One of my latest yoga lesson bundles is called the Triathlon Yoga Lesson Plan Bundle. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of my research on what Yoga poses are good for triathletes. You can find my yoga for runners blog here.
Yoga For Runners
Running involves the WHOLE BODY which means to run at peak performance without injuring knees, shins, or ankles, you need supple HIPS and SPINE.
The physical areas of focus for running are
- CORE STRENGTHENING
- HIP FLEXORS
- SPINE & UPPER BODY
An injury in one part of the body can be set off if another area is tight: supple hips and spine will prevent wear and tear on your joints. The repetitive leg action can wear down the hips if your pelvis area is stiff – that in turn can lead to arthritis within the lower back, hips and knees. Practising yoga can prevent those painful niggles and Injuries.
Yogic breathing exercises will help increase stamina and bring much-needed oxygen to the muscles which reduces the build-up of lactic acid.
Recommended Yoga Poses For Runners
- Adductor Lift
- Calf Raises
- Cat Stretch
- Cradle The Baby
- Kneeling Hip Flexor
- Knee To Chest
- Lunge (using wall)
- Putting Socks On
- Reverse Lunge With Knee Lift
- Staff With Towel
The Triathlon Yoga Lesson Plan Bundle has a downloadable, printable handout for each of the Yoga poses listed above, and many more.
Running The Yogic Way: A to Z Guide
Below are some Yogic tips that will REDUCE FATIGUE, DECREASE THE CHANCE OF INJURY, and turn a run from a mental battle to a MEDITATION.
Arms (90 degrees)
Keep your arms bent at a 90-degree angle. Swing them forward and back to help propel you forward. A lot of runners swing their arms across their bodies which is an energy leak (wasted energy).
Breathing (deep and rhythmic)
Whether you breathe through your nose or mouth, breathe deeply and rhythmically. Avoid shallow, quick breaths. Aim for one breath (inhale and exhale) for every two strides. When that feels comfortable, aim for one breath for every three strides. And when you’ve practised breathing techniques for several months, you could take one breath for every ten or more strides.
A breath is one full inhalation and one full exhalation through the nose.
Eyes (Look straight ahead)
Don’t look down (which you may want to do when you start feeling tired). Looking down is a surefire way to create a build-up of tension in your shoulders and neck. Keep your gaze soft and locked in on a point approximately 40 metres in front.
Feet (Mid-foot strike)
Landing on the middle of your foot is the safest way to land for most recreational runners. Avoid striking the ground with your heel or your forefoot first. Land your foot below your hips (not out in front of you).
Feet (Land lightly)
Aim for short light steps. Good running is light and quiet. Light steps are more efficient and cause less stress to the body.
Five Percent Rule
Avoid doing too much too soon. A good rule of theirs is to not increase runs or training by more than 5% at a time.
Practice each pose gracefully. Bouncing or forcing a yoga pose will cause muscles to tighten, and increase your risk of injury. Stretch in a slow, steady motion to the point of “mild discomfort.” If you are stretching to the point of pain, you have stretched too far. Respect your edge and be aware when your ego wants you to go beyond it, then tell your ego, “Nope. I respect my edge.”
Hands (keep your hands relaxed)
Keep your hands should be relaxed, but don’t let them flop.
Here’s a yogic technique to help remind you to keep your hands relaxed. Imagine that having tight hands is like setting off a body earthquake that travels from your hands to your shoulders, to your neck, to your jaw and to your head and leaves in its wake utter devastation.
That may appear a wee bit melodramatic, but if you shrank to the size of a red blood cell while tensing your hands for an extended period of time, you’d see the devastation of holding onto stress, you’d see billions of white blood cells coming to the rescue, which over time takes a huge physical toll on a runner.
So, even “tense hands” is a big no, no.
By now, you’re probably seeing a theme – do whatever it takes to “relax” every part of your body! That, I hope, comes as a huge relief to you knowing you no longer have to hold onto any tension. None! Zip! Zilch! Nada! Less is more.
Hips (Keep stable)
To prevent low back and hip pain, keep your hips stable and forward-facing. Don’t stick your bottom out or rock your hips from side to side.
Jaw (Relax your jaw)
Keep your jaw and neck relaxed. Most runners unconsciously clench their jaws during a run. It’s a mindset thing. We’ve been taught from an early age that we have to “tough it out”, and that life isn’t easy. This competitive mindset is the cause of the clenched jaw. The good news is that countless studies have proven that being “relaxed” is by far the most energy efficient and leads to faster running and fewer injuries. The worst thing a runner can do is “tense” their mouth or any part of their body while running. So, enjoy the smell of the roses as you run and turn your run into a meditation. Follow this nifty yogic exercise to practice relaxing your jaw: Clench your jaw as tightly as possible for a few seconds (not so hard that you break a tooth), then allow your jaw to fall naturally open. Press your hand underneath your chin to provide gentle resistance as you open your jaw, then relax your jaw again. Next, move your jaw to the right, then relax. Move your jaw to the left, then relax. Finally, clench your jaw as tightly as possible, then relax your jaw muscles completely.
Jaw (Stretch your jaw)
During a run, if you feel your “jaw tightening”, use this yogic exercise to stretch your masticatory muscles, the muscles in your jaw responsible for chewing: Open your mouth as wide as you can without any discomfort. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds (trying not to catch any flies), then release and relax your jaw. Repeat 10 times.
Land with a slight bend in the knee (helps absorb the impact of running on hard surfaces). Don’t lift your knees too high. Avoid bouncing up and down. Lift your knees forwards rather than upwards.
Experiment with simple meditation techniques when running such as “focusing on one thing you’re grateful for”. The US edition of Runner’s World magazine recently reported that runners who meditate have lower lactic acid levels after a workout than those who don’t meditate.
Instead of focusing your awareness on the discomfort of running in the rain early in the morning, train your mind to focus on “gratitude”. For example, rather than resenting other runners overtaking you, feel grateful for the chance to share the experience with them. Instead of aggressively pushing yourself, relax and keep a gentle attitude. Instead of gritting your teeth and grinding it out, remind yourself to smile and soak in the gratitude for being able to run when you consider that there are 9.4 million disabled people in England, accounting for 18 per cent of the population.
Morning Static Yoga Routines
When you get out of bed is the best time to do “static stretches” (hold for 30 to 60 seconds), also known as developmental stretches. It’s not recommended to do static stretches just before a run (the best pre-run yoga routines are “dynamic stretches” where you flow from one pose to another. If for example, you have tight hips, you could do some crescent lunges in the morning (keep your front leg out to the side so you don’t feel like you’re on a tightrope) and add a modification that targets the tight hip flexor by raising one arm during the lunge.
The lactate threshold (LT) pace describes a hard but manageable effort that forces your body to begin producing considerably more lactate. When you train at LT pace, your body conditions itself to move lactate around, and this should improve your performance at distances.
Using your body weight to lean forward a bit while running can reduce heel strike and help you land on the middle of your foot.
The most common physical concern for runners is “tight hips and hamstrings”. If you fall into that category, let go of your ego and follow the modifications recommended within the lesson plans.
Despite the myth, ongoing soreness in the days following an intense effort is not due to a build-up of lactic acid but tiny muscle tears and inflammations.
Ask any masseuse the tightest part of 90% of their clients and they’ll say, “shoulders”. The trick is to notice when you start tensing your shoulders (imagine a really loud alarm going off). If you’re pushing yourself (remember, it’s better to relax), your shoulders will almost certainly raise up towards your ears, almost as if your shoulders and ears are magnetically attracted to each other. Here’s a simple yogic technique to keep the shoulders really relaxed: Lift your shoulders as far up to your ears as you can, hold for a few seconds, then utterly and with full vigour “relax”.
Shoulders (Anti-hunching technique)
When running it’s crucial to keep your shoulders naturally “back and down”. Don’t force the shoulders back and down, but be aware when the shoulders go forward and up.
Hunched shoulders are a great way of restricting your oxygen supply – running is hard enough without getting enough oxygen to your muscles!
Here’s a quick yogic technique to train your shoulders into the “back and down position “…
Squeeze your shoulder blades down and together and bring both arms and hands behind you. Grab the right elbow with your left hand and then grab the left elbow with your right hand. Repeat by grabbing your left elbow with your right hand this time.
Should I Stretch Before Running
The debate is still raging on this one. According to this article, static stretching (the kind where you hold a position at the edge of your range of motion for, say, 15 to 60 seconds, as opposed to bouncing around in “dynamic” stretches) has a dampening effect on strength and power. So, we recommend that stretching before running be the “dynamic variety”.
Sitting is the new smoking
Most runners have office jobs that involve sitting in front of computers or sitting behind the steering wheel. All this “sitting” is creating a body that is predisposed to “injury” which is why it’s so important to have a disciplined stretching (yoga) practice.
If you’re not doing the stretches immediately following a run, consider doing a 5 to 10-minute cardio warm-up before the yoga routine (warm muscles are easier to stretch).
You may want to consider investing in the following yoga equipment if you start getting serious about your yoga practice (Yoga block, Yoga mat, Yoga strap, Yoga bolster).
Runner Injuries Explained
The golden rule is to listen to your body and don’t run if you’re in pain.
Below are the most common runner injuries…
What is it?
|You may have pain and swelling at the back of the ankle or heel. The pain may be minor but continuous, or it could be sudden and sharp. It may be worse first thing in the morning.|
Why does it occur?
|The Achilles tendon is the tough, rubbery cord at the back of the ankle that links the muscle to the bone. Regular running can cause wear and tear to the tendon.|
|How can I treat it?||
The Ice It Strategy: Apply ice to the area if you can feel a lump (never put ice directly on your skin). You can also gently massage the area with your fingers.
The Heel It Strategy: Experiment with heel wedges in your shoes. Get advice about this from a running shop.
The Hospital It Strategy: See your GP or a physiotherapist if you have Achilles pain that lingers for more than a few weeks. If you have a sudden, sharp pain, your Achilles tendon may have torn.
|Should I stop running?||Yes. Sharp pain is always a signal to “stop running”. Even if the pain is not severe, it’s really important to rest until the pain goes, and get it checked if it doesn’t go away. This may be a challenge for you as most runners tend to be “A Type Personalities” who aren’t great at listening to their bodies when it’s calling them to take time out. If that’s you, remember that sometimes less is more.|
|None. Don’t do any exercises if your ankle or heel is swollen.|
|What is it?||Pain or swelling in the heel or bottom of the foot.|
Why does it occur?
|Can occur if you suddenly start doing a lot more running, if you run uphill or if your shoes aren’t supportive enough or are worn out. It’s often a sharp pain that happens when you put weight on the heel. It can feel like someone is sticking something sharp in your heel.|
|How can I treat it?||Apply ice to the heel. Freeze a small bottle of water, then place it on the floor and roll it back and forth under your foot for about 15 minutes. Never place ice directly on your skin.|
|Should I stop running?||Yes. If you treat the pain early enough, it will normally go away in a few weeks.|
|Calf Raises. Gentle Lunge. Staff With Towel.|
Runners Knee Injury
What is it?
|If during a run you feel pain around the front of the knees, around the knee or behind the kneecap, you may have runner’s knee injury. The pain may be dull or it could be sharp and severe.|
Why does it occur?
|The most common reasons are running with poorly fitting shoes and not warming up properly.|
|How can I treat it?||
Ice. Heel. Hospital. If it’s not swollen or extremely painful, try one or more of the exercises below. If there’s any pain stop doing the exercise. The exercises are ordered from easy to hard.
* Stretch the quadriceps to avoid compressing the knee joint
* Strengthen the inner quadriceps (vastus medialis)
* Stretch and strengthen the hamstrings
* Strengthen core muscles
* Strengthens upper body so spine remains in correct alignment while running
|Should I stop running?||Yes. If you’ve had the pain for more than a week (even if it’s not severe), have the courage to stop running and get it checked by your GP or physiotherapist. This may be a challenge for you as most runners tend to be “A Type Personalities” who aren’t great at listening to their bodies when it’s calling them to take time out. If that’s you, remember that sometimes less is more.|
|Forward lunge. Gentle Lunge. Kneeling Hip Flexor. Putting Socks On. Reserve lunge with a knee lift. Squat.|
Within the Triathlon Yoga Lesson Plan Bundle, there are more of these “Runner Injuries Explained” that can be downloaded, printed, and given to your Triathlete student as handouts (e.g. if you’re giving him/her a one-to-one yoga session).
If you liked this post, you might like my Triathlon Yoga Lesson Plan Bundle.