I hated rest days - I needed to move my body and always felt that if i wasn't then I wasn't getting better at running. Why waste a day "resting" when you can use it to gain endurance, strength, and miles in my runs? Boy was I wrong. Since than I have learned that taking time to rest and recover and integrate Yoga into my training regime = improvement in running.
When we are in our sport - in this case, running, our muscles are working hard, which makes them tight. When muscles are tight they are more prone to injury. Practicing yoga will stretch tight muscles and also encourages more full range of motion which = more efficiency in your sport.
Yoga also helps in preventing repetitive stress injuries... hello running. Runners - especially distance runners are susceptible to overuse injuries, inflammation and excessive wear on tissues. This all leads to imbalances in the body and imbalances in the body leads to injury. Yoga helps you recognize these imbalances - knowing where you need more mobility and where you need more strength can help bring your body into balance.
I practice Yoga on my "rest" days - It helps me relax and restore energy and balance in my body and also helps me recover faster- which all ultimately helps me perform better on my next running day.
Try integrating the stretches below on your rest days or any day.
Yoga for Runner’s Recovery - 8 poses to open up and release tension in the lower body
Yoga with Missy
(This is for informational purposes only - not responsible for any injury)
Down Dog with a Calf Stretch
Come into Down Dog and take one foot to the heel of the other foot and gently press down to get more into the calf. If you are doing this barefoot, the big toe and second toe will grab the heel of the opposite foot.
Repeat on the other side
Down Dog with a Hip Opener
From Down Dog raise the right leg up towards the sky, bend your knee and sink the heel down towards your hips. Turn the chest and hips open as you peak under your right arm. Press the thigh and heel back to stretch out the front of the hips.
Repeat on the other side.
High Lunge Variation
Step the left foot back to come into a high lunge. Align your right knee over your right ankle. Press through the ball of the back foot and keep that back leg strong. Interlace the hands behind the low back and reach the knuckles down towards the ground and then away from your hips. This variation helps to stretch out the lower body as well as the chest and shoulders - an area that gets tense from the rounding forward motion of running. Repeat on the other side.
Wide Leg Forward Fold
Take the legs wide and as you keep a softness in your knees, hinge at your hip crease to fold forward. If your hamstrings are tight and this is uncomfortable grab a block to place under your hands and bend your knees. This should be a nice release - not a struggle - you don't want to force or muscle your way into flexibility - be kind to yourself. Let your hamstrings release here. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let the tension in your upper back just melt down through your arms. Keep the back of your neck soft.
Side Lunge (Skandasana) -
From Wide Leg Forward fold, bend right knee and turn the toes out on a diagonal as you squat down, straightening the left leg. Let the hips, inner thighs and hamstring release. Play around with staying on the sole of right foot or lifting the heel. You can also lift the left toes up to come deeper into the stretch.
Repeat on the other side.
Supta Padangusthasana A
Lie down on your back and bend the right knee into your chest. Place a yoga strap, tie or towel around the arch or ball of your right foot and slowly start extending your leg. Press the right heel towards the ceiling. If you are looking for more of a stretch, gently pull your leg towards your chest. Continue to press out through the heel. Left leg can stay bent with the foot flat on the floor or you can extend it long down your mat. Let your inhales lengthen your hamstring and your exhales soften and release it. Stay here for a few breaths, then transition to Supta Padangusthasana B.
Supta Padangusthasana B
Take the strap just in your right hand now as you reach your left arm out to the side. Let the right leg fall open to the side. Lengthen through both legs, shoulders grounded, collar bones wide.
Let the breath soften and open the hips and inner thigh.
Stay here for a few breaths then transition to Supta Padangusthasana C
Supta Padangusthasana C
To transition soften the right knee and bring the leg back to center. Switch hands with the strap - so left hand holds the strap, right hand reaches out to the side. Draw the leg across mid-line until you feel a stretch down the outside of the right leg - IT Band. Play around with drawing the right foot closer to your left shoulder or letting it drop closer to the left foot. Activate the legs by pressing through the heels. Relax your shoulders and breathe. To release, soften the right knee and bring the leg back to center, bend the knee into the chest to release the strap. Hug the knees into the chest and rock a little side to side. Repeat A, B & C with the left leg now.
Take a moment here and just do a body scan and notice if there is any other stretch that you feel you still need. Then take some time to come into Legs Up the Wall, Savasana or Seated Meditation. These are just a few of the poses I do to help open my lower body - not necessarily a full sequence. Let me know how this felt and remember - taking the time to rest and recover IS important and necessary.