Yoga for Runners

Let me guess, you have tight hips, hamstrings and calves? Sometimes your lower back gets a little sore and maybe your knees bother you from time to time, right?

I would like to tell you that my psychic abilities are kicking in and I just read your mind, but the fact is that these are all common problems runners deal with on a regular basis.

I’m a runner. I run for fun nowadays, but a year ago I used to be more competitive (with myself), and I trained a lot harder than I do now. My personal best half marathon is 1:40.

I’m sharing my time with you guys to show you that I was able to train hard in a fairly short period of time and recover from my race really quickly thanks to yoga. I recovered the fastest I ever have and completely injury free from that race and I know it’s because I took my training more seriously and therefore, I took my warm ups and cool downs/recovery sessions more seriously too.

In this blog, I included some of my favourite post-run stretches to help you recover as fast as possible. Save this link or bookmark it. After your next run, come back to it and try some of the yoga poses I list below. Let me know how it goes!  

If you prefer a video that you can follow along to, I recommend my yoga video Easy Tiger. It's seriously the perfect 30-minute yoga class for runners. All of the sequences I included focus specifically on the hips and hamstrings. Get $5 off with the discount code RUNNER

The video is only $10 with your discount (cheaper than a yoga drop-in) and you'll have it forever to watch when it's convenient for you! 

 

 

Yoga sequence for runners: 

1. Downward-facing dog 

Benefits: Stretches your calves and hamstrings. You can also loosen up your hips by bending one knee at a time and rocking your hips from side to side. 

Note:

  • Start on your hands and knees in a table top position.
  • Tuck your toes under, lift your knees up, and lift your hips up and back.
  • Press your hands into the mat and press your belly toward your thighs. 

 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths. 

 

 

2. Calf Stretch 

Benefits: Helps lengthen your calf muscles so you can walk and run properly. Stretching and lengthening your calves can help prevent issues such as  

  • Achilles tendonitis/tendinosis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Shin splints
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • etc.. 

Your calf muscles are notorious for shortening if you don't take them through their full  range of  motion on a regular basis, which is why this one is at the top of my list! It's an important one. 

Note:

  • From downward-facing dog, shift your weight forward and bring your shoulders over your wrists a little.
  • Then step one foot forward and press your other heel down toward the ground. 

 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

3. Low lunge 

Benefits: Helps stretch your hip flexors. Your hip flexors are made up of two major muscles - iliacus and psoas. They attach along your lumbar spine and the inner surface of your pelvis and attach to the front of your thigh bone (femur). It's important to take good care of your hip flexors to help prevent lower back pain and to keep your pelvis in a nice and stable position.

Note:

  • To enter this pose, step one foot between your hands and come into a lunge position.
  • Rest your back knee on the ground (use a cushion if your knee is sore).
  • Sink down and forward (this will stretch more your quads), so it's important to tuck your tailbone under as well to ensure you're feeling the stretch in your hip flexors too. 
  • You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh and hip flexor. For example, in this picture, my left foot is forward and my right foot is back. I am feeling this stretch primarily in the front of my right thigh and right hip flexor. 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

4. Half split 

Benefits: Helps stretch your hamstrings and achilles tendon. Your hamstrings include three muscles at the back of your thigh that run from your pelvis to your knee. The benefits of stretching these muscles includes preventing muscle strains or tears and preventing or reducing lower back pain. 

Note:

  • Start in a low lunge.
  • Slowly shift your hips back so you can straighten out your front leg and flex your front toes up toward your shin.
  • Allow your head to hang heavy and bow your forehead toward your knee. 

 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

5. Pigeon pose 

Benefits:  Stretches your hips and glutes -  two important areas runners need to work on. 

Note:

  • To get into pigeon pose, start in downward-facing dog.
  • Bring one knee between your hands.
  • If you have very tight hips, keep your knee in the center and bring your heel in toward your groin a bit.
  • If you are more flexible, you can place your shin bone parallel to the front edge of your mat.
  • Lengthen your back leg out and untuck your toes.
  • If it feels good, you can fold forward coming down on to your forearms. 
  • *Keep rolling your front hip down toward your heel. For example, in this picture I am rolling my RIGHT hip down toward my LEFT heel. * 

 

Time: Hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute or 4-8 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

6. Thread the needle

Modification: Thread the needle is a great modification for pigeon pose. If pigeon pose is painful or uncomfortable, lay down on your back and try thread the needle instead. 

Note:

  • Cross one ankle above your knee in a figure four shape.
  • Flex the foot that is crossed above your knee. Dorsiflexion of the ankle will help prevent rotation coming from the knee and encourage you to rotate from the hip. 
  • Take your hands and thread through and interlace them around your hamstring or your shin bone. 
  • Keep pressing your top knee away from you
  • Keep your head on the ground and your chin slightly tucked in toward your chest. If your head comes up off the ground a lot, try sliding a yoga block or a pillow underneath it. 

 

Time: Hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute or 4-8 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

7. Hero's pose 

Benefits: Stretches your quads. Maintaining flexibility in your quads is important to keep your knees healthy and tracking properly. You have 4 muscles that make up your quads and if one of them becomes increasingly tight, it can pull on your kneecap causing it to veer off track and create knee pain. 

Note: If you have very sensitive knees, please listen to your body and skip this pose if you need to!

* See bonus stretch at the end of the blog post for an alternative to hero's pose. * 

  • To get into hero's pose, bring your knees wide apart and your big toes to touch. 
  • Sit your bum onto your heels and extend your arms out behind you to support you. 
  • Lift your hips up and tuck your tailbone under. You should feel a nice stretch along the tops of your quads. 

Time: Hold for 30 seconds - 1 minute or 4-8 deep breaths.

 

 

8. Cobbler's pose 

Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs and groin, which are areas that runners usually experience tightness or discomfort. 

Note: 

  • Sit down.
  • Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall toward the outside. 
  • Interlace your hands around your feet. 
  • Hinge from your hips and fold forward. 
  • Relax your chin toward your chest. 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths. 

 

9. Sphinx pose 

Benefits: This is a very gentle backbend that's suitable for beginners. Stretches and lengthens your abdominal muscles and strengthens your lower back. It also helps to open the chest and lungs. 

Note: 

  • Lay down on your belly. 
  • Bring your forearms to the ground and keep them parallel to one another.
  •  Stack your shoulders over top of your elbows. 
  • Press the ground away from you to help lengthen your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Breathe deeply to help stretch your abdominal muscles.

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths. 

 

 

10. Spinal twist 

Benefits: Twists help release the spine and improve digestion. This pose will also help stretch your shoulder, hips, low back, and glutes - all troubled areas for runners. 

Note: 

  • Lay on your back. 
  • Hug one knee in toward your chest and pass it across your body coming into a twist. 
  • Stack your hips on top of one another (slide and adjust your bottom hip so it's more underneath your top hip). 
  • Extend your arms out at shoulder height with your palms face up. If you'd like, you can keep one hand resting on your knee like I am in the picture above. 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths per side. 

 

 

 

11. BONUS: wall work hip/ quad stretch 

This one didn't really flow with the poses above because it incorporates the wall, but nonetheless, it's a great pose the stretches various muscle groups so I wanted to include it. 

Benefits: Stretches your quads and your hip flexors. Improves flexibility and mobility in your knees and hips, which is important for runners. 

Note: 

  • Place your back shin on the wall and then slide it down so your knee comes to the ground or a cushion. 
  • Step your front foot forward an appropriate distance, just like a low lunge and bring your hands on to your thigh. 
  • Sink your hips down and forward.
  • JUST for fun... I included a more advanced variation where you add a backbend. Arch your back and drop your head back to connect the crown of your head with your foot. I threw this one in for my yogis ;) 

Time: Hold for 15-30 seconds or 3-6 deep breaths per side. 

 

Well runners, thank you for reading! I hope this helps and if you have any other questions feel free to comment below. I'll get back to you ASAP! 

 

Love Sam

xoxo

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