Running, yoga & hips

[t gellenbeck]

“Girl, your hips are TIGHT!!” said the POGA instructor to me last summer while I was making my lame attempt at pigeon.  No, I wasn’t offended.  It was actually an old friend from high school who was leading the practice and let’s be real, I DO have insanely tight hips!  Her next question was, “Are you a runner?”  And that was the start of educating myself and working on my TIGHT HIPS…

 Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.48.38 PMLan, working on her hip opener

Sage Rountree, a yoga and running expert states, “Most runners claim they have tight hamstrings. I see it all the time in the yoga classes I teach to athletes. But often, the problem is less in the hamstrings and more in the opposing muscle groups: the quadriceps and, more importantly, the hip flexors.”

Why are our hips tight?  A few reasons…

  1. Repetitive Use.  Our hip flexors help pull the leg forward and your knee upward during your stride.  Think about how many times you do this during a run!  You take anywhere from 250-350 steps PER MINUTE when running, depending on pace, so that is a lot of hip flexing!!
  2. Weak Glutes.  “One big contributing factor to hip flexor tightness is that the glutes just aren’t as active as other running muscles during most activities. This causes your hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves to become much stronger,” claims

We also spend a good part of our day sitting, which contributes to hip-tightening.

Why does it matter for runners?

More flexible hips (and other leg joints/muscles) can lead to more efficient running times and injury prevention.  “The strength and flexibility you develop on the mat – namely in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors – can help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free,” says Adam St. Pierre, a coach & exercise physiologist.

Neglecting your hips can not only slow you down, it can lead to injury.  “Like many runners, my thoughts of stretching [used to] range from non-existent to lame. Pretty pathetic! No wonder I had more than my share of injuries in those years, mainly in the hamstrings and hips” states Christine Felstead, a yoga instructor that works specifically with runners & performance athletes. In her book, Yoga for Runners, Felstead names chapter 10 ~ Hips: Unleash the Power ~ where she talks about the overall improved running performance and efficiency we can achieve through a little hip love!

How can we work them?

1.  Yoga – duh!

We are doing not one, not two, but THREE yoga for runners classes & workshops this spring and I CAN. NOT. WAIT!!  But until then, we’ll work on some of these stretches from Felstead’s book…

  • three-legged downward dog
  • extended side stretch
  • warrior II
  • warrior III
  • tree
  • pigeon (eeek!)
  • runner’s lunge
  • lizzard

2.  Quad & IT rolls on the foam roller.  If you don’t have one of these bad boys and you are running distance, get one NOW!

3.  Get up and MOVE during the day.  The less sitting, the better.

Three yoga poses we like that require hip flexibility… good goals to work towards!

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.47.35 PM Side plank with variation… we want to bring that leg up all the way someday!

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.45.13 PMOne legged wheel

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.43.11 PM


More to come after our running clinics.

Stretch those hips and stay fit!




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