You just ran 18 kilometres. You are well on your way to achieving a PB at your next half-marathon. In fact, you just had your best time, and you feel incredible. You stretch out a little bit, relax, have great food, but the truth is, when you wake up the next day – you are going to be a bit sore. While it is extremely important to rest, it is also important to move, stretch and elongate your muscles. When you train you are continuously straining your muscles, but stretching can boost circulation, warm your muscles and aid in the journey towards healing. But stretching is very often left out of our training as it sometimes feels repetitive, feels like work and it is definitely not as exhilarating as our run. Not only is yoga therapeutic, it helps create a physiological balance in oppositional muscles and can be practiced as a beautiful flow of poses, making it feel a lot less like work.
The Warrior II flow is a series of four yoga poses that can help to both strengthen and elongate some of the muscles we use while running. The flow is a perfect way to start your day the morning after a long run.
Warrior II can help you strengthen your legs and ankles while stretching your groin and thighs (basically, everything that hurts after a long run). Holding warrior II can help to improve a runner’s balance, concentration and core awareness. In addition, it strengthens your shoulders and arms while expanding your chest and lungs and can help to increase circulation and endurance.
To practice warrior II, stand with your feet hip distance apart. Take a big step back with your left foot. Ensure your right foot is pointing forward and turn your back foot to 85 degrees. Bend your front knee until your front right thigh is parallel to your mat. To check alignment, ensure that the heel of your front foot lines up with the arch of your back foot. Also, double-check your front knee: it should not extend beyond your ankle and should not lean left or right. When balanced and aligned, lift both of your arms straight out, in line with your shoulders and parallel to your mat. Your right arm should extend forward over your right knee and left arm should extend back over your left shin and ankle. Tuck your tailbone under and lengthen your spine, opening your hips.
Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds, breathing evenly.
Warrior II variation (reverse warrior)
Reverse warrior will help increase the stretch in your groin and hips. It will also lengthen and open your obliques and intercostal muscles of your rib cage as you inhale.
To come into reverse warrior, being in warrior II and, on an inhale, turn your front palm upwards and begin to lift your front arm over your head. As you exhale, send your back arm down your back leg. Ensure you double-check your alignment again. It should look the same as warrior II with your front knee bent.
Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds before returning back to warrior II.
Triangle pose will help a runner’s stability and balance.
Beginning in warrior II, inhale to straighten and extend your front leg. As you exhale, extend your torso over your front leg (as if you were being pulled forward by your front arm.) You should be bending at the hip, not waist or side oblique. Attempt to lengthen both sides of your body and elongate your spine. Send your front arm down towards your front foot (you can rest the back of your hand on the side of your shin) and extend your back arm up towards the ceiling. Your arms should stack one on top of the other. To maintain your balance, ensure you are equally weighted on both of your legs, ensuring you secure your back foot.
Hold this for 15 seconds before moving back into warrior II.
Reverse Triangle Pose
This stretch is more intense and should only be practiced once you feel some comfort and familiarity with triangle pose. Reverse triangle can help to improve a runner’s balance, while strengthening and lengthening your legs and hips. It also helps to stretch your spine and opens your chest to improve your breathing capacity.
To move into reverse triangle from warrior II, inhale and straighten your front right leg (as if you are moving into triangle pose). On an exhale, begin to turn your torso to the right towards your front leg, attempting to turn your upper body 180 degrees. Your legs and hips should remain where they are, and your feet should remain grounded. Your back arm should also come around over your front leg as you twist. Inhale here, and on your next exhale lean your back left hand over your front right leg, resting the back of your hand on the outside of your right shin. Attempt to drop your left hip as your raise your right arm overhead stacking over your left.
Hold this pose for 15-30 seconds before moving back into warrior II.
Remember to practice each of these poses on each side (once with your right foot forward, and once with your left.)