Post-run neck and shoulder stiffness… sound familiar? It’s not surprising if these areas are angry because running demands more from them than you realize, which amplifies the daily demands of sitting in front of computers. For many of us, both life and training stress accumulates around the neck and shoulders in the form of tension, which steals energy and decreases endurance. Plus, be honest: your head is heavy.
Use this quick routine post-run to halt stiffness and tension in their tracks. Hold each of these stretches for 5–10 deep breaths…
1. WALL CHEST STRETCH
Why: Running stiffens your chest, which strains your shoulders and upper back, and ultimately flops your posture forward. If that doesn’t get your attention, consider that the more stiff your pecs are, the more your arms will cross your body when you run, leading to excessive side-to-side motion, rather than propelling you forward, fast!
- Stand perpendicular to a wall.
- With the arm closest to the wall, externally rotate your upper arm bone as if you’ve just turned a doorknob with your hand — you should feel your shoulder blade on that side move in and down.
- Keep that shoulder blade where it is and place your hand on the wall about a foot behind you at shoulder height — engage your core to maintain a neutral spine.
- Press into the wall with your hand and straighten your arm without locking your elbow.
- Rotate your rib cage away from the wall to deepen the stretch.
2. ARMPIT SPACE
Why: Poor armpits! They rarely see the light of day, and because of that the tissues surrounding your shoulder joints can easily become tight and stuck together. Opening and re-lengthening this area brings a surprising amount of relief stiff shoulders.
- Stand, turn your palms forward, and reach your arms overhead.
- Interlace your fingers and press up through the heels of your palms, focusing on making as much space around your armpits as possible.
- Keeping your fingers interlaced, bend one elbow down and reach up through your other elbow.
- Release your arms back to your sides and repeat, interlacing your fingers the opposite way.
3. NECK ROLL
Why: It’s like giving your neck a massage. Yes please.
- Stand and extend one arm out at a diagonal, pointing toward the floor with your palm facing down.
- Tilt your head away from the extended arm.
- Slowly drop your chin toward your chest, creating a 1/4 circle as you go — then return your head back to the start (tilting away from extended arm).
- Repeat 5–10 times before switching sides.
4. Neck Release
Why: Again, who wants a neck massage?!
- Come into a Standing Forward Fold with your knees bent enough to keep your spine as long as possible (rather than rounding forward).
- Interlace your fingers and bring your hands to the back of your head/base of your skull.
- Gently squeeze the sides of your head with your forearms while allowing your arms to become heavier, creating a subtle traction for your neck — as if you’re trying to pull your head off (gently!).
- Do a couple big exhales through your mouth to help your jaw relax.
Use #jasyogaforrunners to let us know how it goes! For more tips to keep your running body in balance including quick pre- and post-run routines, check out The Yoga for Runners Collection at video.jasyoga.com.
Photos by Claire Pepper