Strengthening Yoga Poses for Runners
If you’re not practicing yoga as a runner, you really should be! Yoga is an excellent stretching, lengthening, and injury-preventing activity, but did you know that it can also make you stronger?
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Back when I first started running, I was new to Minneapolis and seeking ways to meet people and create community. I registered for a lengthy yoga teacher training program and I noticed a difference in my running almost immediately. The regular stretching and strengthening did wonders for my new runner body, and I was amazed at just how strong and fast a few simple poses could make me feel. Within a year, I saw my marathon time drop a whopping 30 minutes and to tell you the truth, I had been running less!
From that day on, I have tried to make time for yoga, even only 10 minutes every couple of days will make all the difference. Below are my favorite strengthening poses for running:
Downward Facing Dog
Down-dog is one of the very first poses all new yogis learn, and for good reason. It serves as both a resting position and a strengthening pose, pumps out your calves, engages your arms, and relieves tension in the lower back.
How-to: Start on your hands and knees with your knees hips width apart. On an exhale, lift your knees and press back, making an arch shape with your body. Stretch your arms out front, and your feet down as if they were to touch the ground. Pump or pedal your legs for a nice calf stretch.
A true quad burner, chair pose is essentially a yoga squat. It strengthens all of your major muscle groups and is harder than it looks.
How-to: Start in a standing position with your feet hips width apart. On an inhale, stretch your arms long overhead. With your exhale, press your hips back with your knees bent into an imaginary chair position. Stay there for three deep breaths, then press back up to stand to come out.
Often called the “perfect pose,” triangle pose puts your body into perfect alignment while also strengthening your legs, core, and arms.
How-to: Step or jump your feet about 3ft apart in a wide standing stance. Lift your arms to be parallel with your body, and on an inhale reach as far forward with your right arm as feels natural. Then, simply drop your arm wherever it can reach – calf, shin, ankle, or floor. With your left arm, reach long straight overhead. Stay here for three deep breaths, then lift your core to come out and repeat on the reverse side.
Warrior Poses (I, II, and III)
The best of all strengthening poses in my opinion are the three warriors – warrior I, II, and II. Warrior poses strengthen all of the major muscle groups while also opening the hips (something all of us runners need!) Warrior III takes a fair amount of balance, but with practice can easily be achieved.
Warrior I How-to: Start in a standing position and step your left foot back about 3-4ft. Turn your left foot in 45-60 degrees to the right and your right foot out 90 degrees to the right. Align the right heel with the left heel. On an exhale bend your right knee and reach your arms straight up overhead. Stay here for three deep breaths, straightening the knee and stepping your feet together to come out. Repeat on the reverse side.
Warrior II How-to: Start in a standing position and step your left foot back about 3-4ft. Turn your right foot slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. On an exhale, bend your left knee and raise your arms up and parallel with your shoulders and the ground. Stay here for three deep breaths, straightening the knee and stepping your feet together to come out. Repeat on the reverse side.
Warrior III How-to: Start in a standing position and step your left foot back about 2 feet at roughly a right angle. On an inhale, carefully bend your right knee while lifting your left foot up and back with your torso parallel to the mat. Reach your arms forward overhead
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Try incorporating yoga into your running regime, and I promise you won’t regret it! If you’re new to yoga, seek out a few beginner classes or online videos to get started, and of course feel free to drop me a line if you have questions! Additionally, a great online resource is yogajournal.com. They offer great instructions, tutorials, and sequences. Happy stretching and strengthening!