Runners are notorious for getting hooked on cardio training and only cardio training… guilty! If you aren’t breathing hard and pounding your feet, it doesn’t feel like exercise. In the meantime, muscle imbalances can develop, which means efficiency and overall fitness can suffer. This is why I’ve really been trying to incorporate more yoga into my life!
With an emphasis on stretching, mental focus, and breathing, yoga is a great way to prepare for your runs. Here are some of the benefits of yoga for runners:
Improves strength & stamina
Running requires repetitive motion which over-utilizes certain muscles while leaving other supporting muscles out. To counter this, a well-rounded yoga practice builds strength evenly in the muscles, joints, and ligaments. The poses held in yoga strengthen the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors. A strong and balanced core is vital to one’s running posture. If your core is strong and your posture is good, you will become a much more efficient runner!
Develops flexibility & loosens tight muscles
Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body because it contains both static and dynamic stretching. By holding a pose, your muscles are working to support you against static resistance, which builds strength. With longer holds, you not only attain the benefits of stretching your muscles, but also of stretching the connective tissue between your muscles known as fascia. When you move through a sequence of poses, gently increasing your range of motion as you go, you’re obtaining the benefits of dynamic stretching.
With so much bending involved in yoga, two areas especially benefit -> the hamstrings and the lower back. Tight hamstrings cause problems for lots of runners so by flexing and loosening these out, the risk of injury is significantly decreased.
Guarantees stretch time
Many of us are guilty of not stretching enough before or after our runs. Integrating yoga classes into your routine is a guaranteed way to get regular stretching in which is important for lengthening those muscles tightened by running.
Reduces the risk of injury
Running often causes muscle tightness. Yoga is a great way to relieve the muscle imbalances initiated by running and prevents injury by, not only increasing strength and flexibility, but building mental awareness of the body and the signals it will send when injury is on its way. Yoga also improves alignment in the body so that poor posture during performance will not lead to injury.
Yoga classes allow runners to discover different degrees of flexibility in the different sides of the body and balance these out. By developing strength in all muscle groups not just the legs, this balance of strength and flexibility will not only reduce the risk of a number of injuries but will lead to an improved efficiency of movement.
The breath is a powerful tool. In yoga, the pranayama, or breath work, is a practice that will increase your oxygen intake and teach you to breathe correctly. Holding poses in yoga and controlling your breathing will benefit & transfer over to running and it will help increase lung capacity & teach deep controlled patterned breathing, especially under pressure. Deep breathing can help reduce performance anxiety or allow you to better manage the mental intensity of body work.
What is important in the end is to listen to what feels right for you. There are hundreds of different approaches to keep both yoga and running in your life, for the rest of your life!
Check out this article on 6 Yoga Poses To Improve Your Running.
Do you practice yoga to improve your running?