Calves, glutes, hamstrings, and hips are notoriously tight areas for runners due to the repetitive action of running. Yoga is a great cross-training tool for runners to stretch, lengthen and strengthen tight muscles resulting from logging daily miles.
I am a physical therapist as well as a runner and yoga instructor, so I understand what you go through! These are some of my top targeted yoga moves for runners.
Pose #1: Downward Facing Dog
Benefit: Calf Muscle and Hamstring Stretch
Start on your hands and knees. Reach your hips up toward the ceiling. Draw your sit bones toward the wall behind you, gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an "A". Try to bring your heels toward the floor (heels do not have to be flat on the floor). Hold for 5- 10 breaths.
Pose #2: Low Lunge
Benefit: Hip Flexor Stretch
Start by stepping one (right) foot forward between your hands. Next, lower down onto your other (left) knee and release the top of that (left) foot on the ground. Keep the (right) knee stacked directly over the (right) ankle. Tilt your tailbone down to the ground pulling your pelvic up preventing any arching in the low back and protecting your lumbar spine. Place your fingers on the ground on either side of your hips (or rest on your front knee) and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
To increase the stretch, inch the (right) foot forward. Breathe and slowly bring your body down and into your hips without arching your low back. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Pose #3: Intense Leg Stretch
Benefit: Hamstring Stretch
Begin by taking a big step back with your (right) foot. This foot will slightly angle out towards the edge of your mat. Keep your feet hip distance wide. Place your hands on your hips and square the hips towards the front of the room. Keeping both legs straight and knees soft, center your hips parallel to the front of your mat.
Breathe and place your hands wherever comfortable. Slowly fold over your front leg, hinging from the hip and focusing on keeping your feet pressed into the ground. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Pose #4: Double Pigeon
Benefit: Lateral Hip Muscle Stretch
Sit with both legs extended straight in front of you, sit up tall. Bend your (right) knee 90-degrees and bring the outer edge of your bent (right) leg to rest in front of you. Your (right) shin should be parallel to the front of the room.
Next, bend your (left) knee, picking up your (left) leg and stacking your left ankle on the outside of the (right) knee. Your goal is to keep both ankles flexed by pulling the top your foot towards your shin. Place your hands beside your hips and push your shoulders back and lengthen the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Deepen the stretch by hinging forward through the hips keeping your spine straight. Breathe and hold the pose 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Jenni Freie, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Pineville.