Tight muscles are no strangers to runners. Performing yoga stretches 10 minutes before and after runs helps prevent injury and keep muscles limber.
Why yoga? While yoga improves strength and balance, one of the best things it can do for runners is increase flexibility. If you don't have the flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings to create an adequate range of motion, your body will ask that motion to come from other joints, joints not meant to produce that motion. The result? You get early fatigue, early breakdown, and you expose yourself to injury.
Many have suffered from knee pain due to IT Band tightness and low back pain from tight hamstrings after long runs.
Here are some favorite pre-run yoga poses to help warm up your muscles and prevent tearing or other injuries while running. So before you head out on your next run, try these yoga poses in order and hold each pose for 5–10 deep breaths.
1. Interlace and Fold
Opens chest and shoulders, stretches hamstrings
Start by standing hip-width apart. Stretch your arms out towards your back, interlacing your fingers behind you. Fold forward, taking your arms up and overhead, keeping knees slightly bent. Shake out your head and relax your neck. Release your hands toward the ground and roll up slowly.
2. High Runner’s Lunge
Trains the knees to stabilize, strengthens and lengthens stride
Take a long step back with your left leg and come into a lunge with your front knee at 90 degrees, keeping your knee directly over the ankle. Keep your back leg straight and your front knee stable over the ankle as you raise your arms overhead. Find your balance, relax your neck and shoulders and breathe deeply.
3. High Runner’s Lunge with Side Bend
Lengthens side body, stretches top of the IT band and improves balance
From the high runner's lunge, place your right hand on your right hip, bend your torso to the right and reach your left arm overhead and to the right (stretching the left side of your body). Keep that right knee over that ankle (you should see your toes).
4. Warrior III
Strengthens ankles, legs, core.
Balance on your right leg and lift your left leg behind you as you drop your torso parallel to the ground. Keep your arms out like airplane wings or reach them forward.
5. Low Lunge Twist
Stretches hips and twists spine
Step your left leg back into a lunge and drop that knee to the ground, placing both hands to the ground for support. Next, put your right hand on your right thigh as you rotate your chest to the right, while keeping your left hand on the ground. Reach your right arm up and look towards the sky. Return to your standing forward bend and repeat poses 2–5 with the opposite foot forward.
Do you see or feel a difference in your runs after a few weeks of stretching?