For most of us who work at a desk, or pursue other sports like triathlon in conjunction with running, we need to work on posture, to allow an effective body position, as well as the ability to breathe to the best of our ability into our lungs, for precious optimal gaseous exchange.The muscles across the front of the chest and shoulders are often excessively tight, due to the forward motion of many daily activities– work, driving, texting, eating! – so stretching this area, known as the pecs, is crucial to restoring openness in our chest and thoracic spine, as well as normal breathing mechanics.
Try this: Yin Pec Stretch
Lay onto your front, bringing your Right arm out to your right, with the elbow at a 90-degree angle, palm on the ground. The upper arm should be at shoulder height. Using your left hand to help leverage your body, start to roll over onto your right, until you feel the front of the right shoulder start to stretch- keep the front of the shoulder in contact with the ground at all times. To deepen, bend your left knee, and work to place your left foot flat to the floor, (knee points to the sky). Hold 30-60 seconds, repeat 2-3 times each side.
We also need good strength in the muscles of the shoulder blade, which contribute the platform for good upright posture, and allowing us to not overuse the accessory muscles of breathing – the upper traps/ neck and pecs. Below is a great core strengthener too, when done correctly. Alternating between this posture for 5-10 seconds and forearm plank for 20 seconds is a great start!
Try this: Chaturanga
Start in pushup position, but with hands closer together – under your shoulder region rather than our to the side. Set your shoulder blades by squeezing them lightly back together; then lower your body half way down, elbows bend to 90 degrees, hugging them closely by your sides. Hold 10 seconds, press back to start position. Repeat 10 times. Beginners may start on knees, and progress to toes as strength improves.
For optimal run technique, we require good range of motion in our hips, particularly adequate hip extension (through length in our hip flexors). This allows the pelvic bowl to remain relatively neutral, where our glutes and core are in a better biomechanical position to work efficiently.
Try this: Runners Lunge
Take a long step forwards with your right leg into a lunge position; the knee is at a 90-degree angle whilst the back heel is elevated and your back leg remains straight. Try to work on tucking your tailbone under (reducing the curve in your lower back) so that you feel the stretch more into the left hip flexor. To add a balance challenge, reach your hands overhead and look up between your thumbs. Hold 30 sec x 5 each leg.
Running also tends to tighten the glutes, and subsequently the illiotibial band and/or outer part of the thigh. This area is often the culprit with many knee complaints, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and ITB friction syndrome. To prevent these…Try this!
Try this: Pidgeon Pose
Start kneeling on all fours or from downward dog pose; bring your right knee towards your right wrist, and right ankle towards left wrist; your left leg is stretched out long behind you. Fold your upper body over your leg, melting to the ground. If you are more flexible in your hips, your right foot will be closer to the front of the mat; if you are tighter, your foot will be closer to the groin. This should be a strong stretch in the Right glute and outer hip, or IT band. You should never feel any pain or discomfort in your knee. Hold 60sec x 2-3 each side.
Yoga for the multitasker…Try these two poses to get maximum bang for your buck:
Downward Dog: Opens shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, calves, sciatic nerve:
From push-up position, press your hips up to the sky, tilting your sit bones up and back, as you gently press your chest towards your thighs. Initially your heels will be elevated, and continue working on tilting your sit bones to the sky to feel more in the hamstrings; as your hamstrings become more open you can maintain this position and start to work your heels down to the ground. Hold 20 breaths, repeat x 2-3
Cow Face pose: Opens shoulders, hips, IT Band:
Starting seated, cross your left leg over the right, so that the left knee stacks on top of the right and the left ankle sits near your right outer hip. Bend your bottom knee, bringing it around to sit close to the outer edge of your right hip. If you have tight hips, you may choose to keep the bottom leg bent initially until you have enough range to sit with both legs interlaced. Try to ensure that both sit bones are on the ground, you are not sitting on your ankles. Bring your left hand up behind your head, reaching down the middle of the back as if you were going to stretch your triceps. Reach around behind with the right hand, trying to catch the left. You can use a towel or a strap if you are unable to reach. Try to sit tall and draw the shoulder blades back, opening up the chest. Now breathe! Hold 1 -2 min’s each side.
Article by Rosie McCaughey
Rosie McCaughey is a Sports and clinical pilates physiotherapist, as well as Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Hot Yoga teacher and is the Director of Rise Yoga, Richmond Victoria.
Head over to Twosix Friends to read 26 things you need to know about our Local Love Rosie McCaughey.
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