Many runners understand the need to stretch, but often skip this important step of recovery. I have heard every excuse in the book. “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t feel tight, so I don’t NEED to stretch,” my personal favorite “I have always been tight, why change now?” I’ll admit it, “stretching” is not one of my favorite past times. I oftentimes would skip stretching all together using any combination of those three excuses I could find.
As a physical therapist, I greatly understand the importance of proper flexibility. However, it wasn’t until a friend dragged me to a yoga class when I truly began to FEEL the power of improved flexibility. This is not a ploy to get you joining a local yoga studio, I just want to enlighten you on the benefits yoga has specifically for the purpose of running performance and injury prevention.
Proper Flexibility= Improved Performance
Runners are often tight throughout the hip flexors (or the muscles on the front part of the thigh which raise your leg up) and throughout the thoracic spine (middle part of your back). Improving flexibility of the hip flexors can improve stride length and increase the push off power of the glutes. Both are crucial for improving run form and run speed. Increasing rotation in the mid back also aides in run efficiency by engaging your upper body more. Your arms are critical in run form, especially during the later stages of the race as fatigue sets in.
Another aspect of yoga which can help performance is breathing and meditation. Yoga focuses on mental clarity and understanding your breath. A large part of running is the mental battle. The concentration and meditation aspect of yoga can help you build positive mantras and techniques to help push through when running is challenging you mentally.
Proper Flexibility= Fewer Aches and Pains
Those pesky hip flexors remain the topic of discussion. With every propulsion of your body forward, your leg extends backward. Without adequate flexibility of the hip flexor, the body will find ways to compensate. This usually occurs with an overextension (too much movement) of the low back or increased flexion (bending) of the knee. Both motions (in excess) can lead to an injury over time.
Would you like to know some of my favorite yoga poses which specifically target the areas we have discussed? Check out the video below! If you are interested in live instruction, join me for “Run Your Best Turkey Trot!” During this one hour class, we will practice the exercises you learned in the video AND teach you a few more!
For more details and to sign up click here!