Two posts ago in a recap of this year’s Triple Trek, I briefly mentioned that an IT band issue had caused me to DNF the previous year. I’m sure many of you were wondering why that had happened, because after all, isn’t yoga supposed to be the saving grace of my days as a runner?!
Well, yes – you are right! Yoga does normally keep my IT band happy, but last summer, in the midst of a new job and a return to road running after a summer on the trails, my body was still adjusting to a different routine. The Triple Trek was not what it wanted to do.
But before we go any further, just in case you are still wondering what on earth the IT band is (think body bio-mechanics), here’s the low down from our friends at Runner’s World:
“Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps stabilize and move the joint. When the IT band isn’t working properly, movement of the knee (and, therefore, running) becomes painful. IT band pain can be severe enough to completely sideline a runner for weeks, or even longer.”
How do we get back on track after IT band issues, and how does yoga help?
There are two main strategies for dealing with a tricky IT band: recovery & prevention.
Firstly, use the sage advice of R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation) to aid recovery. Next, try stretching the four areas of the body around the IT band to help with the problems of knee pain: the hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings. But ultimately a few days rest may be needed and then strengthening of the hips and glutes will be essential for long-term prevention.
The three yoga poses that I ‘go-to’ again and again for IT band relief include:
1. Reclining hand to big toe pose: with a strap or belt/ towel/ scarf.
- Start by lying on your back, and bend right knee so you can loop the strap around ball of right foot.
- Keep head, shoulders and upper arms relaxed against the floor, and left leg extended.
- Take hold of strap in left hand, and guide right leg over to the left – moving in to a twist, feeling right hip stack over left.
- Keep shoulders flat against floor if you can. Gaze over to right, or look straight up. Hold for 3-5 mins then repeat on second side.
2. Pigeon pose: using a block.
- Start from Downward Facing Dog, draw right knee up towards right hand and settle right shin on ground.
- Depending upon the openness of the hips, you might need to slide a block under the right hip at this point.
- Sit up out of the hips. lengthening the spine using your hands as support then take torso forward and lie body down over bent right leg.
- Relax here, allow head to rest on folded hands in front of body. Stay in pose for over a minute allowing for a deep myofascial release.
3. Cow face pose: with a block and strap, or belt/ towel/ scarf.
- Sit with both legs out in front, bend left leg in towards right hip, and then cross the right leg on top, drawing knees close together.
- If this is uncomfortable, just sit with loosely crossed legs, maybe on top of a block.
- Take hold of strap in left hand, raise left arm up and drop strap behind back. Take hold of bottom of strap with right hand.
- Sit up tall, then bend at hips slowly forward until deep stretch is felt. Hold for 1-3 mins then repeat on second side.
Three great strengthening, standing yoga poses to help prevent IT band issues:
1. Eagle pose:
- From standing, cross right arm under left at the elbow, then bring hands together, palm to palm if possible.
- Cross right leg over left, and wrap right foot around left calf if comfortable.
- Stay here to build strength & balance, or deepen by folding from the hips, with straight back.
- Float down taking elbows towards knees, then move back up, uncross arms & legs, shake out and repeat on second side.
- Start with feet 3-4ft apart. Turn right foot out, left foot in 45 degrees.
- Engage legs muscles. Lift arms parallel with floor.
- Lengthen right side then fold and take right hand towards right leg.
- Hold, lengthening with inhale, deepening pose with exhale. Lift up top arm to move back to centre. Repeat on second side.
3. Warrior III:
- Start from Triangle pose stage 1.
- Turn body and hips towards front right foot, bringing arms together.
- Pivot weight onto front right leg, lift up left back leg. Straighten left leg, keep hips level and engage core to keep body parallel with floor.
- Hold for 5-8 rounds of breath. Release back left leg to ground with control. Stand up slowly and repeat on second side.
Core, core, core! Can you do enough core as a runner? Possibly not… But without adding even more to your already hectic routine, and to keep it simple just try joining something like the virtual #plankaday club – or create your own version of a similar exercise?! Have fun!
Wishing you happy IT bands & happy trails!