This won't be the first time somebody tries to get you into yoga. Yoga converts are evangelical: There's the peaceful friend who wants you to find your heart center; the intense friend who dips out of work for Bikram and comes back 10 pounds lighter; and the insane friend who invites you to yoga, on a paddleboard, in the ocean, and then posts photos on Facebook to prove it's a real thing. Now there's us: Our modest proposal is that yoga will make you a better runner, improve your form and balance, and decrease your susceptibility to overuse injuries of the lower extremities, including plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, patellofemoral pain (knee), IT band syndrome, and trochanteric bursitis (hip pain). Yoga will also improve your focus before and during the race, when mental staying power is as important as physical endurance.
We worked with yoga instructor and endurance sports coach Sage Rountree, which is actually her real name, to identify 10 yoga poses that will improve your running game. Rountree, herself an accomplished athlete, has worked with everyone from Olympians to ultrarunners to us average folks, and is recently the author of 'The Runner's Guide to Yoga.' "We're not trying to get runners to touch their toes or get their feet behind their head," says Rountree. "We're trying to keep them fluid through the range of motion they use for running, so there isn't a hitch in their stride that leads to an overuse injury." That, and it'll keep you from curling up and looking like a shrimp during the last leg of the race. Her word, "shrimp." Launch Gallery >>
This is the pose that's always silhouetted against a sunrise in yoga literature. It looks good when properly executed (can't say the same for the locust). Stand and bend one leg back at the knee, reaching back with the hand on the same side to grab the foot. Then raise the other arm up, and simultaneously bring the leg up and back, away from your body. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be folding forward from the hips and bending your back slightly. Hold for five breaths.
Along with stretching a whole range of muscles, the Dancer position improves balance, which is something we don't talk about enough in running. It seems obvious: If we don't fall, we're balanced. But better balance means a more efficient stride and fewer injuries (overuse and otherwise) from landing improperly – all the more important if you're running in minimalist footwear.
Benefits: Improves balance and helps with plantar fasciitis, knee pain, ITBS, and hip pain.
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