Uta’s Yoga and Stabilization Guide for a Better Running Technique

June 29, 2018 By Uta Pippig
The bridge to open up the front of the body and strengthen the hamstrings, gluteus muscles and lumbar spine. © Take The Magic Step®

Today, I would like to share with you some insights into my yoga, stretching, and stabilization program. I will explain a few individual exercises, selected from a wide variety, and give examples of effective combinations.

Extended Mountain Pose — Urdhva Tadasana. © Take The Magic Step®

Runners, whether beginners or advanced, can especially benefit from these exercises, improve their running technique, run more efficiently and help prevent injuries.

You may use my suggestions as an introduction to your own personal program. I recommend you start exercising in a group, with a teacher. Trust someone who has enough experience.

The joy of a new fitness routine can give you the positive energy to begin your journey to discover yoga and stabilization. Each exercise has a specific purpose. Since the exact body alignment can be difficult to explain, I suggest that in the beginning you perform the poses very slowly.

Two sessions of 15 to 20 minutes per week are a great start. Later, the number of sessions and pose combinations as well as their level of difficulty can be increased gradually. You can practice yoga as many times as you like. For more information, see the following column: Yoga Pose of the Week.

Start with Mountain, Tree and Downward-Facing Dog Pose

Downward-Facing Dog pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana. © Tim DeFrisco
All exercises are performed with a specific breathing pattern. Breathe in when you stretch out or open up. The exhaling happens during horizontal movements, including “folding” in different poses. I find that breathing while feeling inner balance automatically follows the movement.

Now, I would like to introduce you to some exercises and pose combinations.

To start, I prefer standing poses. The Mountain pose, I enjoy an extended version see picture above, is ideal for warming up and checking your posture. You feel the connection with the ground and can train your balance. Another is the Tree pose, a classic yoga balance exercise that also increases your concentration and strengthens your foot muscles. From this it goes into the pose of the Downward-Facing Dog, through which you stretch the hamstring, calf muscles and the back, and open up the chest. This is a very effective exercise (asana), as it works multiple structures simultaneously. To be ready for the following exercises, you can also warm up with the popular Sun Salutation.

Stretch Your Hip Flexors

A modified Pigeon pose — Eka Pada Rajakapotasana. © Take The Magic Step®
Since flexibility and strength of the hip flexor is an absolute essential for a good running technique and posture, this program focuses on stretching and strengthening the hip flexor. The stability of the lower back area is supported and injuries can be prevented. The hip flexors are often shortened by sitting for long periods of time. A combined sequence of the three poses with Downward-facing Dog, Cobra and Pigeon addresses these target body areas. There are other combinations, but this is my favorite.

Here is how it works: As you inhale, from the downward-facing dog pose lean forward with your upper body until you feel your shoulders over your wrists, like a push-up. Angle the arms slightly, hold this position while breathing out and in several times. A great stabilization exercise for the core and the shoulders! I like to hold it until my arms start to shake.

Then lower the body to the mat, relax, and from there go into the cobra pose, remembering to place the tops of your feet on the floor. The cobra is strengthening the back muscles and stretches the chest, neck and abdominal muscles. Then go back into the downward-facing dog and from there carefully move into the pigeon pose. My absolute favorite exercise! Why? Because it has great benefits and targets many areas: it supports the stretching of the gluteus and upper hamstring muscles and the hip flexors, and it opens the chest.

After this demanding exercise combination and further poses with stabilization elements, I relax for two to three minutes in the Child’s pose. I breathe deeply, gently stretch the lower back, hips, hip flexor and extensor muscles as well as ligaments of the knee and foot, relax the spine, shoulders and neck. Then, I switch to the exercises on the floor, before the final stabilization.

Hip Extensors are Important too

Be careful as you are reaching forward to touch your toes. © Take The Magic Step®
The second focus for runners is: stretching and strengthening the hip extensors — the hamstrings and buttock muscles, which extend the hips while running. The aim is to optimize the interaction of flexion and extension of the anterior and posterior muscles of the hip. Through this series of exercises we achieve the best alignment and stretch and strengthen all necessary areas of the body.

For the next exercise combination I begin sitting with the Head Beyond the Knee pose, stretching the hamstrings and the muscles of the lower back. Incidentally, in addition to improving digestion, this exercise can also help with better sleep. It calms the mind. This is followed by the Spinal Twist, which increases the mobility of the neck, shoulders and spine. Because it stretches the chest and the small muscles between the ribs, lung capacity will be improved as well.

Side Plank to strengthen your core. © Take The Magic Step®
Next I like to exercise a variation of the Spinal Twist. I stretch the right leg straight out, raise the left foot over the right knee, and put it on the floor. I press the right elbow against the outside of the bent left knee and then turn the upper body and the head slightly to the left, breathing deeply in and out with the rotation. Then I repeat with the other side. Now, I focus on the stretching of the buttocks and the extension of the spine.

Combining Yoga with Stabilization

After further stretching exercises, I follow with stabilization, beginning with the Bridge pose (see leading picture above), then Side Plank (see picture above) and Forearm Plank (see picture below). This improves the stability of the core and the mobility, strength and functioning of the hamstrings, lower back and hip muscles. These are all important for the running movement.

Forearm Plank to improve your core. © Take The Magic Step®
Finally, I relax in the Corpse pose, enjoying the positive effects of the poses and exercises. Different breathing techniques help me to finish this combined program deeply relaxed.

Have fun practicing!

Yours,

signature-uta-running-girl

 

 

Adapted from my column “Wie Sie durch diese Übungen Ihre Lauftechnik effektiv verbessern” in the “WELT” with permission (you can read the article in the German language and the entire online “WELT” with a small fee to the newspaper).

*Uta Pippig, 52, is one of the most successful female marathon runners of the ’90s, a three-time champion of the marathons in Boston and Berlin and winner of the NYC Marathon. She is currently a writer and public speaker for “Take The Magic Step®” and “Running to Freedom™” and is also a columnist for the German daily newspaper “DIE WELT” and online “WELT.”
Uta lives in Berlin, Germany, and in Boulder, Colorado, and with her organization “Take The Magic Step®” she commits herself to increasing people’s awareness in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.


Reading Suggestions:

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