When we think about post-run stretching, we often focus on our hamstrings, calves, or lower backs — you know, the big running muscles. We likely disregard other less obvious parts of the body, like the neck or shoulders.
But the shoulders are silent work horses during runs. Propelling us along with so much steadiness and strength that we probably don’t even notice them until they are tight and achy. On average most of my students carry their shoulders in one of two places: up by their ears, especially in colder weather or hunched forward, if you spend a lot of time working at a desk or behind the steering wheel. This is probably also true of how you hold them during your runs. Next time you’re out for a run, take notice. If you find them tight and achy, try these quick moves to bring some opening and release to those forgotten muscles.
- Stand steady on both feet and bring your arms out in front of you.
- Wrap the right arm under the left crossing at the elbows then wrap the right forearm over the left forearm bringing the palms to touch. If this is confusing, take a look at the picture series above (click the image to enlarge). If your shoulders are on the tighter side try wrapping the right arm under the left crossing at the elbows then bringing the backs of the hands to touch.
- Once you’ve got your arms in position, lift the elbows in line with the shoulders.
- Draw the forearms toward the wall in front of you, then relax your shoulder blades down your back.
- Take 10 breaths then switch sides.
Cow Face Arms
These arms also have corresponding legs to open the hips but we’ll start with the arms.
- If your shoulders are tight grab a towel or a strap in your right hand.
- Stand strongly on both feet. Lift your right arm into the air like you’re raising your hand to ask a question, then bend the elbow bringing the right arm down the back. If you’re confused, check out the image above. (Click the image to enlarge.)
- Next take your left arm alongside the body, bend the elbow and bring the arm up the back. Grab hold of your right hand or the strap/towel. Try not to lean forward, instead lean the back of your head into your right forearm.
- Stay in the pose for 10 breaths then switch sides.
- Come to your hands and knees, spread your left fingers wide to find steadiness.
- Lift your right arm skyward on an inhale.
- On your exhale, thread the right arm under your left with the back of your right hand on the ground.
- If possible, bring your right ear to the mat or ground while continuing to point the left elbow skyward.
- Stay here or if you’d like more opening, tent your left fingertips and rotate your chest slightly toward the left.
- Take 10 breaths here before unwinding the right arm and completing the stretch on the left side.
If you aren’t used to opening your shoulders, take these exercises slowly so as not to overextend your muscles. As you do these poses with more regularity you’ll find a softening that allows you to move further into the pose with time.
Photos and article by Lisa Horvath.
Related: Guide to yoga for runners