This is the third in a series of posts about preventing injuries for athletes. The first was about dynamic stretching for injury prevention , the second was about building core strength for injury prevention and today’s post is about recovery tips and my favorite yoga poses for runners.
Did you know that I actually got into yoga BECAUSE of running and all of the injuries that I battled? Once I started distance running, I spent years dabbling in yoga because I knew it was something that I “should” do as a runner. Especially since my doctors and physical therapists had very clearly told me that I needed to improve my mobility if I wanted to put a stop to the injury cycle. I needed not only endurance but also strength and flexibility.
(Photo Scott Broome Photography)
As someone who loves to move and go, I totally get that yoga can seem like a test of patience for runners. I half-heartedly and infrequently practiced yoga for about three years because I knew I *should* before finally discovering hot power yoga, falling in love with the style and establishing a regular practice.
Fast-forward to present day and I’ve now been practicing yoga for 12+ years and teaching yoga for 10 years! I’m even training others to be teachers too! Crazy how life works out sometimes.
So…today I wanted to talk about balancing more intense workouts like running and strength work with recovery and yoga!
(Photo Scott Broome Photography)
RECOVERY TIPS FOR RUNNERS
Recovery is such an important element of your running routine. You MUST prioritize letting your body repair and rebuild. I like to compare it to a sports car…you would never drive a sports car hard without bringing it in for routine maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations, etc. You have to do the same thing for your body! It does so much for you!
Here are some of my top recovery tips for preventing injury.
- If you’re prone to injury, don’t run every day! Alternate running days with rest days, yoga days, strength days, etc.
- Speaking of yoga…practice yoga and improve your mobility/flexibility!
- Incorporate myofascial release like foam rolling and rolling on balls into you regular routine.
- Do legs up the wall after hard workouts or long runs.
- Adopt the mentality that it’s equally as important to cool down after hard workouts and runs as it is to warm up before.
- Take warm epsom salt baths. If you’re brave enough, you can do an ice bath after long runs.
- Get massages as often as your schedule/budget allows.
- Drink a TON of water and be mindful of your nutrition.
- Call in the professionals if you need guidance/support.
Let’s talk about that last one for a minute. The best injury is one that doesn’t happen in the first place. In my years of dealing with frustrating and sidelining running injuries, I have come to appreciate and rely on the experts to keep me running healthy and happy. You don’t have to be struggling with an injury to see a professional. Things like gait and motion analysis, sports conditioning and sports nutrition can be game changers when it comes to preventing injuries.
5 GREAT YOGA POSES FOR RUNNERS
Back to yoga! I wanted to share five of my favorite yoga poses for runners that you can easily do at home without having to make it to a studio or do a whole class. Of course, I encourage to establish a regular practice but if that’s not in the cards right now, incorporating these poses into your routine, you will greatly benefit!
1. DOWNWARD FACING DOG
WHY: Down dog gives you a ton of bang for your buck! It stretches everything from the calf muscles to the hamstrings the the shoulders and more. True story: I have been known to do down dog on the side of the road during long runs and races.
HOW TO DO IT: I tell my beginner yoga students that down dog is basically and inverted V shape. Start in high plank and then lift your hips up and back into the V. High plank gives you the length for your down dog. Spread your fingertips wide, press down into all 10 fingers and your palms, especially the place between your thumb and index finger. Arms are long and straight, shoulders relaxed away from ears, think about pulling your chest back through your shoulders towards the tops of your thighs. Draw the belly in and up and lift the hips high. Squeeze the quads and melt your heels down into the mat.
If this is too much for you, slightly bend the knees (it’s a LOT of stretch for the hamstrings and calf muscles!). You can also “walk your dog” alternating bending one knee and then the other.
2. CROSSED ANKLE IT BAND STRETCH
WHY: The forward fold releases the low back. The crossed ankle variation stretches the outer hip and IT band.
HOW TO DO IT: Bend at the waist and fold forward. Once you are folded, cross one foot behind the other, lining up the pinky toes. The feet can be about a fist distance apart. Bend the front knee more to deepen the stretch. Relax your head all the way down, allowing the crown of your head to extend down towards your mat. If this is too much, hands can come to blocks.
3. LOW LUNGE VARIATIONS
WHY: These low lunge variations are super awesome for stretching the hip flexor, outer hips and quads.
HOW TO DO IT: From down dog, lunge one foot forward between your hands and drop down to the opposite knee. Place hands on top of your thigh and lift your chest up as you sink into your knee to open up the hip flexor. Bring hands to the inside of your foot and down to the elbows if you have the space to open up the outer hip. You can roll to the outer blade of the foot and let the knee fall out slightly. To stretch the quad, bend the back knee and reach your hand back for your foot, pulling your heel towards your glute.
3. PIGEON VARIATIONS
WHY: Pigeon is a wonderful hip opener.
HOW TO DO IT: There are three ways that you can do this stretch. Play around with them and see which one feels best for your body. For seated pigeon, sit on your butt and cross your ankle over your opposite knee. Press through the palms, lift your chest and push your knee away from you to deepen the stretch. For supine pigeon, do the same thing but lying on your back. To deepen the stretch wrap one hand around the hamstring and place the other palm on the knee. Pull in on the hamstring and press out on the knee. For prone pigeon, bring one shin forward across the top of your mat and extend the other leg back behind you. Your hips should be square and you should be able to see your front knee on the outside of your side body. Start on the palms and to deepen the stretch come down to forearms and then relax all the way down with head resting on the mat.
5. SUPINE HAMSTRING STRETCH + VARIATIONS
WHY: These stretches open the hamstring, groin/inner thigh and also stretch the IT band and give you a gentle twist.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back and extend one leg straight out and one leg straight up. Grab behind your hamstring or your calf and flex your foot, pulling toes towards you and reaching your heel to the ceiling. For the side version, open the leg out to the side and keep the opposite hip grounded down. Keep the foot flexed. For the twist version, keep the leg straight and foot flexed and cross the straight leg over. Try to keep both shoulder blades on the mat and look in the opposite direction.
YOGA FOR RUNNERS PINNABLE
I would love for you guys to incorporate these yoga poses into your routine and let me know how they feel!
What recovery strategies do you regularly include into your running and/or workout routine?
Do you practice yoga? If not, what has held you back?