As runners, you might be familiar with some kind of stretching routine. Most of you have probably practiced running-specific yoga poses to help warm up or cool down pre and post run. If so, you’re likely practicing one of either static and dynamic stretches.
Static versus dynamic stretching
As we have discussed previously, static stretching is when we hold a pose where the target muscle is elongated for a period of time (often for around 30 seconds). In a dynamic stretch, our muscles actively move in a controlled way through a range of motion. Hip opening poses like the popular “pigeon” pose, is typically practiced statically, by holding the pose for 15 to 30 seconds to open each side of your hips.
While static stretching is great after a long run, or on a rest day, your pre-run routine needs more focus on dynamic movement. Dynamic stretches
help to prepare your joints and muscles for running. Stretching your hips dynamically may seem challenging, so we have put together a quick six-minute routine to help you warm up your hips, ensuring you reduce post-run pain and potential injury.
As runners, our hip extension is critical in moving our legs (and body) forward. Tight muscles, specifically tight hip flexors, can seriously restrict our hip extension. As we enter the colder winter months, muscles may feel tighter and may become stiff faster as we overwork them to keep balanced on slippery streets. The following poses will help your hips’ range of motion.
Remember, when practicing these dynamic movements begin slowly. The first few times you practice this stretch, take twice as much time, allowing your mind to focus on your form and your body to become familiar with the movements.
Start in a downward facing dog position, pressing through your heels. Beginners may start up on their toes. Your
hands should be shoulder distance apart with your palms flat and fingers spread apart. Pull your shoulder blades together and down your back, keeping lots of space between your shoulders and ears. Send your tailbone up towards the ceiling.
As you inhale, raise your left leg up into the air behind you. As you exhale, stack your hips (left on top of right) sending your left foot back toward the opposite side of your body. Keep your right foot and both hands grounded.
Bring the left leg back down and bend your left knee, attempting to meet it with your right elbow or wrist. This brings you into more of a traditional pigeon pose. Hold this for one or two seconds. Then, on each inhale, raise the left leg back up in the air to stack your hips again. Continue this up and down with your left leg five times. Don’t forget to move slowly. Finish the move back in downward facing dog. Realign your arms, check your shoulders and then repeat all of the steps with your right leg.
Aim to do each leg five times and then repeat the entire sequence. Try to focus on your breath through the movements, moving with each inhale and exhale.
Dynamic Star Pose
Begin standing on the front of your mat with your feet hip distance apart. Inhale and beginning with your left leg, lift it outwards to the side in a parallel leg lift. Ensure that you are pushing out through your heel, keeping your foot flexed. Stand straight and tall while doing this and avoid arching your back.
Repeat five times with a long and lengthened spine. Switch to the other side and do five leg lifts on the right. Each time try lifting your leg a little bit higher. As you did with your dynamic pigeon, move with your breath, inhaling and send the leg out, exhaling and bringing your leg in.
Part two of this pose involves using your arms. By including your arms in this pose, and bending your upper body towards the side of your static leg, you’ll get a deeper stretch in your hips. Begin with feet hip distance apart. Inhale lifting your left leg (from your heels) and lifting your left arm.
You will attempt to lift your left leg higher, bringing your left arm overhead and creating a star shape with your body. This is a great stretch for the hamstrings, groin and hips. Repeat five times on the left side before switching to the right.