Stretch it out

Every running program should include regular yoga sessions to keep muscles strong and supple. Anyone can do this sequence at home, but it’s been specifically designed for runners and will help stretch out the legs, hips and back.

Tamsin Ash is stretching her body

Runners should aim to work on strength and flexibility in the hips and knees, as well as developing strong core muscles, says Sydney yoga and Pilates instructor Tamsin Ash. The home sequence she’s created here is best done after a run. It will soothe and stretch your muscles, and also calm down your nervous system. 

You might find it helpful to have a towel, strap or block on hand for some of the poses. Never push a pose beyond the point at which it’s comfortable. Over time and with regular practice, your muscles will naturally lengthen.

Downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

A woman kneel on her hands and knees

Kneel on your hands and knees, with hands shoulder-width distance apart and feet hip-width apart. Press into your hands and start to lift your knees off the ground, sending your tailbone up to the sky, making a V-shape at your hips. 

Downward-facing dog pose

Slowly bend one leg and straighten the other, alternating legs for a few breaths. Settle into position with both legs straight. If your lower back and hamstrings are tight, bend your knees as much as you need to, so your lower back isn’t too rounded. Hold the pose for five to eight breaths. As a variation, you can also lift one leg to the sky and roll the hip open, to get a release in the hip joint. 

Seated wide-leg forward fold (Upavistha Konasana)

Seated wide-leg forward fold pose

This is a great pose for the hamstrings and the adductor muscles around the hips. In a seated position, take your legs out as wide as you can. With your spine lengthened and feet flexed, fold forward from the hips. You can place a block or towel under the sitting bones if your pelvis is tilting back. 

Keep your hands flat on the floor in front of you for support. You can also keep a slight bend in the knees if your hamstrings are tight. Don’t push yourself to fold too far – only go to the point where you start to feel resistance in the backs of your legs, then try to relax into the stretch for five to eight breaths.

Twisted thigh stretch (Parivrtta Utthan Pristhasana)

Twisted thigh stretch pose

Start in a runner’s lunge with your right leg forward, knee bent and foot flat on the floor, then drop your left knee to the ground. Use a towel or blanket under the back knee if you need extra padding. Rotate your right foot out to a 45-degree angle, flex the foot and gently roll onto the outside edge of the foot, but don’t force it. 

Turn your body to the right and extend your right arm back towards your left foot. If you’re able to, bend your left knee and catch your back foot in your right hand – use a strap if you need to. Or you can just keep your back foot on the floor and stretch your right arm out behind you.

Stay there for five to eight breaths, then repeat on the other side. 

Half pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

This pose helps stretch out the glutes, adductors and hip flexors, but should be avoided if you have any knee issues. Go slowly and only to the point where you feel comfortable; you shouldn’t feel any pressure on the knee. Half pigeon pose

Start in the downward-facing dog pose, then raise your left leg high and bend it at the knee. Sweep the left leg forward and bring your knee to the floor behind your left hand. Open the left knee so the knee and shin lie along the mat, with your knee pointing to the left side of the mat and your foot on the right side; flex through your left foot to protect the knee.

Half pigeon pose on the mat

Place a block or towel under your left hip if it’s lifted, to keep the pelvis aligned and in a neutral position. Roll your right hip towards the floor, then reach your arms forward and fold over the front leg. 

Stay there for five to eight breaths and repeat on the other side. 

Supine twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Supine twist pose

Lie on your back and pull your right knee into your chest. Keep your left leg along the floor in front of you. Shift your hips slightly to the right on the floor, then lower your right knee towards the left. Gently use your left hand on the knee to help. 

Slowly twist through your torso to take your gaze to the right, keeping your right shoulder on the ground without forcing it.

Lengthen your spine by applying very gentle pressure to the right knee with your left hand, but don’t force it down.

Stay there for five to eight breaths and repeat on the other side.

Exercise kit essentials

Keep these handy helpers close by for before, during and after your next run.

- Coles Sports Strapping Tape

- Coles Beauty Soft Headbands

- Radox Muscle Soak Bath Soak

Hamstring hammock (Supta Padangusthasana)

Stretching out hamstrings

This pose will stretch out your hamstrings. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your right knee into the chest and place a strap or towel over the ball of your right foot. Gently straighten the right leg above you. Keep your left foot flat on the floor.

Create a gentle traction in your right leg by pulling the strap down and towards your head. If this is too strong, keep your right knee bent and release some of the traction. Stay there for five to eight breaths, then repeat on the other side.