A lot of runners don’t know the two types of stretching that help running: Pre and Post. Pre-run stretches need to be focused on warming up the area, especially legs and hips, and creating blood flow and some flexibility. Stretches should not be held for very long, only two or three breaths, because you can overtax a muscle by stretching it and if you do that before you start, it will make you feel weaker during your run. Pre-run stretching should be about 5 min and focused on getting heat and blood flow into the areas you’ll be using.
Post-run stretches are different from pre-run stretches. They should be held for longer, about 6 or 7 breaths, and will help work out any tightness. It is important to really focus on the breath, taking nice deep breaths with full exhales to help clear the body of lactic acid. There also is no concern about over stressing or tiring the muscles through stretching because this is when you want them to relax.
A regular yoga practice is also of great benefit to runners. If you think you’re just running with your legs, you’re not going to run very long. Beyond the usual focus on the legs and hips, the calf muscles, hamstrings, and the flexibility of the hips allow the whole pelvic area to work efficiently. Ultimately what you are trying to achieve is the strength and flexibility to allow your body systems to work together and avoid injury.
Yoga is about balance and teaching our bodies how everything is connected and how it all works together. All movement comes from the core, and so strengthening the core and teaching the body how to move fluidly without overstressing one particular part of the body will allow you to run faster, longer, and to avoid injury, so that running can become a lifelong adventure.
Liz Trinkler has been running for 40 years without injury and has completed 5 marathons. She teaches Ha.Lé Yoga on Mondays and Wednesdays 12:00-12:50.