Balanced Training for Athletes - "Reciprocal inhibition" explained

While runners are upping their training for Spring season events, focus on training plans and nutrition are important, but injury prevention might be the most overlooked aspect.

There’s a process called “reciprocal inhibition” that should be applied to a runner’s stretching, which can be found in yoga. The explanation is that one set of muscles contracts while the opposing set relaxes to create smooth movement. For example, while running, the leg lifts to propel you forward, using quads and hip flexors, and the hamstrings, low back, and calves must relax… until impact, when the reverse actions happen. This is called “inhibition” and “facilitation”; when the inhibition and facilitation are not balanced, injuries can occur.

Now, this applies to stretching as well. It’s far too easy for a runner to drop into a calf stretch on the edge of a curb, where nothing is being done to aid a stable calf-stretch that extends into the achilles, tendons of the foot, and back-of-knee tissues.

There’s no point in having a stretchy calf if the full low-body is not engaged. In Downward Facing Dog, on the other hand, the full back-body is being stretched using the strength of the front- and side-body; muscles in front of the shins, thighs, abs and hip flexors are active, thereby fueling an entirely balanced back-body stretch. This is just one example.

A trained yoga instructor will explain the benefits of active stretches using yoga poses and how they can be incorporated into a runner’s daily practice. Find a class that fits your training schedule and learn to incorporate proper movement, breath, and balance for a safe season!

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