Growing up, I was always a physical kid. I lived in the middle of the woods on a lake in central Minnesota, where
My brother and I would swim and waterski; we would play baseball and volleyball, and ride our bikes around our yard. I also grew up dancing—enjoying many hours of practice each week for more than 14 years. Through all of that activity, though, I never gave any serious thought to running. I dreaded—dreaded—the mile-run in phy-ed class, huffing and puffing all the way around the track.
Then, I went to college. I was done dancing and stuffed into a tiny dorm room with a stranger. I decided I would take advantage of my free gym membership on campus and start burning off some of those thousands of pizza calories I had managed to consume in my first weeks at school.
One thing led to another, and soon I was running three to five miles every day. My body felt so good! I was in great shape, I was sleeping better—everything improved. Now, five years later, I still keep up a running regimen, and I’m still feeling good. I have noticed with age, however, that sometimes after my runs my hips, quads, and hamstrings feel tight—I have to admit I don’t have a great stretching regimen—so I’ve been looking for ways to improve.
With a dance background, I’m no stranger to stretching and conditioning, but for this reason or that, those habits seemed to have gotten lost along the way. That’s when I decided I would look to yoga. After only practicing yoga with running for little over a month, I’ve already noticed big changes in my form, times, and physical strength. Yoga has helped condition my legs, but it’s also made a noticeable difference in the strength of my core, back, and arms.
I’ve learned that yoga will not only help you stretch and strengthen key muscle groups, but these poses will help you run more efficiently (ahem, improve your running times) and will aid in the battle to keep you injury-free.
>>Low Lunge: Prior to your run, working in some lunges will be good for your core, and will get your hip flexors and quads loose. Low lunges will also improve flexibility in the split-legged position that’s comparable to a running stride.
>>Pigeon: This is also a great pre-run pose. Pigeon stretches your hips, back, and knees, and will also improve flexibility in your quads and hamstrings.
>>Downward-Facing Dog: Like a lot of yoga poses, down dog is good for many areas of your body. It energizes the whole body; strengthens the arms, legs, and core; and stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, back, and hands. It will also help you open up your hip flexors and quads.
>>Cobbler: Doing cobbler pose will help strengthen the inner thighs, and will open the groin and hips. The motion of bending forward will further stretch your back.
>>Bridge: The longer we run, the more we tend to hunch forward. Bridge helps us open the shoulders and front of the body while strengthening our core and stretching our chest, neck, and spine.
>>Fish: Fish is a recovery pose that will stretch and relieve tension in your neck and back while stimulating core muscles.
>>Locust: This pose helps improve your posture, which might start to give way after a long run and your core muscles are tired. Locust will also strengthen your neck, spine, and the backs of your arms and legs—helping protect you from injury.
Samantha Fischer is an editor for Natural Solutions and Alternative Medicine Magazines. Follow her on Twitter @samanfisch.