Guest Blog: Jennifer Boppre Shares her Runners’ Yoga Workshop
My Runner’s Past
As a runner, I never really saw the value in stretching before or after a run. It was far more important to hit the distances on my training schedule. I climbed hills, put in the speed work, paid strict attention to my nutrition, but no stretching. I carb-loaded through my one and only crack at a marathon and ended up walking for 20kms because my hip couldn’t take it. I got to the finish line, collected my medal, chowed down on post-race nibbles, but still, no stretching.
After years of pounding the pavement, I suffered through injuries that ground my running to a complete halt. I replaced running with fitness classes and I began to see the value in adding a couple of weekly yoga classes to my regime. After retiring from a long career in healthcare, I became a personal trainer and was hired as a fitness instructor at a local fitness and yoga studio. I was able to teach, workout, and share my love of movement with everyone.
Then Came Yoga
Being able to go to yoga anytime was a perk of working at a studio. I started trying all kinds of yoga, and loved it all! I wanted to slow down my career in fitness by adding yoga teacher training to my resume, and the rest is history. I graduated as a yoga teacher after a summer intensive in 2017.
I joined the Yoga Teacher Prep Academy to prepare myself for teacher training, and I’m so glad I did. The experience was amazing! I knew after I graduated I was going to enroll in the business courses offered by Yoga Teacher Prep to help me get laser-focused on my yoga offerings. What kind of yoga would I teach, and to whom? Runners were the perfect group of people I could market my classes to! I’d found my niche.
I joined a local running group and went for casual runs here and there. It tuned out to be great market research because, after a while, I started to notice a trend in the posts on the group’s social media page.
Injury due to overtraining was the common denominator. Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, sore hips, tendonitis, bursitis, ankle-itis, shoulder-itis…you name it -itis! So many members were broken. It was clear to me that a Yoga for Runners workshop was desperately needed. My yoga business plan was feeling stronger and stronger.
Combining My Passions
I created a 2-hour workshop. It includes a brief look at the anatomy and physiology of running, pre and post run stretches, pranayama when running, and mindset when racing. I lead the group through a special 60-minute practice designed just for runners so that all the participants can actually experience everything discussed.
It was a hit. And the best part, past workshop participants continue to attend my yoga classes regularly…and they’re still running!
In addition to the full workshop, I also speak at the local Running Room (a Canadian chain of stores for runners). I share my tips with the store’s half-marathon training groups and instill the value of adding yoga to their training.
There are a variety of styles of practice that are great for runners. Here’s what I tell my runner’s yoga students:
- Hatha builds strength.
- Yin is amazing post-run to really experience deep tissue and muscle stretching.
- Restorative is wonderful for allowing muscles to relax, recover, and repair.
- Flow classes are awesome for working the whole body, and leave you feeling super bendy!
Run With It
If you want to help your yoga students (who are also runners), here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Essentially all muscles are used in running, but a few key groups should be considered when sequencing for this specific group of yogis. Include postures that target the following:
- Quadriceps – Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge), Ustrasana (Camel), Virasana (Hero) and King Arthur pose
- Hamstrings – Uttanasana (Forward Fold), Uttihita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle) and Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee)
- Psoas – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon), Vrkasana (Tree), Natarajasana (Dancer)
- Glutes – Malasana (Garland), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle) and Agnistambhasana (Double Pigeon)
- Abs – Plank, Navasana (Boat), Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge) and Bhujangasana (Cobra)
- Calves – Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits) and Parsvottanasana (Pyramid)
- Shoulders – Gomukhasana (Cow Face), Balasana (Child’s), Garudasana (Eagle) and Parsva Balasana (Thread the Needle)
A simple sequence including Surya Namaskar A, B, and C is effective pre-run for focusing on opening through the quadriceps, hamstrings, psoas, and shoulders. I love to flow between Ardha Hanumanasana and Anjaneyasana. Opening the psoas on one leg and the hamstring of the other is a great way to get the legs ready to run.
Show them postures that they can do right after their run. Pigeon, bound angle, and garland pose are excellent post-run for targeting the hips and deeper gluteal muscles such as the piriformis and the medial glute. The most effective quadriceps stretch I recommend is the King Arthur stretch. It really gets deep into the front of the thigh and there are many variations to suit various levels of ability. Seated Forward Folds like Paschimottanasana, Janu Sirsasana, and Marichyasana will have the hamstrings lengthened if practiced consistently after running.
Two books I recommend for more information on anatomy are “The Key Muscles of Yoga: Scientific Keys, Volume I” by Ray Long, and “Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition” by Leslie Kaminoff.
After a few years of practice, I am now starting to enjoy running again…on the dreaded treadmill, but injury free. I’m sure that if you share this info with your runner students, they love it too (and show up for more yoga classes!)