It’s no secret that I love to run, although I’m somewhat of a seasonal runner. I started training for a 5 K race in the Spring of 2011, having never ever done much running before that (aside from gym class – and even then I did my best to avoid it). I fought through the initial frustration of not being able to run very far before taking a huffing & puffing break (200 m felt SO far!). Over time, I started to experience bliss during my runs, and euphoria (the famous post-run high) afterwards. I slowly built myself up to run a 10 k in just over an hour in Fall 2011.
While I had a steady yoga practice during that time, and I was teaching quite a bit, I didn’t stretch right after my runs as much and as regularly as I should have. As a result, I developed a bit of a knee issue from over-tight outer hips and quads. After taking some time off and healing my injury, I made a pact with myself to always, always, stretch after my runs (and any other workout, for that matter). Sometimes, my strength sessions are long and thorough, and other times they’re quick and targeted.
In the photo above are my favourite post-run stretches to do when I have a short amount of time to do them. If you have a yoga mat to try these on – awesome, but you don’t need a mat (no excuses!). You’ll be nice and warm from running before you start, so these poses will stretch out the muscles and fascia, but also nicely cool you down from your sweat session. Here we go!
- Make sure to breathe in poses 1-4 for at least 15 breaths before moving to the next pose. Stay in pose 5 longer if you can.
- You may find by your 10th breath (or so), that you can move slightly deeper into the pose. Go for it!
- Remember to do both legs for poses 2 and 4.
- Don’t obsess about your form, but be mindful. You should not feel sharp pain ever when you’re doing yoga.
- Feeling uncomfortable and a general stretching sensation in the belly (mid-point) of your muscles is normal and good for you.
The Post-Run Yoga Sequence
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, the creases of your ankles parallel with each other. Fold forward and hinge at the hips. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to feel your belly on your thighs. Bending your knees protects your low-back in this position, particularly if you have tight hamstrings. Set your fists in opposite elbows, and let your head and arms hang like dead weight. Stay here for 15 breaths at least, but try for 30-60 seconds. Breathe deeply.
- Step your right foot far back for the runner’s lunge. Stay on your finger tips, and extend your chest forward – away from your back leg. Don’t let your hips sink too far to the floor. Hold them up with about 25% of your strength for a balance of stability and flexibility. Breathe for 15 breaths. To switch sides: Lift the hips, shift weight to the front leg and step the back foot forward to find yourself in position 1 again. Step the left foot back and repeat.
- Walk both of your feet back to find yourself in Adho Mukha Svanasana (or Downward Dog Pose). Spread your fingers and ground them down. Keep your knees bent here to help elongate the spine. Let the heels rest towards the mat. Breathe for 15 breaths and focus on the stretching sensation in your outer hips, hamstrings and calves.
- Walk your feet forward towards your hands, have a seat and then lay down on your back for Thread the Needle. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Interlace your hands behind your right hamstring or shin. Keep your back and shoulders firmly on the floor as you ease your right leg toward your chest with your arms. Let the left knee draw forward and breathe into your left outer hip. Stay here for 15 breaths. Switch legs and repeat.
- Almost done! Squeeze both knees into your chest and give yourself a big “Thank you!” hug for easing tension out of your body. Stretch both legs long on the mat, as far apart as they want to be for Savasana. Rest your arms at your sides and flip the palms up to the ceiling. Relax your face and your breath. Count your breaths until you get to 30, or even longer if you’re up for it.
That’s all! It doesn’t need to take longer than 5 minutes, and if you do it regularly, you’ll be preventing some common running injuries. Spending a full hour on stretching, yoga and other deep tissue stimulation per week is also going to be helpful! Do as much as you can, have fun and remember to breathe deeply.
Much love and Namaste,