Recovery Yoga for Runners: On the Floor!

by Steph Creaturo

*This is a re-post for all of you who ran the NYC Half yesterday! Congratulations & wishing you a speedy recovery!

If you ran a fall half or full marathon – first of all, congratulations! I hope you feel amazing about your accomplishment, no matter your finishing time or what happened on the course. (Because something always happens on the course, right?)

At this point, you may be cycling out of a long training mode. Many of us who love to run spend much of the year in training mode (myself included).  Being in training mode is important, but equally important is being out of training mode. Coach Jenny nailed this so well in this Runner’s World blog post – there is certainly the temptation to race all year long.  I get it – I am one of those people who needs to run like she needs to breathe. But I also want to be running when I’m 80 years old and that means being strategic with my training, racing, and recovery.

Post-NYC marathon, I’m using my yoga practice as one way to rejuvenate my body. Here’s a sequence that emerged in the week after the marathon, as I logged a lot of time on the floor with a tennis ball.  These are the muscles I need to stretch and release in a more focused manner. And, because I’m on the floor the whole time, there’s less impact on my body than endurance-orientated or heat-building poses (think standing poses). Lastly, I think I like this sequence so much because its also helping the central nervous system come down from such an amazing – but huge – experience.

Now, these aren’t traditional “build a campsite” restoratives, complete with bolsters and sandbags and other awesome props.  I thought about using all the stuff, but I was too lazy to get off of the floor and get my props out of the closet. And, it’s actually still in heavy rotation, even as I get back to more active practice and running.

I don’t set a timer or a set number of breaths – generally, more holding equals more release – but for me, part of this is just going by how I feel. Here’s my suggestion: commit to an even number of breaths on each side and maybe take three to five more breaths in a pose than you would in class.

I’d love to know what you think in the comments – let me know if you try this or what you’re doing at home to restore & recover!

1. Roll Calves and Hip Rotators with Tennis and Golf Balls: Great for kneading those deep knots! For the calves, place a tennis ball on a yoga block, then roll the tennis ball along the length of your calf. Be careful by your achilles tendon – stay on the muscles. When you’re massaging your hip rotators, either a tennis or a golf ball works – just make sure you stay clear of the sacro-iliac joint.

Rolling Out the Calves

Roll Out Hip with Tennis Ball

2. IT Band/Outer Hip Stretch, inspired by reclined hand to big toe pose.

IT Band Stretch

3. Good Old-Fashioned Hamstring Stretch: Make sure the quad is engaged to protect the hamstring!

Hamstring Stretch

4. This is a Tricky Twist, inspired by Pigeon pose, but is nicer on my knees! Not everyone will “feel” it (depends on how tight your IT Bands are). I love it because it helps to stretch my super-tight hip rotators without putting pressure on my knee.

First, pull your knee to your chest, then roll thigh at hip joint. Then, move into ankle to knee pose for a deeper hip rotator stretch. Finally, take your ankle to knee into a twist!

Ankle to Knee Twist

Ankle to Knee Twist, II

5. Windshield Wiper Legs, taking the legs all the way to the ground

Windshield Wiper Legs

Windshield Wiper Legs, II

6. Quad Stretch on Your Side. Some of you may draw the heel towards the glutes (think Hero’s Pose on your side), some of you will move the heel away from the glutes (think Bow Pose on your side) – it really depends on your quads/knee. (If there is any pull at the knee, hit eject immediately!)

Quad Stretch on Your Side

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About The Mala Yoga Blog

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