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Yoga Poses for Long-Distance Runners

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The calendar may still say winter but for long-distance runners, the spring race training season is in full swing! That time of the year when we all go to bed early on Fridays so we can get our long runs – the bread and butter of all race training programs – in on Saturday mornings while the rest of the world sleeps.
It may be cold and our paths may be covered with snow and ice but secretly we’re all loving every second of it . . . that is, until we stop running and the stiffness sets in. But who’s got time to stretch and release all those hard-working muscles when you’re shivering uncontrollably and can only think about a hot shower and a cup of cocoa?
Yes, I’ve been there MANY times, my friends. However, the importance of a post-long run recovery routine cannot be overstated. What you do in those precious moments immediately following your long run set the tone for the rest of your recovery – and proper recovery is crucial for continuing a healthy training plan.
Here is a 7-minute yoga sequence you can do after your long run for optimal recovery:

1. Butterfly Legs Up the Wall

Sit sideways against a wall with your right hip touching the wall. Lean back onto your forearms, place one leg at a time up the wall as you turn your torso to face the wall and lie back. Bring the soles of your feet to touch so that the pinky toe side of your feet and your hips are pressed against the wall.
Slowly allow your knees to open wide.
Stay here for 2 minutes. Then, place the soles of your feet on the wall with your knees bent, hug your knees into your chest and roll to your right side to press up to sitting.
Benefits: Calms your nervous system in preparation for proper recovery while providing a nice, gentle stretch for your legs, hips, and low back.

2. Reclined Pigeon at the Wall

Lie on the floor and place the soles of your feet on the wall, knees bent and stacked directly over your hips. Place your left ankle on your right thigh just above your right knee. Keep your left foot flexed as you use your left hand to gently press your left knee away from you. Hold for 1 minute, then switch legs.
Benefits: Promotes relaxation and deep release for those hard-working hip stabilizers like the piriformis, IT Band, and glutes.

3. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest. Loop a strap around the ball of your right foot and straighten your right knee so that your heel is actively pressing up toward the ceiling. Keep your left leg engaged and right hip anchored.
To increase the stretch, walk your hands up the strap, using your shoulders (rather than your hands and wrists) to pull on the strap. Hold for 1 minute and slowly release the strap to switch legs.
Benefits: Basically the king of lower body stretching, this pose hits many of the muscles in the hips, thighs, hamstrings, and calves.

4. Cobra Pose

Lie down on your stomach with your legs extended behind you, toes untucked with the tops of your feet pressing into the floor. Place your hands on the floor, wrists in line with your upper rib cage. Squeeze your elbows in toward your ribs. On an inhale, press into your hands and gently lift your head and chest off the floor.
Keep your shoulders down away from your ears and your elbows close to your ribs as you spread your collarbones wide to open your chest. Hold for 30 seconds then slowly lower your upper body and head to the floor.
Benefits: A great pose to counter the late-stage hunching that tends to occur over long distances, providing a glorious stretch to the chest, shoulders, abs, and spine.

5. Happy Baby

Lie on your back with your knees pulled in toward your chest. Grab the inner or outer blades of your feet, keeping them flexed, and use your arms to pull downward toward the floor. Press your tailbone down toward the floor to lengthen your spine.
You can rock side to side to massage the pressure points just above your tailbone. Hold for 30 seconds and release your feet to the floor slowly.
Benefits: Another soothing pose that sets the tone for proper healing while stretching the neck, low back, hips, inner thighs and calves.
As tempting as it may be to hit the shower immediately after your run, a few minutes spent releasing those muscles that worked so hard for you over the past few hours can make all the difference when it comes to a speedy and complete recovery. Take care of your body and it’ll keep you running well for years to come.
What’s your post-workout routine? Share your favorite recovery poses in the comments below!

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Why All Runners NEED 10 Minutes of Yoga
If you’re a runner – recreational or otherwise, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that stretches, strengthens, and prevents injury better than yoga. Yoga truly offers the biggest bang for your cross-training buck. It’s got everything that runners need to run longer, stronger and stay injury-free.
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Alison Heilig is the poster child for fitness fusion – an ultra-marathoner who loves to lift heavy stuff and practice yoga. From formerly unhealthy exercise-phobe to 70-pound lighter running coach, personal trainer, yoga teacher, fitness blogger and active adventurer, she encourages others to have fun with fitness. Check her out at and

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