Stretching has always been a part of any sport or activity I did. I grew up a gymnast and diver and no practice started without 15-20 minutes of stretching and after a back injury in high school I could barely walk in the morning until I spent time on the floor each morning stretching to loosen up. After college I was drawn to yoga since I was naturally flexible and loved the feeling of a good deep stretch.
When I began running and started doing some research on training I was surprised to learn that stretching was such a controversial topic! Many believe that stretching before a run can lead to an injury…and I’m sure for a lot of people this is true. If you don’t stretch often and your muscles are cold and tight it’s easy to push too far and hurt yourself. But, incorporating yoga into your regular routine can actually stretch and strengthen the major running muscle groups and help to prevent injury!
While I’ve always been a believer in stretching and the benefits of yoga, there are some specific things that have come up in the past few weeks that have solidified my belief that yoga is an amazing compliment to any runner’s routine!
- My friend Alex. As I mentioned in a previous post my friend Alex, a long time runner, recently ran her first marathon. Alex has been a runner for as long as I can remember, but she was often sidelined by hamstring injuries. A few months ago I suggested she try yoga and I began e-mailing her some poses that I thought would help. I had no idea if she was even trying them, so I was honestly shocked when she told me she had started going to yoga once a week! She made it through her training injury free and partially credits it to yoga!
- My 18 mile training run. Last year my 18 & 20 mile marathon training runs were NOT good. And by not good I mean I was considering not doing the marathon. I was sore for days and had a stabbing “pain in the butt”, it was as if my piriformis muscle DID NOT want me to go past 16 miles! Two weeks ago I did an 18 mile training run and felt so good I almost decided to keep going! I wasn’t sore that night and at yoga the next day I couldn’t even tell I had gone for a long run! It was amazing, even my yoga teacher couldn’t believe it. The major difference between my training last year and this year is that this year I’ve been practicing yoga and certain running specific poses at least 3-4 days a week!
- My massage therapist. Last night I got a massage. I LOVE my massages and have been going to the same therapist for over a year. Last year during my marathon training he was fantastic at really working out my legs and targeting that piriformis muscle when it was tight (which was always!). Last night I got a massage (now keep in mind I am in the height of my marathon training) and he actually asked me if I am still running! He said my leg muscles are so loose he assumed I had stopped!
So, there you have it, I am a believer! And, I just happen to be almost done with my 200 hour yoga teacher certification so I figured what better way to get started teaching than to share some of my favorite yoga poses for runners with you! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some poses with step-by-step instructions and lots of pictures (of yours truly!), I hope these poses will help some of you as much as they’ve helped me!
I’d love to know – do you practice yoga? Are you interested in learning about how yoga can help your running??