Did you run the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon yesterday morning? (If so, well done!) Or maybe you just did a killer weekend session on the gym treadmill? (Hurrah to you too!). Either way, you’re likely to suffer at best a few aches and at worst an utter inability to move properly over the next few days, especially if you’ve gone light on the post-run stretching.
The solution? Give heavy exercise a miss for the next day or two and do these therapeutic moves, created by Lululemon yoga ambassador Thy Nguyen instead. In fact, they’re ideal for slotting in between training sessions any time.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call these poses exercise, because the intention behind them is to unwind and release connective tissues and stretch the big muscles that were worked during your run,” says Thy.
“The poses I suggest here are dedicated to runners because we are looking at relieving those areas that did the most work: feet, soles of feet and arches, achilles, calves, hamstrings, hips and hip flexors, lower back muscles, the whole spine. They even reach a little bit into the chest and pectorals that have been leaning forwards over the course of the run too.”
TIP: “I’m all about balance, so especially if you have trained long and hard, congratulate yourself with a day (or few days) off from intense exercise,” says Thy Nguyen. “Stay hydrated with water as usual, but still, a glass of wine to celebrate a milestone run won’t hurt.”
Move 1: TOE SQUAT
Image credit: shape.com
- Unwinding connective tissue and stretching muscles and ligaments in the arches of the feet.
- Preventing plantar fasciitis and also decreasing (and potentially eliminating) the tightness and knots in calves caused by a lot of walking or running.
- Bend your knees, sitting your hips over your heels, then lean forward and try to tuck all the toes under (including your pinky toe if possible).
- Sit back on your heels and maintain a tall spine and relaxed shoulders.
- Lean forward as much as you need if your feet are very tight or sensitive or lean back slightly if you want a bit more sensation.
- Relax your face and fingers as best you can and breathe continuously through the sensations.
- Hold from 5 breaths up to 2 minutes (if you dare!). When leaning forward to come out of the pose, you can tap the tops of the feet on the floor to help the sensation dissipate more quickly.
Move 2: INTENSE FORWARD STRETCH (UTTANASANA)
- Opening and stretching the hamstrings.
- Stretching the spine.
- Can also become a good stretch for the iliotibial band (ITB) if hands are clasped and you gently sway the body right and left whilst bending the opposite knee.
- From standing with feet hip distance apart, bend your knees and fold forward from the hips.
- Relax your neck as you fold the torso downwards.
- Let your hands fall towards the floor or rest them on your shins. You may also hold opposite elbows or gently grab the back of your calves. Shift the weight towards the bases of your toes and avoid locking out your knees.
- Another option is to clasp the hands behind your back and gently stretch your knuckles away from the lower back to open shoulders and pecs.
Move 3: THREAD THE NEEDLE POSE
Image credit: prevention.com
- Softening the ITB and stretching the outside of hips and gluteal muscles.
- From a supine (lying down) position, bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, near the knee and flex the toes of your left foot to protect your ankle and knee.
- Using your left arm around your outer leg and right arm going through the space created by your legs, clasp the hands around your left hamstring (back of thigh) or over the top of your shin if your hips and glutes are very tight.
- Relax your shoulders down to floor, then breathe into outer hip of crossed over leg.
Move 4: PLOW POSE (HALASANA)
- Releasing the spine, flowing blood to the heart and head.
- If the toes are tucked under, it’s a good stretch for the hamstrings, calves and Achilles.
- If the toes are untucked (toenails on floor) is a good stretch for shins and hip flexors, and can help shin splints.
Warning: Don’t do this pose if you have any neck issues or sensitivities. If so, you may sit upright with legs outstretch in front and fold over them instead. You can also use a folded mat or blanket under your shoulders for extra support.
- From a supine position, bend your knees towards the chest and support yours hands on your lower back, fingers pointing upwards to the sky.
- Ease your legs up and over your head, maybe touching your toes to the floor.
- If your feet don’t touch the floor, keep supporting your back and just let your legs dangle back over your head for as long as is comfortable. You are still receiving the benefits of the pose.
- Hold for 5 breaths up to 2 minutes.
Move 5: SUPINE TWIST
Image credit: naturalhealthmag.com
- Softening the side body and gently stretching your back.
- Bringing knees closer to chest twists more in the upper back and further away gives more sensation to lower back.
- Unwinds the spine and just feels like a nice twist for any time of day.
- From a supine position, one knee towards the chest, keeping the other leg extended on the floor.
- Bring the top leg across the body using the opposite hand to lightly hold the leg down and extend the opposite arm away.
- If the back or legs feel tight, you might choose to bend both knees instead.
- Look any direction suitable for the neck and relax the face, even closing the eyes.
TIP: “Treat yourself with an Epsom Salts bath is nice or even a nice relaxation massage, although I wouldn’t go for a deep tissue massage right after a run – you’ve already beat yourself up enough!” says Thy Nguyen.