Yoga is a great compliment for runners. Whether you’re in the midst of a serious training regimen or you just like a leisurely jog, yoga can help keep you ready to go. While there are lots of stretches and moves to choose from, these are a few of my favorites. One of the things I appreciate about them is that they can be easily be worked into your day and customized to your needs. Spending just a few minutes regularly in these poses will really pay off in the long run.
Calf Smash – This is one of my favorites and most frequented poses when I’m logging a lot of miles. Using myofascial release balls, tennis or lacrosse balls, place them in a bag or sock (to keep them corralled), then on a sturdy surface like a block. Rest your calf on top. You may need to move and shift a bit to find the perfect spot. Allow time and gravity to help work through the tension. If you need a little extra pressure, rest the opposite leg on top with crossed ankles. You may want to repeat this in a couple of different spots. I usually spend a 3-5 minutes at each location and repeat as necessary.
Cross-Legged Forward Fold – This pose is a great multi-tasker as it targets the hamstrings and IT band. If you are tight in these areas, I highly recommend using a prop like a block or stool to limit the depth of the fold. This will help ease into the stretch. When you are ready, you can fold further. Spend about 10 rounds of breaths each side. If you can do 2-3 sets.
To refine this stretch, ensure that you are pressing all four corners of the feet into the mat. It’s common to roll into the blade edges of the feet to retreat from the intensity. You can also hug the legs together. This may shift the focus a bit more to the IT band.
Supported Squat – For most runners, the hips take quite a beating throughout the season. I really love this supported squat because it’s easy to control the height/amount of support. The goal here is easeful opening. Have a block, stool or other collection of support nearby, step the feet a little wider than the hips. Begin to sit the hips back adding support under the seat when you get to an interesting depth. Find a place where you can hang out and allow the outer hips to gently open without a lot of work through the quads and glutes. Spend about 3-5 minutes if you can. If you need a break find a nice dangling forward fold. If it’s too intense, increase the amount of support.
Supported Bridge Variation – Running tends to tighten up the front line of the body (quads, hip flexors) and this bridge variation is the a wonderful counter for that. Using a block, sturdy cushion or folded blanket come into a supported bridge. First, begin to reach the legs a little longer, be sure to keep of the feet on the ground (even if it’s just your heels). Once you are stable and settled, hug one knee toward the chest. Use the opposite leg as an anchor. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, reset to center and then repeat on the other side. If you can, do 2-3 sets.
A couple of factors will adjust the intensity of this stretch. You can play with how far you reach the base leg. The more you reach, the more intense it will be. You can also adjust the height of the support under the hips. The higher the hips, the more intense it will be.
Sphinx at the Wall – This also focuses on the front line of the body, with a little more emphasis on the quads. Position yourself with your shins against the wall and start with your head resting on the hands. This might be enough. If you want to add intensity, prop your torso up by supporting on your forearms. You an vary the height and intensity by how high you lift the torso. You can play with stacking the elbows under the shoulders (more intense) and setting the elbows more forward (less intense). Stay in this position for 3-5 minutes. Repeat as necessary.
If the 90 degree bend in the knee is too much, move slightly away from the wall. You may want a blanket to bridge the gap between the shins and the wall.
I certainly hope you find these poses helpful. Be sure to let me know which ones you tried and if they worked for you. Happy running!