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The last year has been a difficult one for me (I know there are many of you that feel the same). No matter how much I tried to improve situations, another crisis occurred. It felt like hiking up a hill made of treacle. Thankfully, I managed to care enough about myself to continue juicing, (I swear, it’s my top health tip), which kept me going but I was still suffering from the effects of stress. For me this results in insomnia and body pain, especially in my feet and legs.

One particularly dreary day in January I decided to soak in an Epsom Salts bath; my mother used to do it so I thought I would give it a go. I’m not a bath person; I like to shower and get on with my day. I took my kindle, lit some candles and soaked… until the water cooled. Went to bed, slept like a baby and woke up feeling great! Since then, I have been having an Epsom salts bath once or twice a week. It hasn’t got rid of the problems but it has aided me in reducing my body pain and improving my quality of sleep which definitely aides in me being able to cope with what life throws at me more competently.

epsom-salts-bath

Why do it works (the science bit)

Epsom salts are a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate. Both of these minerals are easily absorbed through the skin whether via a foot bath or a bath (greater surface area, therefore more effective).

Magnesium is commonly lacking in our diets, due to modern farming methods, however, it is vital for over 300 enzyme reactions in our bodies (and that is what we know of, there will be many more of which we are unaware). Some of those enzyme reactions are  responsible in reducing inflammation, muscle pain/cramps, anxiety, relieves constipation; magnesium is also a natural sedative and therefore can help with sleeping problems.

Sulfates help with the absorption of other nutrients, easing migraines, and flushing toxins. They also help strengthen the walls of the digestive tract.

Here are some of the benefits that Epsom salts baths can provide:

  1. Promotes relaxation / eases stress
  2. Eases muscle pain
  3. Eases sprains/sports injuries/bruises
  4. Promotes sleep
  5. Relieves constipation (can also be taken orally, e.g during a liver cleanse)
  6. Flushes heavy metals/toxins from the cells = aides in detoxing

Last month there was an article in The Daily mail, with celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Elle Macpherson claiming the miracles of Epsom salts baths including: reduced bloating/flat tummy to a hangover cure. Epsom salts will reduce bloating but.. and as far as a hangover cure; yes it helps detox your body so will aid in reducing the symptoms of a hangover, however, your liver will still be over loaded from drinking to much alcohol. I would try and look at the bigger picture of these claims. Epsom salts is a great aide but as always, what you are putting in your body is extremely important.

To get started

Fill your bath tub with warm water and add 250 grams or more of Epsom salts. The more salt you add, the greater the effect. Then soak for at least 20 mins.

If you really want to improve the whole experience I recommend using a body brush to stimulate the skin/lymphatic system (it makes your skin feel like silk too) and opens the pores before a 20-minute soak in an Epsom salts bath.

You can purchase your Epsom salts from the clinic, £3.50 for 1/2 kg, £5.50 for 1 kg.  Our salts are from Westlab, the highest food quality Epsom salts. We also carry the dry body brushes. Cheap, effective aides to health.

If you have never indulged in an Epsom salt bath, give it a go. It’s an efficient and inexpensive way to relieve stress and improve your health.

Written by Anne French

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Running the Marathon? You may need some help…

runners-injuries

With the Brighton Marathon just around the corner, here is an insight into the types of injuries you may come across and some top tips on how to avoid them…

 

Here are some common causes of injuries while training…

Over-training

Runners often focus on endurance and stamina work rather than overall strengthening of the entire lower body. The first indicator of over training is aches and pains. When a patient presents with aches and pains, its best to deal with it sooner than later. If caught early, one to two days of rest is usually all that is needed. But, aches and pains that are ignored can become more significant. The tissues break down and can become an injury if not addressed promptly, it can then take weeks to resolve the issue.

Abrupt changes in training

Adding five miles to that daily run or altering the pace are actually abrupt changes in regimen that can spark an injury. It will become worse if symptoms start and a runner tries to work through it.

Poor footwear

Old, worn out trainers wont offer the support you need to be pounding the streets and the wrong size shoe can cause issues too. Too small and you’ll suffer with blisters, too big and it increases the lever arm so force through the calf muscles are increased and the Achilles Tendon can break down. Running shoes should ideally be changed every 350-500 miles depending on body type and training style.

Muscle imbalance

The most common cause of injury among runners is an imbalance with the muscles. Training should go beyond running and should certainly include strengthening and stretching work. Muscles can become tight and over active while others can become weak and underactive – this can cause major problems down the line whether it is to those specific muscles or to others in the same chain. For example weak gluteal muscles can cause problems at the knees, shins and ankles!

Here are some common areas of the body that are likely to come under strain during your training…

Hip Flexors

Anterior_Hip_Flexes_2The hip flexors are a group of muscles that pull the knees upwards towards the core. They begin in the lumber region of the back and connect into the femur (thigh bone). The hip flexor muscles can become inflamed or can even rupture. Hernia’s, trapped nerves and inflammation and rupture of the adductor muscles cannot be ruled out in this area either.

Inflammation

Symptoms can include pain in the groin when you lift your knee to your chest, tightness or swelling in the groin and pain may disappear when training but return afterwards.

The best way to treat inflammation is to rest until the pain has gone. Applying heat to the area will also help.

Rupture

Symptoms include a sudden, sharp pain in the groin, weakness in the area and pain when lifting the knee to your chest. If you think you may have ruptured your hip flexors, you should cease training immediately, applying ice and pressure to the area. Rehabilitation will include lots of rest, a gradual and progressive stretching and strengthening program. A complete rupture of the muscle is rare and would usually require surgery.

Anterior Knee Pain

knee-ligamentsKnee pain can arise from a range of conditions affecting the front of the knee. The knee is made up of 2 bones and the kneecap where various ligaments, muscles and tendons surround it to keep it in place. There are some common causes of knee pain for runners: softening of the cartilage on the back of the kneecap; over pronation (the way your foot strikes the ground when you run doesn’t allow shock to be absorbed properly); stiff hip joints; tight hamstring, calf and quad muscles or lack of strength in the quad muscles.

Symptoms of anterior knee pain can include pain along the medial side or just below the kneecap that gets worse when using stairs or going up/down hills. It can be worse with prolonged sitting and can be described as a dull ache. Sometimes people describe a cracking or grating of the knee and suggest it can ‘catch’ or feel like it ‘gives way’.

Immediate treatment consists of ice and rest and rehabilitation will include stretching the major muscles in the leg to decrease pressure on the kneecap and strengthening muscles to help the kneecap glide correctly.

‘Shin Splints’

Shin pain is very common in runners and it is often referred to as ‘shin splints’. However this is a very generalised term and there are 'shin splints'several different conditions that can cause this pain. Knowing the cause is most important for treatment. Causes include medial tibial stress syndrome, tibial stress fracture, chronic compartment syndrome, calf strains, nerve compression and referred back pain.

 

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS)

This is pain on the inside of the tibia bone bought on by running and can take hours/days to ease. It is often associated with over pronation of the foot when running meaning that shock isn’t absorbed properly. It can also be linked to continually running on hard surfaces or wearing worn out or wrong running shoes. Treatment involves rest from running as well as stretching and massage of calf and shin muscles. Correct footwear will need to be looked at and a review of training programmes to see if anything could make the condition worse.

Tibial Stress Fracture

With a tibial stress fracture, runners will often suffer pain after running however the pain normally gets worse and can last longer after each run. Runners may also suffer from a sharp rising pain when they’re in bed at night and can have tenderness over the area on the tibia. Stress fractures can be caused my repetitive loading of the bones and they are more common in women. A stress fracture can be confirmed by an x-ray and rest of 6-8 weeks from running is essential. A review of training programmes again is essential and a rehabilitation programme is vital to return to running.

Chronic Compartment Syndrome (CCS)

Chronic compartment syndrome is a pain in the lower leg muscles whilst running. The pain eases with rest and can often feel like cramp or a tight, burning sensation. CCS can be caused by leg muscles increasing in size thus becoming too big for the surrounding tissues. The surrounding tissues aren’t flexible enough to accommodate the increase in size and this causes increased pressure which can lead to nerve damage and reduced blood flow in the muscles. On examination a doctor or sports injury specialist may not find a problem because CCS only occurs during exercise. Rest will ease the pain but it will more than likely return when you start training again. If this is the case, surgery is often required.

Achilles Tendon

achilles-tendonAchilles tendon problems are another common complaint amongst runners.  The Achilles tendon connects the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon can become inflamed (tendonitis) or it can be strained or ruptured.

Tendonitis

Tendonitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon usually due to overuse or from an injury to the Achilles. Achilles tendonitis can often be painful at the beginning of exercise and often ease during exercise. The pain usually presents as a dull ache again after exercise. Treatment involves resting, stretching and strengthening and adapting your training programme. Not over-training is key. Introduce new exercise slowly to allow your body time to adjust. Wearing the right type of footwear can be important, flat-footed shoes can put more strain on your Achilles. Allow for a proper warm up and try to vary your training programme.

Strains or ruptures

Strains and ruptures are the most common Achilles injuries. They occur when you make a sudden movement or overstretch the tendon – usually when jumping, lunging or falling. Sometimes these injuries can make it hard to walk or put your foot on the floor. Symptoms include immediate pain just above the heel turning to a dull ache, limited movement of the ankle and swelling or heat around the Achilles. Treatment will depend on the severity of strain or rupture but rest, ice and elevate is your first port of call. Rehabilitation will include stretching and strengthening.

If you are in need of help whether it is to just diagnosis your condition or to receive treatment and training advice then please give us a call. If you are ever unsure- always contact a Sports Injury Specialist or GP.

Written by  Natalie Harris – BSc Sports Therapist, MSST

A while ago I wrote a blog on Upper Cross Syndrome, complete with exercise videos on how to counter it. I said at the time that I would also write one for Lower Cross Syndrome – and finally – here it is!

I don’t want to repeat the same information so I suggest you look at the first blog here to get the full explanation as it’s good to understand why you are doing something(it means you are more likely to do it). The same rules apply – you need to stretch the hypertonic (tight) muscles first before you do the exercises to strengthen the hypotonic (weak) muscles. The stretches are really important, so don’t miss them out!

Here’s a picture to help you visualise the posture (or you could possibly look in the mirror).

As with Upper Cross Syndrome, certain muscles are tight (hypertonic) while others are weak causing a posture that is results in pain, looks unattractive and is very common if you start looking for it.

And here is the list of muscle involved with Lower Cross Syndrome.

Tonic Muscles

Prone to Tightness or Shortness

Phasic Muscles

Prone to Weakness or Inhibition

Gastroc-SoleusTibialis PosteriorHip Adductors

Hamstrings

Rectus Femoris

Iliopsoas

Tensor Fascia Lata

Piriformis

Thoraco-lumbar extensors

Quadratus Lumborum

 

Peroneus Longus, BrevisTibialis AnteriorVastus Medialis, Lateralis

Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus

Rectus Abdominus

 

These are very important, large postural muscles that are possibly functioning incorrectly but with the correct stretching and strengthening exercises these muscles can improve in function which will result in improved musculoskeletal function and pain reduction (if not pain elimination).

So – let’s start!

We are going to start with the foam roller on the IT Band.

You can use these rollers for most muscles groups to work out the knots so experiment. (And yes – it really should be that painful to start with but the pain recedes quickly if you keep doing it regularly). You can also use them for core strengthening exercises. We sell these at the clinic and quite honestly, I don’t know how I survived before I had one of these. They are very versatile and extremely effective. My advice would be – get one!

Now we are going to S-T-R-E-T-C-H.

We are starting with the calf muscles. Here is a simple stretch of the Gastroc and Soleus Muscles that you can do anywhere (you will also get the Tibialis Posterior slightly).

This next video demonstrates how to stretch the hip Adductors which are the large muscle group of the inner thigh.

Now for the Hamstrings.

And then the opposing muscle from the Quadratus group of muscles, the Rectus Femoris. Make sure you tuck your tail under for this one – then you will really feel it.

This next video demonstrates how to stretch the Iliopsoas and also the Tensor Fascia Lata. This last muscle goes into the IT Band so don’t forget to foam roll first.

Here are a couple of stretches for the Piriformis. Always a favourite!

And this video shows stretches for the Quadratus Lumborum and Thoraco-lumbar Extensors.

Okay – stretching done, now we can start strengthening the opposing muscles. We will start with the Tibialis Anterior (don’t want to confuse you with an exercise for the Peroneus muscles so we will stick with this one at the moment). You need a resistance band (which we sell at the clinic) or something that will add resistance to the muscle as you work it. As with any strengthening exercise you need to do sets of repartitions and increase the number of reps and/or sets as you get stronger e.g. start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions? Here’s how…

Now for the Gluteal muscles and here’s Rich demonstrating how.

And another…

And lastly, here is a good way to start working your abdominal muscles.

If you follow these recommendations you have the opportunity to have great posture, wonderful musculoskeletal function resulting in less chance of injury and pain.

You have a wealth of knowledge available to you from all the practitioners at Coast so take advantage of us. We are here to help you reach your goals, whatever they are.

Written by Anne French, Chiropractor

Arnica Montanaalso known as the Mountain Daisy and Leopard’s Bane belongs to the Compositae family and is found along the slopes of the Andes and along the Central European Alps andSiberia. It grows in the mountains, not on the tops but where it is of most use along the slopes of the mountain valleys and meadows. Nature’s way of supplying what’s needed close at hand, after a climbing fall and general overexertion. Arnica is a perennial herb has large golden flowers similar to the marigold, and is highly aromatic and grows on peaty soils.

 

Its valuable properties have been known for many years extending back to writings of Saint Hildergarde of Bingen in 1099. Within Homeopathy it is a remedy used for its therapeutic qualities, specifically for injuries, falls and accidents. In German it is known as ‘Fall Kraut’ or ‘Falling Herb’.

 

Amongst its many other virtues, homeopathically, Arnica can be used for trauma, overexertion and injuries for both the physical and mental effects, and is an ideal remedy to assist athletes. It is known as the aspirin of Homeopathy.

 

Its application can be for the overuse of any organ. Where there are sore bruised muscles, limbs and body ache as if beaten, joints as if sprained, helping to bring out the bruising. It is a big shock remedy and often the person needing it will say they are fine and that nothing is wrong when there clearly is, and when spoken to will answer slowly with effort. The classic arnica will have a terrible accident then get up saying ‘I’m alright’ and maybe order a taxi home… whilst their head gushes blood.

 

If your training is causing aching of muscles and limbs or if you are nursing injuries, preparing for the marathon, taking Arnica 30c after a run may be of great benefit to aid healing.  On the day of the marathon itself, take a dose before and after your run and one dose a day for the following three days.

 

Where to buy Homeopathic remedies – Homeopathic remedies can be bought from health food shops, chemists or pop into the clinic.

Homeopathic remedies are often used as self-help for simple conditions, however for more serious complaints a homeopath, GP or health professional should be consulted before using homeopathic medicines.

Written by Sarah Allenby-Byrne, Homeopath

And so this month see`s the Brighton Marathon and with it Spring well and truly underway. Everyone is up and running this month, walking, biking running, hop skip and jumping, and generally glad to be alive and being active now the weather is better and the days are longer.

 

So as you grab those luminous lycra shorts and prepare to roller blade ten miles along the sea front be sure to warm up warm down and increase the amount of exercise you do gradually as your body wakes up from the slumber of winter.

 

Tendon and ligament damage can occur through improper training regimes or over enthusiastic exercise. Over use of joints or repetitive strain injuries are commonly caused through excessive running or sports. Runners with injuries such as shin splints, knee pain, Achilles tendon problems, Iliotibial Band Syndrome or general foot or ankle pain can all benefit from acupuncture treatment, increasing healing time and enabling a return to training or work and not chronic or recurring injury.

 

Acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s energy, (Qi) the electromagnetic activity created through chemical reactions on a cellular level.  The excitement and activation of the body’s energy draws blood to the area. In Chinese medicine we say Qi is the commander of the blood and blood is the mother of Qi to describe the yin yang interconnected nature of this phenomenon.

 

In other words exciting the electromagnetic field in an injured knee draws blood to the area, and the blood contains the healing aspects of the immune system such as white blood cells, lymphocytes etc to draw away waste products and stimulate tissue repair.

 

The other mechanism at play in acupuncture treatment is the systemic factor. We not only work on the local area but on the deep organs and systems of the body to strengthen the immune response. The classic one I see is people who suffer chronic tendon strains and suffer a systemic “blood deficiency” i.e. there isn’t enough extra blood to repair and nourish the tendons and allow healing to take place. Including points to stimulate this aspect of the body and include blood building foods in the diet allows the body to complete what it is trying to do.

 

Acupuncture is very effective at treating musculoskeletal injury but sometimes a structural problem is contributing to an injury and chiropractic or osteopathic treatment is necessary first in order to correct this before acupuncture can be used to strengthen or speed up repair.

 

We all have our limits and sometimes we all need help from outside of ourselves, here at Coast we try to provide everything you need to live as fully as possible. Now go outside and play!

Written by Jeremy Marshall

On the First Day of Christmas my true love bought for me a Foam Roller from Coast for my iliotibial bands (ITB’s).

 Here’s how to use it.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Coast.

On the Second Day of Christmas my true love bought for me a special offer from Coast of a 2 for 1 TREATMENT & A CLASS

A choice of either a Yoga or Pilates class and the choice of a 1/2 hour treatment of either Reflexology, Deep Tissue Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Sports Massage or Chair Massage – all for only £26.

 Happy Boxing Day.

 

On the THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS my true love gave to me a special offer from Coast of a MASSAGE TRIO – 3x 30 minute treatments for £60

Have you always been a bit confused or overwhelmed as to which massage treatment would be most suitable & beneficial for you?

Coast is offering you an amazing opportunity to try out 3 different massages for yourself from the variety of treatments available at the clinic:

Choose any three 30 minute treatments from the following:

  • therapeutic – a gentle great stress relieving treatment, helping you to unwind & relax after a hectic day, soothes away aches & pains
  • reflexology – is a holistic, non-invasive therapy that applies gentle pressure to the reflex points on the feet.
  • deep -tissue – works very deeply into muscle fibres, reducing deep rooted muscle tension & breaks down stubborn knots & scar tissue in problem areas
  • chair massage (including Indian head massage) – performed through clothing on a fully adjustable, ergonomic massage chair for maximum comfort, focuses specifically on the muscles of the upper body & includes an Indian head massage
  • sports massage/injury – deep tissue that can be used on an injury.
  • thai yoga – a dynamic, rhythmical, dance like treatment, performed on a futon, through clothing which releases energy blockages in the body & in so doing helps to reduce muscle aches & tension by using palming, thumb, elbow & foot pressure & by applying gentle passive hatha yoga stretches, suitable for all regardless of size, age or flexibility.

Onthe Fourth Day of Christmas my true love bought for me a Yoga 1-2-1 with the lovely Ginny or Emma.

Enjoy an hour of just concentrating on you, your body and your breath. This could be the start of something good…

On the Fifth Day of Christmas I received from Coast,  FIVE Homeopathic sessions for the price of Four.

This special offer gives you a 20% discount on your Homeopathic treatment AND it includes the remedies. Come along and meet Sarah, our Homeopath and experience the profound effect of what Homeopathy can do for you.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas you could buy a 60 minute massage – because you are worth it!

On the Seventh Day of Christmas you could join us in celebrating a big Happy 7th Birthday to Coast. Thanks to everyone for the last years and looking forward to the next.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas you could invest in shaping up your body and reducing reoccurring lower back pain with an eight week course of Pilates or Yoga.

Check out our class schedule to find a suitable class time and day for you. What a great way to start the New Year.

de-sress with a yoga or pilates class

Looking good and feeling good!

On the Ninth Day of Christmas could partake in 90 luxurious minutes of a Thai Yoga massage. Ahhh…

On the Tenth Day of Christmas you could buy 10 Chiropractic or Osteopathy treatments for the price of nine. That’s a 10% discount!

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas you could try a heavenly cranial sacral treatment for only £20, usually £40. A heavenly half price bargain!

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas – time to DETOX & we can help. Get rid of that bloated, lethargic feeling along with the Christmas decorations.

Come along and talk with Sue our Nutritionist. She can advise you on how to best clean your body internally so that you function better both physically and mentally. You’ll have so much more energy.

You know you’ve been promising yourself this for a long time – Do it!

My first pair of Vibram Five Fingers ™ (VFF’S) was a pair of Classics, in grey and orange. I loved them. The first thing I did, of course, was research how to wear them in – not! What I did do was put them on and go out all day walking miles. To begin with they were amazingly comfortable. I even quite liked the odd glances my feet were getting. But by the afternoon I was regretting my decision. I crawled home, with my calves like rocks and the soles of my feet on fire. It was at that point I looked to see how I should start wearing them.

 

            So what should I have done? Essentially: ease into wearing them gently. Wear the shoes for short periods of time, round the house, building up to local trips. The same principal as it is with running; add it slowly. Start with short distances, gradually going further. Listen to your body; don’t overdo it. Also stretch! Especially stretch your calves, quads and hamstring muscles. (There will be more information on stretching coming soon). So that is what I started to do. It took some time but I built up my resistance gradually. As I got into the barefoot idea I sought more information. One name that popped up regularly is a book by Christopher McDougall Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It is an interesting pop science book, with a positive outlook on barefoot running.  

 

            Eventually after 6 months I was able to wear my VFF’s happily all day, with no ill effects. One of the best things about the shoes is you forget you are wearing them. So when people started looking at my feet in confusion I would wonder why. I even had 10 people round me in a shop asking questions. Including where to get them. My advice has always been go where you can try them on. The fit is vital. They don’t fit like normal shoes, so you must go where they can give good advice. For example in Brighton and Hove, I would always recommend Inter Sport, Nick Rivett on Church Road. They are great in there.

 

            So remember if you want to try these amazing shoes, get them fitted properly, start slowly and stretch.

 

Written by Margaret Sinclair

Part 1:

Two years ago I entered the world of ‘barefoot’ footwear; an increasingly popular alternative to ‘normal’ shoes and trainers. These are my experiences.

The theory is that humans had been running barefoot for a long time before big brands started manufacturing the modern trainer. They had to run, and run well to catch their food and to avoid being food. Therefore the foot is perfectly designed to run without all these mod cons of cushioning and stability etc. That is, at least, the theory.

People who advocate barefoot running claim benefits ranging from improved posture, faster running times and fewer injuries. Also a more connected feeling to their body and earth. They can be very evangelical about it. Opponents to the new ‘fad’ claim that there is increased injury (especially metatarsal fracture) and possible future problems from such unsupported foot use. There is evidence to support both arguments. The answer is somewhere in-between and is individual to each person.

I have Vibram Five Fingers© (VFF’s for short) they are like gloves for the feet. They have very thin soles to enable increased awareness of what is under your feet and allow as much intrinsic mobility of the foot as possible. They also have individual pockets for the toes, allowing increased ‘wiggle’ ability. It is the nearest thing you can get to walking barefoot, with some protection from what is on the floor, which can be gross.

One of the things you have to know before you wear them is that everyone will look at your feet and ask you questions about them. They are a bit like Marmite; people will love them or hate them.

The second thing to know is that you have to build up wearing them slowly… Or you will end up in pain! The muscles of the foot need time to build up and this does need to be done slowly. You would not just go and run a marathon without some training, not without hurting something anyway. In the same way, you need to train your feet and legs to work barefoot again. So start small and build up time and mileage.

So how did I get to own my first pair of VFF’s, one of the more unusual looking ‘barefoot’ shoes? It was not for all the benefits highlighted above. My partner saw a man wearing them, thought they looked suitably odd, decided they would suit me perfectly and accosted the man for details. And there began my love affair with these weird looking but, in my opinion, amazing shoes.

Written by Margaret Sinclair, Osteopath.

Well done all you Brighton Marathon runners. What a great atmosphere from some great people.

It was my great privilege to try to help those runners that found their way to my portable massage table outside the clinic on Church Road. Interestingly – not one of my many patients that ran the Marathon needed my help. (Could it be that they already know how gentle I am with soft tissue work – or – that they are in such good shape?)
So much fun mixed with so much pain. Don’t know how many of you did it. Such conviction.

Congratulations and see you next year.

Low lunge 1

Regular running without sufficient stretching will cause muscular tightness leading to imbalances in body.  The body will then find ways of compensating to address these imbalances, leaving the runner prone to injury.  Incorporating a few yoga postures into your routine will increase your flexibility and strength, helping to safeguard against injuries.  In addition, a regular yoga practice allows one to become more attuned to the body and any warning signals it sends.

Try these few yoga postures after each run (and on non-run days if you can) and your body will thank you for it! Here are a few important guidelines before you begin:

–          Cast aside your trainers and practice in bare feet on a yoga mat if you have one.

–          For the standing poses, pay attention to your feet.  Always keep the inner arches lifted to avoid pronation and press down evenly through the ball joints of the big toe, little toe and the centre of the heels.

–          Stay in each pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths through the nostrils.  If you can’t breathe comfortably, then ease off a little until you can.

–          Keep your core strong by drawing your lower abdominals (below the navel) in towards the spine.

–          Once in a pose, try to draw your awareness inwards by focussing on your breath and feeling what is going on with your body, rather than concentrating on the external form of your body.

–          Never ‘bounce’ your way into a posture – hold steadily and comfortably!

–          Only go as far as is comfortable but whilst feeling the stretch – if you keep practicing regularly you’ll be amazed at the difference.

Setting the foundations – Mountain Pose

Stand with your big toes touching and heels as close together as comfortable and spread your toes.   Have your arms by your sides (middle finger in line with outer side seam of your trousers).  Ground down evenly through the balls and heels of the feet whilst lifting the inner arches.  Engage your quadriceps to stabilise your kneecaps.  The pelvis should be in ‘neutral’ with the lower back neither arched nor flattened.   Draw in the lower abdomen to feel a gentle release in your lumbar spine.  Lift the ribcage away from your pelvis and reach the crown of the head upwards, whilst allowing your shoulders to relax down.  You may feel a little taller!

Mountain pose

Benefits:  teaches correct alignment of the whole body and good preparation for other yoga poses.

Chair pose ‘Utkatasana’

 From Mountain pose, inhale and raise your arms over your head pressing your palms together (if this is uncomfortable, keep hands shoulder distance apart).  Exhale, bend your knees, tracking directly over your toes, coming into a squat as if you are just about to sit into a chair – the torso should lean forwards so it forms a 90 degree angle with your thighs.  To come out, inhale to straighten your legs and exhale lower your arms back to Mountain pose.

–          Keep your heels grounded and your spine in neutral with the back of the neck long

–          Gaze forwards or upwards, encouraging your breastbone to lift without arching your lower back

–          If the palms are pressed together, draw the inner elbows towards each other to broaden the upper back.

Chair pose

Benefits:  Strengthens the ankles, calves and thighs whilst stretching muscles of shoulder and chest.

Warrior III

From Mountain Pose, exhale and fold your torso forwards until it is parallel with the floor whilst simultaneously raising your left leg behind you, so that you form a ‘T’ shape with your body. Reach your arms back by your sides; or out to your sides for more balance.  Gazing forwards may help your balance whilst gazing to the floor will further lengthen your spine. To come out, exhale, lower your leg and arms and stand upright.  Repeat with the opposite leg.

–          Keep the hips square to the floor.  The tendency is to lift the hip of the raised leg, so encourage the thigh to internally rotate to correct this and point all 5 toes down to the floor.

–          If it is too much to be parallel to the floor then you can come to the halfway point, but always keeping your lifted leg in the same line as your torso.

–          Push back through the heel of your lifted leg as if you were pressing the sole of your foot into a wall behind you.

Warrior

Benefits:   a great strengthening pose for both legs and the gluteals, whilst stretching the hamstring of the standing leg.  Also tones the shoulders and strengthens the core and back whilst improving balance and concentration.

Flank stretch ‘parsvottanasana’

From Mountain pose, Inhale to step your right foot forwards about 2 ½ – 3 feet with the toes pointing forwards, then turn your left foot outwards about 45 degrees (think ‘ten to’ on a clock). You do not want to be standing on an imaginary tightrope with your heels directly aligned, instead imagine you are standing on a narrow railway track so that as you square your pelvis and torso forwards, your sitting bones are aligned with your heels and you feel balanced.  Exhale to take your arms behind your back and hold opposite elbows with your hands, so your forearms are parallel to the floor (or hold your wrists if your shoulders are tight).  Experienced yogis could take ‘reverse prayer’.  Inhale broaden your chest and draw your shoulders together and lengthen your spine.  Exhale fold forwards from your hips over your right leg as far as you can whilst keeping the spine long and both legs straight.  Gaze towards the right foot.  Feel the stretch in your hamstrings. To exit, inhale whilst pressing through your feet to come up and then exhale to release your arms.  Repeat with the left leg forwards.

–          Do not round your back – fold from your hips and lead with your breastbone.

–          Keep your neck in line with your spine. 

–          Avoid collapsing in the chest by keeping your shoulder blades drawing together towards your spine.

–          Keep both legs active – engage your quadriceps to avoid ‘locking’ out your knees. 

–          Press down through the ball joint of your front leg’s big toe and the heel and outside edge of your back foot.

Flank stretch

Benefits:  Strengthens the legs; stretches the spine, shoulders hamstrings and hips.  Opens the chest.

Low lunge

This pose is best done on a mat or at least put some padding, such as a folded towel, under your back knee.  From an all fours position, exhale and step your right foot forwards between your hands with the toes pointing forwards.  Your right knee should be directly over your right ankle, shin vertical.  Then slide your left knee backwards until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip and thigh.  The top of the left foot should be flat on the floor.  Inhale to lift your torso to an upright position and rest your hands lightly on your right thigh, with your chest lifted and shoulders back and down.   To come out, exhale lower your torso and bring your hand back under your shoulders.  Repeat on the left leg.

–          Press down firmly with your front foot

–          Draw your tailbone down to the floor whilst lifting the pubic bone upwards

–          Keep your lower abdominals engaged and lift through your pelvic floor.

–          To deepen the stretch, if you feel stable:  Inhale and reach your arms overhead, pressing your palms together and lift your gaze towards your thumbs.

Low lunge 1

Low lunge 2

Benefits:  Stretches the quadriceps and hip flexors of the back leg.  Provides a gentle extension for the spine so lengthens the front of the torso and counteracts rounded shoulders.

Boat Pose ‘navasana’

Sit on the floor then bend your legs and clasp the back of your thighs with your hands, drawing them towards your torso.  Lean back with your torso slightly whilst lifting the breastbone, drawing your lower abdominals in and find balance on your sitting bones.  Now lift the feet off the floor as you allow your arms to reach forwards at shoulder height.  Your torso and thighs should form a ‘v’ shape. Try to raise the shins parallel to the floor keeping the feet together.   To release bring your feet back to the floor and arms by your sides.   Repeat 3 – 5 times.

–          Spine should be straight throughout – keep lifting your chest and drawing your shoulder blades back and down.

–          If this is too difficult or you find that your back is rounding, drop your toes to the floor.

–          To deepen the pose, straighten your leg so that your toes are level with your eyes.

Boat pose 1

Boat pose 2

 

Benefits:   strengthens the abdominals, hip flexors and spine.

Hero’s pose

Kneel on the floor, the tops of your feet should be on the floor with the toes pointing straight back (this is very important – if your toes are turned outwards this will strain the inner knee).  Your knees should be very slightly apart and feet a little wider than your hips.  You will probably need a prop to sit on so place a few yoga blocks (if you have them) or a telephone directory or some folded towels between your feet, so as you sit down your buttocks are raised off the floor.  Sit with a tall spine and feel the stretch in your quadriceps and the front of your ankles.

–          Hold for as long as is comfortable – build up gradually, eventually aiming for a few minutes.

–          If you do not feel the stretch then you can lower your prop or perhaps take it away altogether so that you are sitting with buttocks on the floor.

–          Ensure there are no pulling sensations in your knees.  If you find that there is then check the alignment of your feet (toes pointing straight back) or make your prop a little higher.

Heros pose 1

Heros pose 2

Benefits:  lengthens the quadriceps and front of the ankles.

Written by Ginny Haswell, Yoga Instructor. 

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