Let's be honest, running can take a toll on your body. Whether you're training for your fifth marathon or just starting with the sport, recovery is imperative in order to improve your running performance. Running focuses on specific muscle groups and in order to restore balance, cross training is important.
Running doesn't come easy for me. I'm training for my first half marathon and there have been days when all I want to do is collapse on the couch, put on compression socks and take a nap. Before I fell in love with running, I had another love: yoga. I've been practicing yoga for years and when I started running, I knew that I would continue my practice. Yoga is my number one favorite way to cross train and I fit it into my half marathon training at least once a week.
The following poses are perfect for runners, so roll out your yoga mat, kick off your shoes, and get ready for a great stretch.
Before you begin the stretches, do a few sun salutations to get your muscles warm and the blood flowing.
1. Stand at the top of your mat with your feet together.
2. Bring your palms together in prayer pose and exhale.
3. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead and keep your palms together.
4. Next, exhale and bend forward and press your hands toward the ground.
5. Inhale and step the left leg back into a lounge.
6. Exhale and step the right leg back to meet the left so your body is now in a plank position.
7. Lower your body by doing a pushup. As you lower to the ground, scoop your body by pressing your hips down and your chest up. Inhale and stretch forward with your shoulders pressed down and your chest extended.
8. Exhale and curl your toes under, press down into your heels and lift your hips to "downward facing dog."
9. As you inhale, bring your left leg back into a lunge.
10. Exhale and bring your right leg to meet your left and bend forward until your hands reach toward the ground.
11. Inhale and roll your body up to standing, stretch your arms overhead and slightly bend backward from the waist.
12. Exhale back to a neutral standing position.
Now you're ready for some runner-friendly yoga poses!
1. Pigeon pose. This pose stretches the thighs, groins, abdomen, chest, shoulders and neck. It's a great yoga pose to open the hips and improve flexibility.
2. Downward facing dog. This pose helps with tight leg muscles, especially in the calves, while also strengthening the arms. Downward facing dog is also therapeutic for flat feet.
3. Extended triangle pose. Triangle pose stretches the sides of the body and hamstrings and helps improve digestion and relieve back pain.
4. Standing forward bend. The standing forward bend helps stretch out the hamstrings, calves and hips, improves digestion, reduces fatigue and is beneficial for those with asthma.
5. Chair pose. The chair pose is a bit difficult. It helps build the core, glutes, legs and arms and strengthens the ankles and spine.
Nicole Kennedy is a healthy living blogger and public relations specialist living in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Nicole's blog, Simply Nicole, documents her daily life occurrences as she balances working full-time, blogging, training for races, practicing yoga, eating healthy and spending time with her boyfriend. You can connect with Nicole via Facebook and Twitter for real-time blog updates, tips and tricks to living a healthy lifestyle, and more!