ankle or your skin. Repeat on the other side.
If you are a runner and you are looking to improve your runs, strengthen your leg muscles and your lower body in general, try yoga. Yoga provides you with stretches for your lower body, which is used the most in your runs but also targets your upper body which is strained frequently because it’s consistently upright during runs. It is also important to remember that no matter what pose you are doing, you must always breathe through the poses. Not only is yoga great for stretching, but yoga also clears your mind which helps you become a better runner. A changed mind means a changed life.