Running is fantastic, but we need to face an important fact: We work the same muscle groups over and over. A well-rounded athlete works different muscle groups to prevent injury and perform well in whatever sport they choose. This month, we’re going to discuss yoga as a complement to your running routine. To start, here are 7 ways yoga benefits runners.
Or, perhaps it could be named 7 reasons why you should try yoga.
7 Ways Yoga Benefits Runners
1. Dedicate Time to Stretching
Signing up for a 60 minute yoga class is dedicating yourself to an hour of stretching your running muscles. When is the last time you spent an hour stretching?
You do not have to be flexible to start yoga, stay in yoga, or graduate from yoga (which, isn’t a thing, by the way). Yoga can be your tool, your dedicated time, to undo some of the tightening you created with your fabulous running lifestyle.
If I haven’t been stretching enough, I feel it. My hamstrings pull on my knees. My calves feel like a bunch of tangled, solidified fibers. If you push into my calf, my foot arch twitches. What running tightens, yoga loosens.
2. Increase Mobility
Mobility is different from flexibility. Mobility refers to joint movement and your range of motion.
In Vinyasa or flow yoga, you take your body through full ranges of motion in many planes. This practice increases mobility in your shoulders, hips, and knees to keep your running form strong and your strides controlled.
3. Strengthen Core
In Vinyasa classes, you move in and out of planks. You engage your core for balance in standing poses and inversions. In quieter classes, you support awareness of your core with your breath.
A strong core (including hip flexors and back, not just abs) will prevent running injuries. Your body won’t flap around as you run. You will run in a strong controlled way.
4. Better Balance
You synergistically use your core and lots of little muscle groups in your feet and in your legs to hold each yoga pose. Those small balancing muscles support your larger muscle groups, giving you more precise control of your body, making obstacles and trail running easier.
Unrelated, is a different type of balance. The balance between your left and right sides of your body, your front and back sides of your body. Yoga works all these sides equally in multiple planes, giving you balance to your body, when sometimes running favors one side over another.
5. Listen to Your Body
Yoga gives your body a chance to signal potential injuries to you. I often find that if I am showing a weakness in yoga, it will eventually translate to an injury in running. Catching issues in that sooner, quieter time, gives me the chance to correct and strengthen before it invades my running life.
Breathing is another way to listen to your body. While breathing techniques in yoga and running differ, yoga’s focus on breath can give you skills to use off the mat. On your runs, your breathing becomes a 2-way communication tool. It signals your body’s current effort, but can also be purposefully slowed to bring calm to your body.
6. Connect to Your Body
Most of the time when I run, I feel like I am pushing my body along. I see how far I can go, how fast I can go, how steadily I can go. I listen for big signals like thirst or pain, but the pounding of my feet on the pavement and my circling thoughts drown out most anything else.
In yoga, you sync your breath with your body’s movements, and when you do that sneakily, your mind and body start to connect. You become more aware of yourself. Your sense of proprioception increases. You begin to move WITH your body, instead of pulling it along.
And if you can master that in your running, you may unlock a new level.
Maybe. I’m not there yet.
7. Marry Ease and Effort
Not going to lie, yoga can put you into some weird poses that make you feel off kilter or uncomfortable.
You are encouraged not to drive full-force into a pose, but to stay on the edge and play with a balance of effort and ease. Yoga also encourages you to facilitate feelings of calm in your body while doing some stressful things.
As you begin to feel uncomfortable on a run, it is important not to slide into the stress and distress. Learning to cultivate some feelings of ease and calm, can keep you out of panic mode. This skill is important in running and in everyday life.
Yoga Benefits Runners
Yoga is not like a lot of typical workouts. You are not told to run as fast as you can, lift as much as you can, or push your body into pain.
Through flowing movement, you gain a greater understanding of your body, how it works, how all the parts connect and interact. When you strengthen those connecting pieces, you become more whole and less susceptible to injuries. And having that greater understanding of your body, is going to help you in your athletic pursuits.
This month I’ll be discussing how to get started in yoga, some different styles of yoga, and even have an interview or two with some yoga instructors. Subscribe so you don’t miss a post!
Sources and Further Reading:
- Active’s Why Runners Should Do Yoga
- Yoga 15’s Yoga to Increase Joint Mobility and Restore Full Range of Motion
- Gaia’s Yoga and Developing Proprioception