When it comes to recovery days, gentle yoga is a smart, low-impact way to relax. But if you’re a regular runner, your practice probably won’t look like that of the super flexible person on the mat next to you – you know, the one whose uncommon flexibility makes you curse your tight hips and hamstrings. .
“A good yoga teacher will understand and respect the fact that a runner may present with less flexibility than some other students,” says Julie erickson, RRCA certified running trainer and owner of Endurance Pilates and Yoga Studio in Boston. “This is in part a function of the adaptations the body makes to keep running injury-free.” For example, runners develop strong abs, glutes, and inner thighs to stabilize the body, keep the legs aligned, and prevent wear and tear on the joints, she says.
Rather than making flexibility the goal of your practice, you should focus on improving overall range of motion to increase your running economy. Here, the yoga teachers share six reasons why you will benefit from telling them you’re a runner long before they say “Namaste.”
There are poses that can strengthen your weak points …
âI can often spot the runners in the studio in the middle of training. Hip flexors, hamstrings, tight calves and feet and, for long distance runners, an imbalance between strong lower torso and weak upper torso all scream at runner, âsays Erin Michaela Sweeney , yoga teacher in Claremont, California. “Given a warning before class, I am at least able to guide the runner to ways to lengthen the back of the legs and activate the arms in poses.”
Your instructor can even restructure the flow specifically for you. When she knows a runner is present, Lauren Murray, owner of Lauren Marie Yoga in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, adds softer front pleats to lengthen and loosen calves and hamstrings. “I also like to include a pigeon pose (pictured above) or a variation of it to help with the outer hips, half calf lunges, and a low lunge to open up the hip flexors,” she says. “Play with the engagement of the foot in a sitting position, for example by flexing the foot [or] turning the foot outward or inward can also help stretch different parts of the leg, such as the computer band.
And others who will give you power
Being a runner doesn’t mean that every part of the practice will be a fight. You’re actually one step ahead in power poses that take advantage of your powerful quadriceps. âWhat they lack in lower body flexibility, runners make up for in strength,â says Murray. âBalancing poses like Warrior III (pictured above) and variations in tree pose can distract a runner from intense stretching and make it feel light and accomplished.â
Your form may require adjustment
All those miles you cover can cause movement imbalances, especially in the ankles, knees and hips, explains Ling acott, yoga teacher and former triathlete and marathoner in New York City. âI would repeat the signals to remind runners to stabilize the ankle and feet – pressing ‘all corners’ of the feet – to correct over pronation or supination,â she says, and also to be careful to activate evenly. the inner and outer thigh muscles in the chair pose. “This rebalancing work reduces uneven wear and tear on the hip joints and lower extremities, as well as the risk of conflict and long-term pain.”
Accessories can also be useful. Your instructor may ask you to place a blanket or block under your pigeon butt to keep your hips aligned, or give you a strap to help stretch your hamstrings.
It can be hard to calm your competitive side
For a PR-driven runner, setting aside expectations doesn’t come naturally. âBecause running can activate the competitive nature in a person’s makeup, instructors canâ¦ Anne Green, a runner and yoga teacher in Ontario, Canada. Your movement on the mat will be different from the pace you find on the sidewalk, but it can be just as meditative, she says.
Breathing can be a challenge
âRunners tend to have a tighter diaphragm and pelvic floor than most, which could cause their movement to compensate or shortness of breath in a class,â says Green. She uses gentle poses like the cat-cow, the tilted shoemaker pose, and legs along the wall to relieve tension in these areas. Listen carefully to your teacher’s reminders to move with your breathing, and step back into poses where your breathing is strained. The benefits of paying attention to your breathing can extend to your running practice.
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Smart practice can make you an even better runner
“To run effectively, your muscles must both contract and extend,” explains Francesca Budesheim, director of Corepower Yoga in Austin. “More often than not, the strong and tense muscles of runners prevent them from achieving peak performance.” Yoga can further develop strength and flexibility in a runner’s priority areas, such as the core, quads and hamstrings, but it also “strengthens areas that running ignores,” says Budesheim. Think about the shoulders and the hips.
âRunners can get very tight in the shoulders and chest,â says Irena Miller, certified yoga teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio. âUsing yoga poses to open your upper body will allow you to breathe more efficiently, keep your energy up and prevent shoulder pain. Gently stretching the quadriceps and hip flexors can also relieve lower back pain caused by muscle imbalances, Miller explains.
When you talk to your instructor about your running habits, go further to discuss your specific issues. âNo two riders are the same,â said Murray. âDon’t hesitate to ask questions and let us design a practice that will help you go the distance.
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