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iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua, Caledon, ON

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iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter, Clearwater , BC

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick, New Brunswick

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iRun because itís fun when itís done Sue Matte, Ontario

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iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

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iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean, Ontario

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury, Newfoundland

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen, Manitoba

iRun because itís like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson, Ontario

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams, Ontario

iRun because itís better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldnít Peter Cicalo, Ontario

iRun because otherwise Iím grumpy Alexandre Charest, Quebec

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop, Yukon

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston, Nunavut

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve, Ottawa, ON

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der, Saskatchewan

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter, Alberta

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iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu, Ontario

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iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx, Ontario

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava, Calgary, AB

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard, Alberta

iRun for me! Judi Wearing, Saskatchewan

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell, Quebec

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iRun so I donít say never ever again Linda Klaric, Manitoba

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iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel, Calgary, AB

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre, Ottawa, ON

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo, Ontario

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Stretch Your Limit: 5 Essential Yoga Stretches for Runners

By Shanon Lyon

You're familiar with the feeling of your body in motion. It's what puts you in the zone and keeps you going mile after mile. Unfortunately, this Zen-like repetition is exactly what causes the less appealing side effects of running, like tight muscles, cracking joints, and sore knees.

"As runners, we tend to use the same muscles over and over again," says Christine Felstead, owner of Yoga for Runners in Toronto. "These muscles contract and tighten, causing an imbalance in the body, which ultimately leads to injuries."

Quadriceps, says Felstead, are a great example. Most runners overuse the outer quads and tend to have weak inner quads. This muscular imbalance eventually affects the knees.

Luckily, the practice of yoga is here to help. In addition to restoring natural balance and symmetry to your body, yoga improves range of motion, sharpens mental focus, and helps you tune in to your body and its needs, all qualities that can help you run faster, stronger, and longer.

With input from Felstead and Van Powel, founder of Mind Body Fitness in Whistler and creator of Runner's Yoga, we've compiled six simple post-run poses to help lengthen, strengthen, and keep you on the road. No incense or chanting required.

Downward Facing Dog


Why?

A healthy spine, says Felstead, is key to a healthy body, especially for those who participate in weight-bearing activities like running. One of the best all-around poses for runners, Downward Facing Dog stretches the spine, hamstrings, calves, Achilles and works the upper body.

How?

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be shoulder distance apart and your knees slightly behind the hips. Spread your fingers and point your index finger toward the front of the room.
  2. Turn your toes under, press down through your hands, straighten your arms, and lift your knees off of the ground. Keep your knees bent, and press your sitting bones up toward the ceiling.
  3. On your next exhale, push your top thighs toward the back of the room to straighten your legs and gently press your heels toward the ground. It's okay if your heels don't touch the ground. You can keep your knees slightly bent or straighten your legs. Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths.


Quick Tips

  • Once you're in the pose, do what feels good to you. Pedal your feet up and down a bit. Take a deep breath in and let out a big sigh.
  • Your shoulders shouldn't be up by your ears. Roll them back and down toward your sitting bones.


Pigeon

Why?

"Every yoga pose works on multiple levels," says Felstead, "and Pigeon is no exception." Years (or even days) of running can cause tightness in the hips, and this pose goes a long way to open them up. It stretches the piriformis, an often-tight muscle deep in the hips, beneath the gluteals.

How?

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Slowly draw your right knee toward your right wrist. Bring your right ankle toward your left wrist and place the outside of your right shin on the floor. Your right thigh should be parallel to the side of the mat.
  2. Straighten your left leg, lowering your left thigh onto the floor. Slowly lower your right buttock to the floor. If your pelvis is far away from the ground and you're not able to lower your right buttock to the floor, roll up a towel and put it underneath you.
  3. Take a long inhale and lengthen your spine. On your exhale, gently lower your torso onto your right thigh. Stretch your arms forward and put your forearms on the floor. On an inhale, press your hands into the ground, bring your torso off of the thigh slightly and lengthen through your lower back. On your next exhale, lower your torso over the thigh again and stay here for a few breaths. When you're finished, carefully pull the left knee forward and switch legs.

Quick Tip

  • Take it easy in this pose. Don't force your body anywhere it's not willing to go, and use your breath to help ease you into it. With each exhale, go a little deeper.


Bound Angle Pose

Why?

Bound Angle helps reestablish length and flexibility in the legs, which, according to Powel, can take a load off of your joints. It elongates the inner thigh, opens the hips, and stretches the knees.

How?

Sit on the ground with your spine straight. Bend your knees out to the side and pull your heels in as close to your pelvis as possible. With the soles of your feet touching and the outer edges of your feet on the ground, use your hands to gently open your feet like a book. On your next exhale, use your elbows to press on your upper thighs. This will help release your knees to the ground.

Quick Tip

If your hips or groin are tight, try sitting on a blanket.


Extended Side Angle

Why?

Extended Side Angle opens the hips and strengthens and stretches your inner thighs and quadriceps, which can help protect your knees from injury.

How?

  1. From standing, take one long step to your right and turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Turn your left foot inward slightly.
  2. Bend your right leg and take your thigh as close to parallel to the ground as possible, keeping your knee over your right ankle. Your left leg should be straight and your outer left foot grounded.
  3. Bend your torso to the right and rest your right elbow on your right thigh. Roll your shoulder blades down your back and make sure you are not collapsing in your right should. Extend your left arm over your head, lining up your inner arm with your ear. Stay here for two or three deep breaths (in and out through the nose) and then switch sides.


Quick Tip

It's tempting to let your straight leg relax in this pose. Press your outer foot into the ground and engage your inner thigh muscles to get a better stretch and build more strength.


Reclining Hand-to-Foot Pose

Why?

This pose provides a gentle stretch for the hamstrings, which Felstead notes as one of the top three problem spots for runners (hips and spine are the other two). Keeping your hamstrings flexible and long can help prevent pain and injury in other parts of the body as well, such as the lower back, says Powel.

How?

  1. Grab a strap or towel and lie on your back with your legs extended on the floor and your arms at your side. Bring inner edges of your feet together and reach out through your heels.
  2. Bend your right knee and pull it into your chest. Press your left thigh into the ground and flex your left foot.
  3. Wrap the towel or strap around the ball of your right foot. On an exhale, hold onto the strap and press your right foot toward the ceiling as far as you can, keeping your leg straight. Walk your hands up the strap so that your arms are straight. Relax your shoulders and broaden through your collarbone. Stay here for a few breaths, and then switch legs.


Quick Tip

If you're especially tight, try pressing the lower foot against a wall or raising it a few inches with a block or rolled up towel. You can also bend the extended leg and put your foot on the ground.

 
Next issue: November 18, 2014
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