Stretch It Out


As you've probably read from our newsletter and other posts this month, we are focusing on recovery. It's vital for your muscles and your brain!

One of my favorite ways to recover is with a slow, easy yoga class. It's not always easy to get to a class because of work, life, running and socializing! So, in order to stretch out, quiet my mind and let my muscles streth and relax, I do a series of my favorite yoga moves. It's not a flow so it's easy (or easier) for everyone. 

When I'm in the midst of high mileage or really busy weeks, I keep my yoga mat out and that minds me to get on the mat and stretch. 

Here are 3 of my favorite moves:

Downward facing dog: This pose stretches everything - from your calves to your hamstrings to your back. It's a great one to do first thing in the morning and after a run.

How to do it: start on your hands and knees. Exhale and lift your knees up, sending your butt up and back towards the wall behind you. Don't extend your legs totally straight. Keep them slightly bent (your hamstrings will thank you). Press your thighs back - you want most of the weight to be in your legs. Pedal out your legs by extending one leg while keeping the other bent and then switch. Hold for 30 seconds at least.

Runner's lunge: This pose stretches your hip flexors, shoulders and hips. You can also do this pose with your back knee on the ground.

How to do it: Start on your hands and knees and step your right foot up between your hands. Extend your left leg straight and slowly raise up. Lift your arms over your head if comfortable. Keep your knee over your ankle and keep lifting up through your torso. I almost feel like I'm trying to lift my torso off my hips. Hold for 10-30 seconds. To switch, bring your hands back down to the mat and then switch your legs.



Triangle pose: Stetches inner thighs, torso and back.

How to do it: Step your legs about 3 feet apart, sideways. Turn your right foot out and keep your left foot slightly turned inwards. Your right heel should line up with your left arch or left heel. Extend your arms out on an inhale. On the exhale, tip your torso over your right leg and bring your torso down. Hold for a few breaths and then switch to the other side.





Stretching for the Busy Runner

There are two types of stretches - dynamic and static. We recommend you perform both on a regular basis and in addition to your running and fitness program. Dynamic stretching is best performed at the beginning of a workout because it preps your muscles for power, which you need for a run or any type of fitness class. Static stretching is best for post workout because it allows your muscles to lengthen and rest.


Run about 1 mile and then perform the following dynamic stretching exercises (do each over ~20 meters):

  • Forward/Back Leg Swings
  • Side to Side Leg Swings
  • High Knees Running (or High Knee March)
  • Butt Kicks
  • Lateral lunges

Post Run

We know you are busy and that stretching sometimes takes a back seat to showering, eating and relaxing post run. With that in mind, and knowing how we use to train, we created a guide to stretching for the busy runner. We recommend stretching the key muscles by performing the below stretches for 10-30 seconds immediately after your run. Do these BEFORE you go inside (unless it's really cold or rainy) so there's no option to forget.

  • Chest:  Interlace your fingers behind your back and move both hands down and away from you to stretch the front of the body.
  • Hamstrings:  Stand with feet together, bend your knees and slowly bend forward. Relax your neck. Slowly bend one leg and then the other to stretch each hamstring.
  • Hips:  Hold onto a railing for balance and cross the left ankle over the right knee. Sit back like you were sitting in a chair to stretch the whole hip area. Repeat on the other side.
  • Hip Flexor:  Step your right foot back and bend your left leg so your knee is directly over your ankle. Push back through your left heel to stretch your left hip flexor.
  • Quadriceps:  Hold onto a railing for balance. Bend your left leg so your heel moves towards your glutes. Grab the outside of the left foot with your left hand. Bring your knees into alignment, keeping the knee pointed straight down and back straight. Push your hip forward and bring your foot away from your body for a deeper quad stretch. 

Interview with a Massage Therapist

Jennifer Mayer is our featured runner of the week. She is the  owner of Mama Moon NYC which is her private practice as a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Holistic Health Coach and Birth Doula. She has been our go-to massage therapist for the past few years. She's healed many an aligment! She loves helping her clients feel better, manage stress and birth babies! Just from talking to her, you know she loves her job!

Why do you like working with runners?
It’s rewarding to help my clients reach their training and racing goals. My clients tend to be very motivated and fun to work with. Massage therapy is effective in injury prevention and healing, and I can see results pretty quickly in athletes. I’ve helped runners with super tight calves and hamstrings, injured runners prepare for an upcoming marathon, and then of course, helped runners recover after the big event. Working with each client on his or her goals is exciting, to be part of their team and help them achieve what they are working towards.  

If you could tell a runner one piece of advice, what would it be?
Stretch! Many times I have runners come into my office who tell me all about their training, and the miles they are getting in, despite being busy at work or taking care of kids. And, really, it’s impressive how my clients can get everything done. One thing that many runners confess to me is that they don’t stretch. Period. I hear from them that there’s no time, or they forget, or they don’t like it. But please, make time to stretch, your muscles will thank you! 

What is your go-to fitness activity and why?  
For the past three years I’ve enjoyed private Pilates sessions as my go-to activity. The Pilates work helps keep my posture in alignment, which keeps my body healthy. It also focuses on weaknesses in my core and structure, so my body becomes stronger and works more efficiently. The Pilates work has greatly improved my running. Due to injuries in my shoulder and rib cage from a ski accident in 2003, it took me a few years to become comfortable running again as I would develop back pain after a certain amount of running. The Pilates work has really helped stabilize my core and even out some imbalances in my body. I really feel like it keeps me going, so I can enjoy running pain free now. 

What is your favorite post workout meal?  

Something quick, easy and nutrient dense. Lately, I've really been enjoying a sliced banana with cinnamon sprinkled on top with a tablespoon of raw nut butter on the side. I mix it up between almond and cashew butter. Yum! I also love green smoothies, filled with fresh pineapple, frozen mango, fresh kale and almond milk- maybe some additions of bee pollen or hemp seeds.

Jennifer Mayer's Green Smoothie Recipe:

  • 3/4c fresh (or frozen) pinapple
  • 3/4c frozen mango
  • 3-4 stalks of kale, stems removed
  • Handful baby spinach if it's on hand
  • 1 tablespoon raw almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Sprinkle of bee pollen
  • Enough almond milk to make it blend

When did you start running and why?  
I started running when I was twelve years old. I grew-up on a farm in upstate, New York and running was the quickest way I could get from one side to the other. As a child I never enjoyed “round ball” or team sports. One day I asked my father “Why can’t there be a sport where all you need to do is run? That would be really fun, and I think I’d be good at that.” My dad said, “You could be a harrier! And run cross-country!” I had no idea that running was a thing. Well I looked into this whole running thing and joined a community Track & Field program for children 5-12 years old. Eventually, I joined the modified Cross Country team at school, and, in 8th grade I made the varsity Track & Field team.

Running became a huge part of my high school experience. I loved going to practice every day, our team was a lot of fun to be around. I enjoyed racing and being part of the team, but I also liked setting individual goals for myself. Throughout high school I ran Cross Country in the fall, our coach hosted a winter training daily workout in the winter, and I ran the 400 Hurdles, 3000 meter steeplechase and 4x800 relay in Track in the spring. My Cross Country team even competed twice in the New York State Championship meet. Being part of the Track and Cross Country teams was a wonderful experience, and I feel like it’s given me a strong foundation for health and fitness that I’ve carried into my adult life.

A Yoga Mat for Runners

 All yoga mats are not equal . . .

As a run coach and avid runner, I only recently got into yoga as a way to recover and stretch. I don't go to the vinyasa classes; I prefer the basics and yoga for runners classes.  As a way to improve my declining mobility and flexibilty resulting from limited cross training, I decided to dedicate my New Year's resolution to creating a habit of doing yoga once a week by the end of 2012. Although I haven't excatly kept up with this resolution every single week this year, I did learn quite quickly that certain yoga mats can make or break the class (I was in the market for a new mat to kick off the resolution). 

First there's the issue of borrowing one from the studio that has an odor that lingers the entire class (and it's not yours).  There's the mat that's too short.  The one your friend said she would bring, but forgot.  I picked up a cheap one from a local athletic store and the mat was so slippery and smelled like plastic that I threw it out.  Next, I tried a very thin, light, easy to roll and transport matt which I realized is so thin I might as well be directly on the hard floor. Then I discovered the Northern Lights Yoga Mat by Aurorae Yoga

For the last few weeks, I've used the Northern Lights Yoga Mat for my basics yoga classes and for my post run stretches (I used to throw down a towel on the floor everytime I stretched after a run which required an extra load of laundry every week just for post run towels.).

Unlike other mats I've tried, this one is padded to a degree that provides enough support for my knees and ankles while stretching, doing strength work at home or working on my flexbility in yoga.  It's LONG, so tall people like myself aren't constantly adjusting to get our body back on the mat.  Despite the extra length and padding, the mat is still as light as the other mats I tried and easy to transport from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY to a yoga studio in Manhattan.  Plus, it's odorless!  Even new mats have a tendancy to smell like rubber or plastic when you begin to use them.  Not this one.  Check it out for yourself, runners.  The best part? It's 33% off right now.

by Jessica Green of Hot Bird Running.


Yoga for Runners

We asked one of our favorite teachers, Stephanie Creaturo, to help us with some post run yoga. Her take on yoga, the body and runners always blows us away. Need to slow down, relax, stretch or feel good after a run? Head to Mala Yoga. Every single teacher knows their stuff and cares.

As a yoga teacher and a runner, I get asked a lot what are the best stretches to do after a run. There’s a good chance my fellow runner will also say “I don’t have a lot of time to stretch.” I get it! There are a million stretches out there and even more yoga poses.  And training for a race takes a lot of time. What’s a runner to do?

I totally believe that running and yoga can peacefully co-exist!  I hope you can check out an appropriate-level class for you at your local yoga studio – many studios (like mine) offer classes just for athletes or runners. Even if you go once a week, the teacher will lead you through a variety of poses, some of which you may be familiar with, some of which you may not.  Either way, you’ll certainly stretch out those muscles used in running, but you can also be inspired to get out of your stretching rut!  Yoga mixes up how it challenges the muscles in the body, which is great conditioning for the body and the mind.

Here’s one of my favorite poses to teach runners and to do after a long run. (Note, I don’t use the words “stretch” and “pose” interchangeably; I can think of a million different things when I’m stretching. When I’m engaged in a yoga pose, my attention is squarely placed on my breath and how my breath is guiding my physical alignment. But no matter what you do post-run, yoga or stretching, your body will thank you by staying healthy!)

It is called Parsvottonasana, or intense side stretch. Many yoga teachers call it “pyramid pose” because of the shape your body takes once its in the final pose. I find it to be a wonderful post-run balm for the backs of my legs, my low back, and my spine.

I love to do this pose with my hands on a wall or a park bench. By pressing my hands into a wall or the edge of a bench, I can integrate my arms to my shoulder sockets and let my shoulders & hips be aligned while I lengthen the muscles at the back of my legs.

Let’s get into the pose on the right side first!

1.     Place your hands on a wall or the edge of a bench.  Keep your ears in line with your upper arms as you walk your hips & feet back in space, bringing the spine parallel to the ground beneath you.

2.     Step the right foot towards the wall or the bench. The right toes point straight forward. Keep the right knee straight and the right heel in line with the right sitting bone. The right hip draws straight back in space as you firmly press the four points of the right foot into the ground beneath you.

3.     Squiggle the left leg back a bit, angling the left foot at a 70 degree angle. Zipper the outer edge of your left foot to the ground as you firmly press the four points of that foot down. The left heel is in line with the left sitting bone.  Your legs are now asymmetrical to each other.


4.     The hips are level in space – imagine that you’ve placed your open bottle smack in the center of the pelvis and you don’t want it to slip to the floor, spilling all your water.

5.     Push your hands into the wall or the bench, which will help take your hips and thighbones back in space. Keep firming the bottoms of the feet to the ground as you tack your sitting bones to your heels.

6.     Make sure you’re not locking your knees! Of course, if the hamstrings are singing an opera to you, then bend that right knee. Otherwise, engage the quadriceps to the thighbones and make sure you’re not rolling to your outer right foot.

7.     Breathe in Parsvottonasana for at least five breaths, working up to 10 deep breaths. To exit the pose, lift your gaze, step your left foot forward to meet your right foot, then repeat on the second side.

Now that you’re in the shape of a pyramid, you may wonder why it’s called intense side stretch. Good question! Most of us would call it calf or hamstring stretching pose.  But the name is a great reminder to keep the sides of the waist long and the abdominal area engaged as we stretch our legs.

Remember, yoga poses can take a zillion different shapes and your body is as unique as your fingerprints! When doing a post-run pose, make sure you’re stretching the belly of the muscle and not at the junction your muscles connect to the bone. Also, use resistance – it is a great tool to keep the muscles, bones & connective tissue speaking the same language post-run.

Lastly, make sure to budget a few extra minutes into the end of your run to stretch or strike a pose - it’s a better than striking out due to injury or exhaustion, especially if you’re training for a race.