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!
What is Myofascial Release and how is it linked to yoga?
If you’ve been practising yoga with me for a while, in-person or online, you’ll probably know about my love of incorporating myofascial release (MFR) into a yoga practice. But in case you haven’t, unsure what it is, or need some MFR inspiration, read on!
MFR is a way of self-massaging, using props – usually tennis/ lacross balls, rollers or block, to apply pressure to the myo-fascia, releasing stored tension to relieve pain and restore movement. Myo-fascia refers to both the muscle and the fascia that surrounds it. In fact, fascia covers our entire body and plays a huge part in our mobility.
How do MFR and yoga differ or work together?
- In a dynamic or Vinyasa style yoga practice we mobilise the joints, whilst building strength and support around them, protecting us against injury. We can improve our flexibility here but we mainly enhance strength and mobility, warming the muscles and fascia. This can keep us supple but does not release deep-set tension.
- In slow Yin style yoga, we hold poses for longer, allowing the body to relax into the shapes. The tissues have the chance to re-lengthen over time here and release some of their deeper set tension. There is no strength involved and we have more opportunity to improve our flexibility.
- Myofascial release works similarly to Yin yoga, in that we take our time and stay with the applied pressure for up to several minutes. This can often be in a Yin posture but not necessarily. Allowing the tissues to relax against the pressure can help specific areas of tension to dissolve, improving not only our flexibility, mobility and range of motion but also our blood circulation and eliminate pain.
As you can see, it’s pretty useful, if not essential, to be doing all three practices regularly!
2 MFR techniques for the shoulders and hips/ lower back.
Shoulders: lie on your back, with your feet on the floor, hips propped up with a block/ bolster. Place a ball either side of the spine at the base of the neck. Take slow breaths here for 1-2 minutes. Gradually roll the balls along the top of the shoulder blade towards the outer edge of the shoulder, pausing for a minute of two along the way – especially if you find a tender spot.
Hips/ glutes/ low back: lie on your back with knees bent and resting against one another. Place a ball either side of your sacrum and take slow breaths here for 1-2 minutes. You do not need to feel a lot. Gradually roll the balls along the tops of the glutes, again pausing along the way, until you reach the outer edges of the hips. Go back the same way, or return to a good spot.
*MFR can feel tender on pressure points but it should not be painful. If you do feel sharp pain or tingling, stop.
Join me this Sunday morning, 27th January, 9-11am, in St Agnes at the Wellbeing Studios for a creative combination of dynamic and strengthening Vinyasa Yoga, calm and restorative Yin, plus the releasing benefits of myofascial release. Please bring 2-3 tennis balls.
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Some of us seem to fall over more often than other runners – years ago, I used to have the occasional tumble, maybe you do too?!
Now, obviously there are rogue factors that we can’t do anything about: someone else falling/ crashing into us, a huge root/ rock that came out of nowhere (more on that below) – but here are the 3 most likely reasons that a runner will fall over, that with the help of yoga, we can over-come.
- Lack of core strength. There it is again, the ‘core’ cropping up in my posts but it really is the key to great running, including staying on your feet! Firstly, a strong torso means we can run with correct alignment and proper technique, making the second point below easy. Secondly, if we do trip on something, having great core strength often means we can recover from the fall before we hit the ground. What to do? All my classes, other that recovery/ Yin, involve core strengthening. But here’s a recent, core targeting video:
- Not picking up the feet. We need to be actively lifting our feet up and back (heels towards butt), as soon as they touch the ground. This ensures that feet are landing in the right place for proper alignment and technique, keeps our cadence around 180 and means we are never ‘shuffling’ and risking tripping over that rogue rock/ branch. We are purposefully lifting our feet and not shuffling or striding forwards, this will prevent the majority of falls from occurring. What to do? Get your technique checked out (perhaps on one of our courses/ retreats), work on core strength and overall posture with yoga and start thinking about lifting the heel behind, not lifting the knees or feet forward.
- Not concentrating on what you’re doing! I love that running can be social – however, you cannot deny that chatting away means a lack of awareness on the task at hand: running efficiently, so that we can run for longer, faster, injury-free!! For the runner with the perfect technique that comes naturally with ease, this is less of an issue but for so many runners, running with proper technique requires focus. Even when correct technique becomes natural, staying mindfully aware of our body and surroundings is going to greatly reduce falls and other injuries. What to do? The gaze should be forward, so that we can see any obstacles ahead, occasionally dropping the gaze down but generally keeping the head upright. The right combination of yoga will help with strength and posture, but also with the ability to become really aware of our own body and surroundings, and to actually help us enjoy the process of the running itself, not just the social aspect 😉
Let us know your experiences in the comments just below!
If you’re interested in ‘running better with yoga’, take a look at our One Day Course, and the Weekend Retreat here.
The hip flexors are such an important area to work on and keep flexible and healthy – especially if you’re a keen runner. The hip flexors are the area of most frequent complaint in runners, so it’s worth taking the time to prevent injury here, before it arises!
Read this previous blog post on tips and tricks for healthy hip flexors.
Then, watch and have a go at this video!
Have you joined the Run Better with Yoga Community group on FaceBook?
Have a go at this 20 minute class, which focusses on lengthening the hamstrings. It’s a short, but packed sequence, with a couple of my creatively modified Sun Salutes, a dynamic standing sequence, seated sequence, some all essential core work and ends with some floor work using a strap.
I made this class with runners in mind – but it’s suitable for all!
Props: strap, you might like 2 x blocks
I talked about the reasons hamstrings so often get tight, in this recent blog post – one of them being lack of core strength, which is why I include core work in this video (actually, all my classes!)
Also in that blogpost, I describe how you can test your own hamstring flexibility! Here’s a recap:
Lie flat on your back:
- draw one knee in to your chest and hold behind the thigh.
- Slowly, start to straighten – the leg should go up to at least 70 degrees, with only a mild stretch.
If you can feel more, or the leg doesn’t want to come that high, then there is work to do!
Runners, and in fact anyone who suffers with tight hamstrings, will benefit from doing something like this video 2-3 times a week, plus a Yin based (much more relaxed approach) another 2-3 times per week. This Yin approach can just be lying on your back, holding the back of one thigh (as in the above test) and gradually lengthening the leg, progressively more each time – not trying to stretch but just feeling a gradual re-lengthening of the tissues occurring. Use a strap to hold the leg up for around 3 minutes. In addition, use PNF (proprioceptive neuro-muscular facilitation) techniques by actively pushing the foot into the strap to engage the hamstring muscles for 10 breaths, then relax and gently guide the leg in towards the body a little closer. Repeat 2-3 times. Relax completely lying down in between sides and internally observe the difference.
Get your yoga props and gear:
Manduka cork blocks https://amzn.to/2UJSdIf
Manduka strap https://amzn.to/2PDJhjK
Manduka PRO mat https://amzn.to/2Lh7c8a
Manduka PROLite mat https://amzn.to/2LfyKLa
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