Work It Out: Pre-summer yoga for trail runners |

Work It Out: Pre-summer yoga for trail runners

Text by Pinna Gallant
Photos by Phil Lindeman
Special to the Daily

Snow is gone and you can finally start to train outdoors on a regular basis for that upcoming marathon, half-marathon or triathlon.

As you up the mileage, you may want to consider adding yoga to your regular routine. Yoga is a great choice for runners because yoga’s original purpose was to prepare the body for long periods of time sitting in meditation. Tight hips or twitchy calves are distracting when trying to meditate, which is why yoga is packed with poses that open the lower body.

Many running-related injuries stem from a combination of low strength, inflexibility and power imbalance between major muscle groups, and so it’s critical to ensure your workouts are balanced and complete. Stretching is not optional if you want to stay safe and healthy.

When you’re training, remember that tight, short muscles are under greater tension than long, supple muscles, and thus are more vulnerable to injury. The goal is to maintain a natural range of motion from your hips to the soles of your feet. Before or after a run, try the following poses to lengthen and relax your hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, shins, ankles and feet.

Thunderbolt Pose with a mat

By tightly rolling a mat or a towel, this posture provides myofascial release in both the hamstrings and the calves. (The first three postures in the runner’s sequence stem from Thunderbolt Pose.)

Roll a mat or towel as tightly as you can. From a kneeling position, place the mat as close to the backside of the knee as possible.

Sit back over the mat on your heels with an elongated spine.

Hold and breathe for 10 to 30 seconds.

Ankle stretch

Open the front of the ankles and shins with this easy stretch, beginning in Thunderbolt Pose.

From Thunderbolt Pose, remove the mat from between behind your knees and sit on your heels.

Place your hands behind you.

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

Hold and breathe for 15 seconds.

Toe pose

When running, your feet absorb a force several times your body weight with every step. No wonder so many runners complain of plantar fasciitis — small tears or inflammation in the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes.

Plantar faciitis ranges from minor to crippling and can last for days or even years. Toe pose provides a deep stretch across the bottom of the foot and into the toes, helping prevent the worst symptoms. It can also be helpful for recovery as well.

As with any injury, seek medical attention for any acute or chronic discomfort before adopting a treatment plan.

From Thunderbolt Pose, place your hands on the floor in front of your knees.

Lean forward, 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 and breathe for 30 to 60 seconds.

Downward-facing dog against a wall

Pressing your downward-facing dog against a wall gives a deep stretch in the hamstrings, calves and hip flexors. And it’s not just for your lower body: 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.

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 the knee slightly away from the wall, contracting the abdominals and keeping your trunk 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 the 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.

Repeat on opposite side.

Reclining cow-face pose

This pose is a deep stretch for the glutes and connective tissues in the IT band. It should be comfortable enough to relax the head and shoulders to the floor.

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.

Pinna Gallant is the owner of Peak Yoga, Dillon’s only dedicated yoga studio. Designed to challenge both the body and the mind, Peak Yoga classes build muscular strength, physical endurance and emotional resilience.

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