From the time I can remember, I have loved running. The wind in my hair, the blank canvas in my head, the rush of adrenalin and the pure joy when you reach the finishing line. That being said, I am not a very consistent runner. I can’t run continuously for a long period of time.
When I was younger; I never bothered to stretch or cool down after a run. But with age I have noticed , how important these two things are…
Why you may ask ?
Well the most obvious answer is to avoid injuries. But with the constant dodging of potholes in the roads, walkers everywhere and the repetitive pounding on the pavement can create stiffness and soreness in your hamstrings, IT band and quads, which can create problems in the long run.
Running demands a lot from your body.
But something like yoga, can prevent all those aches and pains
Listed below are some very simple yoga stretches to help you out . You don’t need to be super flexible to get these done. Trust me !! And with time your body will start responding to these stretches and in turn help you open up those tight muscles
So lets get going. I think I have convinced you enough to take up this yoga routine.
All you need is :
- A yoga mat (duh)
- Yoga blocks ( if you don’t have them, you can use books or anything that resembles a block, use your imagination)
- A yoga strap or a towel ( for that extra pull, you’ll see what I am talking about )
First things first:
- Do not start a yoga routine or any other workout without clearance from your doctor.
- These poses are not suitable for pregnant women.
- Each pose should be done in a slow and controlled manner. Don’t force it. Too much pressure can cause your muscles to tighten, increasing your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of “mild discomfort.” If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far.
- This can be incorporated into a post run stretching routine as well. You can also do it any time of day.
- A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose. Hold each pose for five breaths, or longer if you’d like.
Lets get Stretching !!
1. The downward facing Dog
The cornerstone of any yoga routine. This is a must.
Instructions: Start on hands and knees. Place your palms a handprint’s distance in front of your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and lift knees off the floor. Pull your hips up and back away from your hands. Press down into your hands, pull up on your arms — then shift your weight onto your legs. Begin to lift thighs up as you reach your heels back and down, which will straighten your knees. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
a. Stretches the hamstrings and calves, and creates length in the spine.
b. helps with those annoying leg cramps
c. Helps with flexibility
d. Opens up the arms, shoulders and upper back
Personal POV– Initially your hamstrings will feel very tight . Your shoulders will hurt the first couple of times. Your spine may not be completely straight ( just like mine ) and your heels may not touch the ground. But with time and some regular practise these things will improve
2. The Upward Facing Dog
Instructions: Lie flat on your abdomen. Bend your elbows and place your hands on the mat in line with your lower ribs. Wrists aligned under your elbows. Reach legs back and press tops of your feet down into the floor. Press down into your hands and straighten arms, pulling your chest up and lifting fronts of your thighs and hips away from floor. Take a few breaths, and roll back down.
a. Up Dog opens the hip flexors and stretches the whole front of the body
b. Opens up the chest and shoulders, which can help expand breathing.
Personal POV: Love this pose. It stretches out the spine. Helps you expand that chest and back. Your whole body gets a good pull which is a must after a run . Specially when those muscles have become sore and tight
3. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Instructions: Stand with feet parallel, hip-width distance apart. Gently bend over the legs, pulling abs in and bending slightly at knees. Use blocks if hamstrings are tight, or grab opposite elbows and hang. Hold for 30 seconds Three variations are available to you.
Benifits: Stretches out the hamstrings and IT band
Personal POV: Amazing for the hamstrings (you can see , mine are still tight) !! You can keep your knees bent or try keeping soft knees. With time and practise straighten them out
4. Shoulder Openers
Instructions: Interlace fingers behind back, palms touching if possible. Bend elbows and place knuckles on lower back near sacrum. Attempt to close elbows behind back. Hold for 30 seconds
Benefits: Opens up the shoulders and upper back
Personal POV: Helps with the stiff shoulders you tend to get while running.
5. Supported back bend
Instructions: Stand with feet parallel, hip-width distance apart. Place hands on lower back. Reach chest up, opening the shoulders, without crunching in the lower back. Hold for 30 seconds
Benefits: Opens up the chest. Increases flexibility in the spine.
Personal POV: One of my favourites. After a good run, my back feels really sore. This pose helps me to flex it backwards to loosen up and stretch that spine
6. Lateral Flexion
Instructions: Standing straight, bring both arms overhead, palms together. Inhale, and lift out of the lower back until the spine is elongated. Exhale, and reach your arms to the right and overhead until you feel a deep stretch up the left side of the body. Keep the glutes tight and the lower body moving forward as your upper body continues to lift and sink with each inhale and exhale. Take five deep breaths, and then switch sides. The above pictures shows two variations. You can do any one of them
Benefits: The oblique muscles get a good stretch. Making you more mobile
Personal POV: Side stretches are always good to work those obliques (the lovely love handles). We usually tend to go back and forth with most exercise. The obliques are ignored. Don’t ignore the obliques, do the side stretches
7. Low Side Lunge
Instructions: From a standing position, separate your feet into a wide stance with your toes facing forward. Place your hands above your right knee, and while exhaling, bend your right knee, keeping the left leg straight. Keep your chest lifted and open, and hold the pose for five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
a. Helps with knee cramps.
b. Keeps those knees flexible and fluid.
c. Opens up your hips
Personal POV: Easier than any other lunge you have ever done. Easy on the knees, but very helpful
8. Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Instruction: step your feet about a leg’s length apart. Exhale and fold forward, taking your hands to the floor or a yoga block. Allow your head to hang down, straightening your spine. After five breaths, inhale as you roll up slowly, engaging your abs and pressing in to your feet to help you rise. You can keep your knees slightly bent if your hamstrings are tight. If you straighten your legs, don’t lock your knees.
Benefits: This pose opens up the hips and stretches the hamstrings.
Personal POV: Do it !! Take help of a block
9. Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana)
Instructions: Step your left foot back. Your left toes will pivot in at a 45 degree angle. Your right foot faces forward.Drop your hands to your shin.Drop your forehead so it’s facing your leg. With every inhale, feel your spine growing longer with every exhale, allow the body to sink lower (the forehead is getting closer to the front leg). Repeat on the other side for five breaths.
Benefits: Pyramid pose stretches and strengthens the legs, particularly the hamstrings.
Personal POV: Don’t like doing this much. It really hurts. But its good and really stretches my IT band.
Cooling Down Poses
Instructions: Sit back on your ankles with legs folded under you, hands on your knees. Engaging your core, lift through your spine and take five deep breaths.
a.Elongates the spine
b. Flexes the glutes
C. Stretches the thighs out
Personal POV: Nice way to cool down, after a strenuous run
11. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Instructions: Your belly will rest on or between your thighs, and your forehead will reach towards the mat. Stretch the arms out in front of you to feel a stretch up the length of the back.
Benefits: Child’s pose stretches the hips, thighs and ankles gently. It may also help alleviate back pain.
Personal POV: Its a resting positions, so all you need to do is breathe deep and let your muscles cool down
12. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Instructions: helps your run-weary legs recover while you take a moment to meditate. This pose is great for anyone who works on their feet. Spend a few minutes in this pose (you can even do this in bed) each night to give your legs a break. For a bigger stretch , widened those legs
a. stretches the hamstrings gently and allows blood that has accumulated in the feet and legs to re-circulate in the body
b. offers a gentle release for the lower back.
Personal POV: I like doing the wide legged one more. The stretch is amazing
13. Corpse Pose ( Savasana )
Instructions: Just lay flat on your back
a. Helps concentrating
b. Resting that body
c. Peace and serenity
Personal POV: The best time of the routine
By now you may have already noticed that these aren’t stock images and a real human looking person has shown you these stretches (sounded funny in my head). Like all humans I too am flawed; so the poses may not be completely perfect but I am trying to get there and so will you . These poses are all tried and tested and shall not injure you in anyway. Just be careful and don’t force your body.
I shall be posting two more parts to my Running series. Coming up soon..
One is about balance and flexibility and the other one is a more advanced stretch routine for Pre-Post Running workouts.