Hi, everyone! I got back late and mildly jet-lagged from London last night, so today the lovely Beth from Sublimely Fit will be guest posting! I love Beth’s blog because she provides clearly explained and useful information for runners and creates awesome yoga workouts specifically for runners. She is a certified yoga teacher and running coach. Today, Beth will be offering some yoga poses to help improve your running form. Thank you, Beth!
Yoga is a wonderful form of cross-training for runners. Yoga poses help to lengthen and stretch the muscles that get tight during running and build strength, too. Yoga also teaches you good breathing techniques, and it gives you mental tools that you can use to help you get through tough runs. Probably the biggest physical benefit of yoga for runners is the second benefit, building strength.
Yoga helps not only to strengthen muscles used directly when running, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings, but it also helps to strengthen the small stabilizing muscles that help keep our joints in alignment when we run. Having strong stabilizing muscles can help reduce the risk of injury, something just about every runner I know is interested in. There are many yoga poses, or asanas, that are wonderful for runners to practice, but here I’ve narrowed it down to five poses that will help you strengthen the areas that runners need to focus on most.
5 Yoga Poses for Stronger Running Form
Bridge Pose will help you strengthen the hip stabilizing muscles in your glutes, your quadriceps, and also helps to stretch out the muscles on the front side of your hip, your hip flexors. To come into bridge pose, lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Walk your feet in towards your seat so that your fingertips barely touch the backs of your heels. Your feet should be about hip width apart, or just about two fists’ distance apart. Squeeze your glutes and quadriceps to lift your hips high. Hold for three to five breaths, then slowly lower down. Start by practicing three rounds of Bridge Pose, gradually increasing the amount of time you hold the pose.
Laura’s Note: This is my favorite yoga pose ever! It feels so good after a hard workout and is incredibly effective for improving your posture and form.
Wide Legged Forward Fold with Bind
Wide Legged Forward Fold gives a nice stretch through the backs of the legs, and taking a bind helps to open the shoulders, helping you avoid the tendency to hunch your shoulders forward when you run. Start with your feet wide on the mat, angling your toes in slightly. Clasp your hands behind your lower back, bringing a towel or a yoga strap between your hands if you have tight shoulders. Fold forward, keeping your arms straight and letting your hands fall over your head. If the bind starts to feel uncomfortable, release it, gently bringing your hands to the mat. Hold for several breaths, then slowly roll up to stand.
Warrior II will not only help you strengthen your legs, but will also help you strengthen your upper body and back as well. Having a strong upper body and back will help you keep good running form in your upper body. Begin with your feet wide on your mat, the toes of your front foot facing forward, parallel to the long edge of your mat, and the toes of your back foot facing to the side, parallel to the short edge of your mat. Your front heel should be in line with the arch of your back foot. Bend your front knee, stacking it directly over your front ankle, tracking the knee toward the middle toe of your front foot. Think about engaging both the quadriceps and the hamstrings of your front leg as you lunge. Press equally through your front foot and the back edge of your back foot. Pull your shoulder blades together, engaging the muscles in your upper back as well as your core. Hold for three to five breaths, then switch sides.
Plank Pose is wonderful for helping your entire core get stronger, which is why it’s a very popular strength exercise for runners. Be sure to stack your hands and wrists beneath your shoulders if you’re coming into plank with straight arms, or come down to your forearms if you have bad wrists. Pull your shoulder blades together and engage your abs, keeping your hips in line with your shoulders and heels. If you’re just starting to build core strength, hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds, lengthening the duration of the pose as you get stronger.
Warrior III is a balancing pose, helping you to work the stabilizing muscles in the ankle of your standing leg. You’ll also engage your glutes, once again helping to strengthen your hip stabilizers. And, you’ll engage your upper body as well to keep your arms parallel to your mat. Begin standing, shifting your weight into one foot, feeling a solid connection of your foot into the ground. Float the opposite foot, flexing it and kicking it back behind you as you bring your arms up by your ears. Bring the top leg straight, engaging your glutes as you lift the leg and flex the foot. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the mat below you. Hold for three to five breaths, then release. Repeat on the other side for an equal number of breaths.
Practice these poses three to four times a week to help build strength. Over time, you’ll see you’re able to get deeper into the poses, and you’ll be able to hold the poses longer without feeling tired. You’ll start to feel like a yogi in no time!
Disclaimer: Always talk to your yoga teacher about any modifications you may need, particularly if you have injuries. Practice yoga mindfully: if the pose doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!
If you’d like to learn more yoga poses that are great for runners, as well as see videos talking you through some of the poses mentioned here, sign up for my free 2 Week Yoga for Runners Challenge! Every day for two weeks, you’ll receive an email with a link to a video talking you through a new yoga pose, including modifications for runners with tight muscles. It’s a great way to start your yoga journey!
Do you include yoga in your routine?
What yoga poses help you feel like a stronger runner?