By Sage Rountree
In the last few months, we’ve been looking at lunges that work the hips and even the chest and spine, creating both strength and flexibility. Here’s a classic stretch that targets the hamstrings—it should be familiar to you as the “runner’s lunge.”
You’ll start with a low lunge, front knee bent to 90 degrees, back knee down. With your hands on the floor or on blocks, slowly ease your hips back until they are over your back knee. (Add cushioning there if you need it.) Try to keep your hips level in height off the ground—bending the front knee helps here—and hold your back long.
Depending on the degree of stretch you encounter, you might need to back off by lifting the torso, or you might have room to fold forward, hinging from the hips and bringing your chest out over your front leg. Be smart: choose a level of intensity that is sustainable. This will serve you well in both the marathon and any race. If your ability to breathe calmly is affected by the position you choose, you’ve gone too far.
For the first few breaths, reach the front toes for the ground. Then slowly peel the bottom of the foot off the floor as you roll to the back of the heel. This will engage your calf muscles in the stretch but will also intensify the hamstring stretch, so be careful. Again, notice your breathing and take this only to a pleasant intensity. After ten breaths or so, repeat on the second side.
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Sage Rountree, PhD, is Runner’s World’s expert on yoga for athletes and is the author of numerous books and articles on yoga and triathlon training. Her spring goal race is the Big Sur Marathon. A USAT-certified coach, she is co-owner of the Carrboro Yoga Company (mycyco.com), which will hold a yoga teacher training beginning September 2011. Find her class, clinic, and workshop schedule, as well as many yoga and training resources, at www.sagerountree.com.