The benefit of taking the time to unwind – One time a runner should slow down!
Let’s talk more about post-run yoga, for deep tension release and recovery…
Last week I shared a sequence with you that I do really regularly as my post-run yoga stretch routine – but I also mentioned that, later on the same evening, I do another, more restorative, yoga session.
This type of practice, that’s much, much slower and restful, is known as Yin Yoga. By spending longer in fewer poses, you’re able to relax the tissues and therefore release deeper set tension.
How does recovery yoga work?
The idea is to get comfortable, using props if necessary, so that you’re able to stay there for several minutes. You’re not even trying to stretch and the sensation is usually much subtler. This, I find is a hard aspect to grasp for many athletes, who are used to trying hard to achieve something!
But, the fact that you are staying there for three minutes plus, at a time, means that there will be effect taking place, that’s much more effective in releasing tension in the deeper tissues, rather than only the superficial muscles that a dynamic/ active stretch has. This is why this type of recovery yoga is incredibly important after a long run or a race, once or twice a week.
Here’s a 12 minute Yin Yoga video, mainly focused around the hips. The hips, particularly the piriformis muscle, can accumulate lots of tension in many people, not just runners, so this is a great practice to get into the habit of doing. Remember that every time you do a class, your body will feel different, so if you’ve done this class with me before, see how it compares to last time!
This class is designed to do cold, as we’re not actively stretching the muscles, so I recommend doing it a least a couple hours after running. Last week’s class is for immediate/ soon post-run.
Write to me here, join the conversation in our community group and leave a comment below the video. I look forward to chatting to you soon!
A couple of weeks back, I talked about Vasisthasana/ Side Plank, as an amazing pose to strengthen the sides of the body. I talked about the importance of strengthening our sides, when it comes to supporting our spine, as clearly so vital. Yet, let’s not forget that we can also think about re-lengthening our side body, to release tension, increase mobility, improve breathing and stand taller. Equally, as with all areas of the body, we need to be finding that balance between strength and mobility, support, stability and flexibility.
The side body, so what is it?
We can consider all these areas when talking about the ‘side body’:
latisimus dorsi (those potentially big muscles under the armpits), which I know if you surf, can accumulate knots, restricting shoulder mobility.
serratus anterior, as we go down towards the ribs, and the intercostal muscles in between the ribs – these can all pick up knots and tight spots which can even inhibit our breathing.
low back, in particular the quadratus lumborum muscles, either side of the spine, which enable us to side-bend and often work really hard.
our lateral pelvic stabilisers on the outer hips and tensor fascia lata, a muscle we know gets tight, that then can pull on the iliol tibial band, running alone outside of the thigh.
So, try this great pose: the Lounging Lizard – it’s simple, subtle but effective. Come into it from a side plank – with one foot placed on the floor, lowering the lower hip to the floor, so you’re on your side. Straighten up as much as you can and push away through your back heel. You have the option to come down onto your elbow to reduce the side stretch sensation, and then drop your head towards your bent knee.
I love this pose. It can be quite subtle for some and more intense for others but it has this wonderful sense of lengthening through that lowest side, particularly the waist area but nicely into the outside of the hip, I find.
This Sunday’s workshop is one that I’m definitely looking forward to! We’re going to be exploring ways of strengthening and releasing tension in the sides of the body, so it’s going to include lots of side bends and twists in fun and creative ways in which strengthen and simultaneously increase mobility, enhance flexibility and release muscular tension. It’ll be a mix of Vinyasa Flow Yoga, slow restorative Yin yoga and of course myofascial release. If you’re coming, remember your balls 😉
Why should I do post-run yoga? What happens when you stretch/ don’t stretch post-run?
I know how it is… You’ve finished a great run and you feel pumped – but you also feel worn out and hungry!
So, after a quick chat with your run buddies, you jump in the car to go get breakfast. Maybe you take two minutes before you head home to pull your heel towards your butt, as a post-run stretch token effort. You get home, eat your breakfast, and sit down to read the paper, or do some work…
After an hour or so, you get up to go to the bathroom and you feel so stiff! Everything has started to tighten and stiffen up and you feel pretty uncomfortable. You think to yourself… Maybe I should have stretched – I’ll do it later, or, I’ll do it next time. The next day you go to run again but you feel way stiffer before you run than you did the day before. You run anyway but it’s cold, so you go faster initially than perhaps you should… and before long, you feel a twinge in your calf (or hamstrings) that gets worse, and then you have to walk the rest of the way.
What you could have done after your initial run:
You have that quick chat with your buddies, as you all start to stretch. As you start to do more, you stop chatting and you focus on how you feel. You know that it’s only going to take around 10 minutes to do your post-run yoga or stretch out routine. You do it because you know that it’s going to help you to feel much better later on in the day and ready for your next run tomorrow.
If it’s a sunny day, you’ll do it straight after you run. Sometimes, you’ll drive home but as soon as you get home you’ll take your 10 minutes to do your post-run routine. Then you get your breakfast! Then you sit down to read the paper or do your work and, when you get up that hour later, you feel totally fine. More that time, you feel great, you feel mobile, nimble, you feel refreshed and you feel happy that you got your run done and guilt free because you know that you stretched out. You look forward to your run the following day, as you know that you’re going to feel great and ready for it.
So what happens when we don’t stretch:
Accumulated tension that’s built up through repeatedly contracting the muscles whilst we run, has no opportunity to release the excess we don’t need. The muscles shorten as they tighten because they have no opportunity to release and re-lengthen and remain this way if not stretched. It’s true, as runners we do need muscular tension – we want to be building strength for stability and joint protection; too much flexibility as a runner can be detrimental. However, without sufficient flexibility, our running technique is impaired.
Let’s consider the hamstrings. The hamstrings work, hopefully alongside the glutes, constantly contracting as we run. So the muscles are shortening and getting stronger. If we take the time to release just some of that tension that’s built up during the run, in a post run yoga routine, we’ll release a good amount of that excess tension. We’ll maintain some of it, but we also want to release some of it.
Also, if we don’t give our muscles the opportunity to re-lengthen, then they are at a greater risk of suffering injury. The shorter the muscle the tighter it gets, and the less mobility we have in the joints. The less spring like quality the muscle has, as it’s under more tension it’s much easier to tear or strain.
So try this 10 minute video. Here you go! It’s my go-to yoga routine for after my run. Just 10 minutes. You could do it straight after your run if you have your phone on you to follow it, or do it as soon as you get home. This is the routine I’ll use most often – I have another that I recently shared with you that’s all standing and I tend to do straight away outside. This one, I tend to do as soon as I get indoors and then as often as I can, I’ll do a more relaxing and restorative yoga practice that same evening, especially if I’ve gone the extra distance in my run. More on that next week!
Let me know how you get on in the comments below, as I always want to know how you get on. Tell me your stories and experiences. Are you making the time to do some yoga after your run, or is this a new habit that you’re hoping or trying to create? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments, in our Facebook community, or feel free to email me here.
Thank you so much for reading and for watching. I love building this community and see staying in touch with you.
Let’s not forget our side body when we think about core strength. There are so many muscles that wrap around us from the sides, supporting our spine, hips and shoulders, yet the side body can often be forgotten.
Side plank is one of my favourite poses for a number of reasons: it strengthens the transverse abdominus, the obliques, the quadratus lumborum and serratus anterior, as well as the other rotator cuff muscles and the spinal extensors.
→ If we’re not actively strengthening all of the ‘core’ muscles, including the sides and the glutes, then something will be overcompensating, usually the low back.
It’s a simple pose – but not an easy one! It’s like trying to find Tadasana, your perfect standing posture, and then turning it on it’s side! It can be very easy to allow the spine to flex or extend, to let the hips sink or to lift them too high, and to let the supporting shoulder drop against gravity. But, one of the best things about the pose is the range of options it offers.
As with any pose that requires really good strength, working towards it in steps, in order to build efficient strength to hold the full posture is always better than struggling and persevering with the full thing!
You’ve likely practised a range of side plank variations in my classes, but there are two great progressions towards the full thing:
Keep the lower knee on the floor. Start in Plank but drop the knees where they land. Take the right foot back, turn it parallel to the back edge of the mat. Turn the left foot and shin slightly off the mat at an angle. Push the left hand down and hug the shoulder in. Lift the hips but lengthen the tail bone to stay in line.
Place the top foot on the floor. Start in Plank. Turn to the right, placing right foot on the floor in front of the hips. Drop the left heel so you are on the outer edge of the left foot. Push the left hand down and hug the shoulder in. Lift the hips and keep lengthening the tail bone, as before.
The full pose. From Plank, turn to the side, stack the feet. Lift the hips, but not too high. Lengthen the spine, reaching from the crown of your head and the heels. Keep resisting gravity by pushing the balancing hand down and hugging the shoulder in, away from the ear.
This is a fun pose to incorporate into a flowing Vinyasa practice – I think so anyway! and is a great indicator of building more strength.
We’re going to be exploring many more variations of Vasisthasana in my next workshop, on Sunday 24th March in St Agnes, as well as other fun and focussed ways of strengthening and releasing the side body, using Myofascial Release, Yin Postures and Vinyasa Flow. Book your place here.
What is your experience with this pose? Let me know in the comments below.
Many of us are in a rush to run further and faster – but to prevent injury, there is a checklist that we should be going though, before thinking about increasing our distance, or even running at all!
Below is Part 1, of 6 steps towards injury-free running. I’ve focused on one or two key areas within each, with tests you can do and a yoga based solution that will work on improvement.
Ideally we should be able do all of these before we start a training plan, but as long as you are working on improving them all (see suggested yoga), and only running short distances, then you can build your run-fitness concurrently.
1. Mobility (hips) – test: can you squat?
Yoga to help: High Squat(use forearms/ hands on thighs), Squat Swings, Horse, Easy Squat (low but heels together, toes out)
2. Strength (core and pelvis) – test: can you hold a static lunge? Can you do a walking lunge?
Yoga to help: Low Lunge, Sun Salutes that incorporate Low Lunge, side lying legs lifts, chair lifts, bridge lifts
3. Flexibility (hamstrings and hip flexors) – test for hip flexors: can you take a low lunge with a straight pelvis and back thigh?
Yoga solution: spend 3 minutes, in this position with the tail bone lengthening, 3-4 times a week/ post-run.
Test for hamstrings: can you like flat on your back and take one leg up straight to at least 70 degrees.
Yoga solution: do this, with a strap to hold your foot, for 3 minutes each side, 3-4 times per week/ post-run.
These are just a few of the ways in which yoga can improve mobility, strength and flexibility! Remember, the best practice is a well-rounded practice, but these are definitely something to consider incorporating into your routine, as a runner, regularly 🙂
Next time I’ll cover the other 3: ABC – agility, balance and coordination.
>> I want to hear your feedback, so please post a comment below!