3 Yoga poses for Runners – Post 1

3 Areas that beg for mobility in a runners body include (but are certainly not limited to!) Hip Flexors, Glutes and Hamstrings. This may seem obvious…hopefully it does if you are a runner!! This week, I offer these three poses for increasing your pliability and mobility.

Hip Flexors…Crescent Lunge

Glutes…Seated Spinal Twist

Hamstrings…Pyramid Pose

If you are familiar with these poses, add them post run as a means of cooling down and helping ‘unwind’ some of the tension you’ve created from running. While using them as a cool down, try to find the most passive version of the pose. Use props, keep yourself grounded, and allow yourself to relax the pose…finding the ease of the pose or the sukha.

Another option for working these poses into your routines is to add them into your warm up. Work a dynamic version which means moving through a range of motion versus holding a static posture. Be aware of gravity and avoid letting gravity control your range of motion. Remain muscularly or actively in control as you move.

A cross-training option uses these poses as “strength work”. Perform them on off days when you would normally perform some version of cross training whether it be lifting or cycling etc. Using the same poses, you would focus on the work. Become aware, as you move into the pose, what muscles need to activate in order to bring stability or strength to the pose. Hold the (manageably) toughest version of the pose for 30 seconds to a minute and continue to increase your time from there!!

If you are unfamiliar with these poses, check out the descriptions below!

Crescent Lunge…Separate your front foot and your back foot by 3 to 4 feet. Have both feet pointing in the same direction and allow your back heel to lift off the floor as you ground yourself down through the 4 corners of the front foot. Sink into a front knee bend seeking out 90*. Keep your back leg as straight as possible and think of pressing or extending through your back heel. Raise your arms overhead and reach strongly through your fingertips. For a moderated version of this pose, allow the back knee to rest gently on the mat. Keeping your toes tucked under or flattened against the mat should be experimented with! Perform on both sides!!

Seated Spinal Twist…Sit on the floor with your left leg extended in front of you. Bend the right leg and place the foot on the outside of the left leg just above the knee joint. Twist to face the right leg, placing your right hand behind your hips. Your left arm can wrap around your right leg and pull it close, or you can place it against the outside of the right knee. Focus on twisting as deeply as you can. Assist the twisting action by pulling your navel to your spine with each exhale. Sit as tall as you can.

Pyramid Pose…Place one foot 12 to 24 inches in front of the other with both feet pointing forward. Keep both heels down on the floor. With your front leg bent (and perhaps with props such as blocks), fold forward until your hands are anchored. Once hands are in contact with the floor or blocks, begin to extend your front leg until you feel a comfortable stretch in the hamstring or back of the thigh. Think of pulling your front hip back, and your back hip forward.
Note: if you have a sensitive back, focus on keeping all rounding out of the back, just keeping the flexion or the folding at the hip joint. Think about reaching the crown of your head toward the front of the room and keeping your torso parallel with the floor.


3 Essential Stretching Basics

Stretching can be the first step in injury resistance but only if you do it correctly! Understanding how to stretch is the only way to make it effective. This whole post will center on the Myotatic stretch reflex (MSR). The difference between stretching a muscle and fully releasing it.

This reflex is your bodies natural reflex to protect itself when it feels a muscle lengthening. It is initiated more strongly when your body senses lengthening of a muscle with velocity. Understanding and playing by the rules of this innate reflex is the difference between stretching in vain and having some real flexibility results from your stretching.

The first thing you can do to quiet this reflex is to slow everything down. Move into a stretch slowly. Don’t remember how far you folded yourself yesterday and automatically go there. Move in a gradual and gentle manner and see how your body responds. If you feel that muscle start to contract and fight the stretch, come back a little and breathe there. As the muscle “releases” the contraction, you will be performing an effective stretch.

The second thing you can keep in mind is to take gravity out of the equation. This will piggy back on #1 but gravity increases the speed of movement, so eliminate as much of it as you can. Example, instead of a standing hamstring stretch, lay on your back and pull one leg into the air.

The third thing that will aid your stretching is something called reciprocal inhibition. Or more simply, flex the opposing muscle group. This is one way your body is wired to calm down your MSR. Back to stretching the hamstrings…those hammies work to flex the knee and extend the hip. The opposite actions will stretch them, so extending the knee and flexing the hip. The muscles that flex the hip and extend the knee are the quadriceps. Engaging or flexing the quadriceps will help relax the MSR in the hamstrings allowing you to stretch them more effectively. This begins to introduce the idea of “releasing” as a separate goal from “stretching”. Just know that getting the muscle to release means that you’ve performed effective stretching.

In addition to these three things, you will want to keep in mind the concept of time and progress within each stretch. In order to make a significant and lasting impact in a muscle group, it is recommended to hold a stretch for 1 to 2 minutes. Some forms of yoga (namely Yin) can hold stretches as long as 5 minutes! So don’t rush your stretching…take your time and enjoy it. The progress concept is simple. As your body acclimates itself to a certain degree of stretch in a muscle group, feel free to slowly move a bit further or a bit deeper into the stretch. Keep aware of your own body and let that be your guide for when you can move more or when you need to stay put.

Enjoy the benefits these stretching tips will grant you!


Anti-Inflammatories and their role in the healing process

Inflammation is a natural response to an injury in the body. I know a lot of people out there, including myself a lot of the time, like to avoid taking pills or medications of any kind. Anti-inflammatories and icing (a natural anti-inflammation measure) are both prescribed when it comes to common sports injuries. Through a little bit of research, I wanted to share the “why” behind it…

The inflammation process in the body is part of the natural healing process. It’s a time when the body rushes a lot of fluid to the injured area for lots of different reasons. The fluid contains clotting factors to help stop any kind of bleeding, it helps to build an internal “scab” if you will, to lay the ground work for repair, and the fluid also contains things that help eliminate damaged tissue. (I am drastically over-simplifying of course) However, if inflammation remains, the body cannot move on to the next phase of healing which is when the body rebuilds. The rebuilding phase of healing is also known as the proliferation phase.

The most natural anti-inflammatory measure one can take is to STOP. Cease doing anything and everything that causes the pain to recur. In my experience, the athletes and everyday exercisers I encounter are the most averse to this, the simplest and easiest of action steps for healing. I myself am guilty of wanting to “keep going”. This especially happens when the pain isn’t “that bad”. You’ve all said it!! This is where icing and medicine come in to play. It helps to mitigate any recurring inflammation as we continue to move and be active. It helps to clear out the inflammation we continue to generate as we refuse to stop.

Before I continue, let me first say that sometimes it is impossible to stop all activity altogether. I myself have a minor tweak in the back of my rotator cuff from a yoga class a few weeks ago. I have a 30 pound child at home who is 20 months old and requires lifting into and out of cribs, high chairs, car seats, and out of the way of his big sister at times. Some of you have children, some of you have jobs requiring you to continue to move or use your injured body part. Sometimes it is just impossible to give our bodies the required amount of rest to heal on its own. Know that if you can’t stop, it is inevitable that you will drag out the healing process. If you could devote some focused time to healing, that would certainly help you out!

In the meantime, for those who can’t stop, icing and anti-inflammatories is a smart way to go. The pills help clear out the excess inflammation from the inside, and the ice helps from the outside. Icing should be performed directly after exercise or a time of using the affected body part. It can also be done at the end of the day. I try to ice at least 3x a day when I have an injury. Medicinally, as long as you’re symptomatic, follow the instructions of your favorite anti-inflammatory. The most common over the counter ones have the names Aleve (or Naproxen Sodium as the generic) and Advil or Motrin (both types of Ibuprofen). My personal favorite is Advil caplets, simply because that smooth sugar coating helps me swallow the pills, and when I can’t get them down right away, prevents me from getting the nasty powdery and sour Ibuprofen taste in my mouth.

Remember also, that I am a personal trainer and NOT a doctor. These words are my opinion and are certainly not a prescription!