If you haven't tried sports yoga yet, it can be a great cross-training tool for runners to prevent aches and pains. We find out more...
Sports Yoga is an excellent cross-training tool that can help improve athletic performance by learning how to stretch and strengthen key muscle groups related to certain sports. It is different to other forms of yoga as it pays specific attention to pinpoint muscles rather than a general whole-body stretch.
Sports yoga gets the body moving through all planes of motion in all directions. The combination of mobility and flexibility exercises and time spent in the active recovery heart rate zone will accelerate recovery compared to just doing static and assisted stretching. The body will feel less fatigued and running the day after a Sports Yoga session will feel easier.
For runners, sports yoga looks to address the natural imbalances caused by repetitive running through targeting mobility and flexibility. Repeatedly doing the same movement day in and day out without restoring the resulting imbalances in muscle strength and length could be increasing the risk of injury and hampering performance. Therefore, by using gliding stretches, activating the core for stability and glute strengthening techniques, sports yoga can help bring the body back into alignment.
One method used in sports yoga is assisted stretching, which generally means stretching with a partner but the use of a looped strap to provide external force produces the same effect. Assisted stretching aims to help increase the range of motion in the muscles. Helena Shirley is a personal trainer and sports yoga expert for Meglio, who sell a whole host of essential workout kit. She recommends a lying hamstring stretch for runners. “Using a strap around the foot to further increase the pull is a great exercise to help develop an increased range of movement, more so than a normal positive stretch. If relying on a partner to carry out the assisted stretch they need to know exactly what they are doing or else there is a danger of being overstretched and pushed too far.”
Gliding stretches are also an easy way to stretch after a run, training session or competition while the body is still in its sympathetic nervous state. These not only help to lengthen muscles and improve dynamic flexibility, but they also strengthen the muscles through their full range of motion. This allows joints to move freely and efficiently when running which can improve performance and reduce injury risk. The purpose of gliding stretches is to take the muscles on and off the stretch in a slow and controlled manner. “It also is important to exhale as you glide into the stretch and inhale as you come off the stretch position, to achieve the best result,” adds Helena.
Runners also need to maintain alignment of the foot, knee and hip during foot strike. This requires a strong core and strong hip stabiliser muscles. If the pelvis is not in a neutral position when the foot hits the ground, it may introduce excessive sideways, rotational or forward motion to the hip joint, especially when the body starts to fatigue. This unwanted hip movement continues down the leg to increase the risk of knee injuries. To help avoid this, Helena recommends using the Meglio resistance bands to incorporate comprehensive core stability and glute activation into stretching sessions.