As the Hong Kong Standard Chartered marathon is coming up next weekend, it inspired me to write this post. I was a avid runner for years and found that I was constantly hurting my joints, so I have a lot of respect for runners and also want to provide some tips to help cure or prevent running injuries. Whether you're a seasoned, avid or recreational runner, the following yoga stretches will help you keep your muscles and joints healthy!
Here are the first five stretches for runners! Remember, you have two legs, so don't just stretch one side ;) stay 5-10 breaths on each leg.
Low lunge for your hip flexor
How to do: kneel down on one side, make sure the hip on that side is stacked on top of your knee, your other leg in front with the knee also bent at a 90 degree angle stacked on top of the front ankle. Sink your hips down to the mat and you will start feeling your hip flexor on your back leg. Make sure your tail bone is tucked in to avoid lower back pain.
Half split for your hamstring
How to do: from your low lunge (above) slide your hips backwards until your front leg is straight, you can hold onto blocks or on your shin and keep your spine straight, if you are not feeling much, then gently pull yourself forward like you're about to reach your front foot. Never curve your back to reach your foot. Keep your hips in the same plane. The key is to stretch forward and not down.
Side pyramid for your hamstrings and IT band
How to do: from your half split (above), straighten your back leg and slide your front foot to the same side as your back foot (so both feet would be either be on the left or right side of your body), keep your hands firmly on the floor, arms straight, shoulders stacked. The key is to try straighten your front leg while keeping the heel of your back leg flat.
One side pigeon for your glute and hip flexor
How to do: from your side pyramid, bend your front knee sideways, slide that foot inwards and sit down, don't let your body lean to one side, but rather sit straight up. Most runners have tight glutes so it's a good idea to sit on a big folded towel to give some height. Make sure your back leg is parallel to the mat. The idea is to sink your buttocks downward so you feel a deep stretch on your glutes of the front leg and the hip flexor of the back leg, depending on your flexibility.
One leg forward fold for your hamstrings and spine
How to do: sit comfortably on your mat, place one leg straight in front and bend the other leg so your foot can touch your thigh (or calve), never put pressure on your knee! This is a forward (not downward) fold, so reach forward from your hips looking at your front foot, stretch your arms and reach as far as you can, keeping your spine long. Wrapping a belt or towel around your front foot will be a good option for people who are very tight. Do not curve your spine!