Gallant: Yoga poses for trail runners (column) | SummitDaily.com

Gallant: Yoga poses for trail runners (column)

Pinna Gallant
Special to the Daily

Avid runners will tell you that trail running and road running make different physical demands. Local utlra trail runner John Danese's shared his perspective. "It's talked about in various magazines — that road running is the hardest on your joints, that trails have more give," Danese said. "Part of that is true. The bigger thing is the repetitive motion in road running versus on trails. Trails have more lateral movements, you're hopping over obstacles and avoiding rocks and roots, you're running up and down hills, hitting your joints in different motions. Trail running is not the exact same movement over and over, trail running is more varied and my feeling is that it leads to better structure for your body, building things up in a more balanced way because it is less repetitive."

That said, trail running — especially ultra trail running, can take a significant toll on your body. Areas heavily hit are quads, hips, IT band, low back and ankles and name a few.

TOE POSE

Many runners struggle with plantar fasciitis. An equal-opportunity condition for both road and trail runners, this inflammation in the ligament that runs from your heel to your toes ranges from minor to crippling and can last for days or even years. How to avoid it? Properly fitting shoes are an excellent start. In addition to the right shoes, toe pose can help. Toe pose provides a deep stretch across the bottom of the foot and into the toes, helping prevent the worst symptoms. As with any injury, seek medical attention for any acute or chronic discomfort before adopting a treatment plan.

• Kneel on a folded blanket or towel.

• Bring your hands in front of your knees and lean forward.

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• Lift your feet off the floor and tuck your toes under (you might need to use your hands to tuck the pinkie toes).

• Sit on your heels.

• Hold for 5-10 breaths.

ANKLE STRETCH

A complimentary posture to follow Toe Pose, this posture will open the tops of your feet, ankles and shins.

From Toe Pose:

• Lean forward onto your hands and uncurl your toes.

• Sit on your heels.

• Place your hands behind you.

• Lean back onto your hands, lifting your knees and shins off the floor.

• Hold for 5-10 breaths.

QUAD STRETCH AGAINST A WALL

This stretch moves deep into muscle tissue and can be a bit intense. The most common misalignment in this posture is to arch your back away from the wall. (Why? It takes some of the intensity out of your thigh.) Avoid this by moving you knee slightly away from the wall, contracting your abdominal muscles and keeping your torso in line with your thigh. As with all yoga, move away from any pain. The saying, "No pain, no gain," may apply in the gym, but it does not apply on your mat.

• Place a folded blanket or towel on the floor next to the wall.

• Come to hands and knees facing away from the wall, with toes curled under and balls of both feet pressing against the wall.

• Lift your left leg and place your left knee on the blanket or towel as close to the wall as comfortable.

• Press your left shin and the top of your left foot into the wall.

• Place your right foot between your hands.

• Lift your torso until you can press your back gently into the wall. Remember to keep your back straight and core active.

• Rest hands on your right thigh or press the backs of them gently into the wall.

• Hold and breathe for 10 to 30 seconds.

• Come down from the wall and sit on your heels.

• Hold for 5-10 breaths.

• Repeat on opposite side.

RECLINING COWFACE POSE

This pose is a deep stretch for the glutes and connective tissues in the IT band. It should be comfortable enough to relax your head and shoulders to the floor. If that is not the case, let the foot of the leg furthest from your torso rest on the mat with your knee bent, and rest the opposite ankle on the bent knee.

• Lie flat on your back with eyes facing the ceiling and cross one knee over the other.

• Hug your knees into your chest. If you feel a good stretch, stay here.

• If you want to increase the stretch, flex your feet, grab your ankles and pull your ankles down toward your hips.

• Hold and breathe for 60 seconds.

• Cross opposite leg over the top and repeat.

Avery Collins, GM of Twisted Trails Running Company underscored the importance of strong ankles. "The difference between a beginner ultra runner and someone more experienced is ankle strength and flexibility." With trail running ankles need to respond well when the running surface changes due to scree, mud or small obstacles such as roots and rocks. The next three postures practiced in a sequence will improve balance and agility, allowing your body to increase lower leg strength and practice engagement of stabilizing muscles.

CRESCENT LUNGE

Crescent Lunge stretches hip flexors while simultaneously toning legs and core. In addition, this pose improves coordination by requiring you to center your weight while your back heel is lifted off the floor.

• Stand with feet at hip width apart.

• Take a big step back with your right foot, keeping your right heel lifted over the ball of your right foot.

• Bend your front knee until it is directly over your ankle.

• Bring your arms overhead with palms facing each other.

• Gently encourage your right hip forward and draw your lower belly up.

• Find a focal point for balance.

ONE-LEGGED MOUNTAIN

From Crescent Lunge

• Bring your weight forward into your front leg.

• Bring your arms by your sides.

• Engage your core and lift your back (right) leg off the mat.

• Swing your right knee forward until it is as high as your hip.

• Straighten the knee of the lifted leg and flex your toes toward your shin.

EAGLE

From One-Legged Mountain

• Cross your right arm under your left.

• Bring opposite hand to opposite shoulder or – if comfortable – cross your elbows and your wrists (as in the picture).

• Cross your right leg over your left.

• Sit back as if sitting into a chair.

• Your right foot can float off the ground, can act as a kick stand or – if comfortable – can wrap around the back of your left calf.

Repeat entire set on opposite side.

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG AGAINST A WALL

Pressing your downward-facing dog against a wall gives a deep stretch in the hard-working hamstrings, calves and hip flexors. This pose is not just for your lower body, but you're usually so focused on the intense stretch in your legs that you don't notice how much strength you're building in your upper body until you're out of the pose.

• Begin in a short downward-facing dog, with both heels close to the wall.

• Walk your left foot back until the ball of the foot is on the mat and heel is on the wall.

• Lift your right leg and place your right foot on the wall. Keep your right toes curled under so that you can press into the ball of the foot.

• Drop your right hip to be in line with your left hip. To intensify the stretch, walk your hands closer to the wall.

• Press your chest toward the wall and keep your head between your biceps.

• Hold and breathe for 30 to 60 seconds.

• Come down from the wall and sit on your heels.

• Repeat on opposite side.

LEGS UP THE WALL POSE

When asked how ultra running has changed his life, John's answer is "it's definitely given me the perspective that you can endure a lot of physical pain and discomfort if you just stick with it." After pushing your body to the limits, whether running or skiing or something as benign but taxing as international flights, take time to rest and restore. Legs up the wall pose is always an excellent choice, with it's effortless shape and ability to reverse the flow of fluids and reduce swelling in legs.

• Take a fetal position on your right hip, with your knees close to your chest and your hips a few inches from the wall.

• Roll onto your back and extend your legs up the wall.

• If your hips are not completely resting on the floor, back away from the wall a few inches until they do.

• Hold for two or three minutes.

Due to the proliferation of resources for core exercises and the unique challenges of trail running, this article did not include postures designed explicitly to build a strong core. If space in this article was unlimited, we'd add in multiple postures to increase core strength and stability. A healthy core (not just a 6-pack) will protect your low back. As Danese noted "core is really important – with exhausting endurance events you want to make sure your frame supports itself rather than leaning forward and straining low back". If you're a long distance runner with low back pain, seek out some good core exercises, and if you're also a yogi, look up some of Anna Forrest's core sequences for a strong core.

Note: Ultra running, also known as ultramarathoning or ultra distance is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres or 26.219 miles, many exceeding 50 or even 100 miles.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon's only dedicated yoga studio. An alignment-based yoga studio, Peak Yoga offers classes to nourish your body, mind and spirit. You can find out more about Peak Yoga at Peakyogastudio.com.