It’s tough enough to get in all the mileage you need to before your next race. Adding an additional activity to your training seems crazy, right? If you’re not already, here’s why you should start carving out time to do yoga each week.
Yoga’s not for everyone and admittedly, I’ve been a little adverse to it in the past. The negative connotations of long, slow movements for an entire hour or more sounds like the last thing worth making the time for when there’s track work, hill work, cross-training and long runs to get to. The reality is, you can (and should) incorporate yoga movements into your pre-and post-run workouts to become a better overall athlete.
Why runners should incorporate yoga
Runners tend to lack when it comes to mobility and stability of certain muscle groups and joints. Constant pounding leads to overuse injuries and repetitive motions build up certain muscle groups (quads and calves), while neglecting others (hamstrings). Mobility for every active person is important but runners can arguably benefit the most from working on mobility and stability.
Yoga is a great tool to have. It doesn’t have to be 90 degree Bikram yoga and it doesn’t have to be a class 3x a week. Pick and choose how you do it, but incorporating yoga will make you a better runner. Here’s how:
Improve running form
Improving your balance can have a direct positive impact on your running form. Muscular balance ensures you’re not overusing one side of your body over the other, or one muscle group more than others.
Yoga can offer full-body workouts that help strengthen muscle groups runners never hit (yes runners, even lower body strength). Pushing your body into new positions will give you more power while improving joint mobility to keep joints and muscles safe.
Decrease susceptibility to overuse injuries
Yoga is a great way for runners to prevent common overuse injuries like IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, knee and hip pain. Check out this article on the importance of mobility. Yoga also does a great job of pointing out imbalances that can indicate injury is not far away and allow you to fix it before injury strikes.
Speed up recovery time and muscle repair
Yoga is a great form of active recovery, which repairs muscle fibers more quickly than other common forms of recovery. The combination of stretching and relaxing muscles encourages blood flow to broken down muscle tissues. Feel better after a long run and be able to do your recovery run with ease…
Improve controlled breathing
As simple as it sounds, mastering proper breathing techniques can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting into running. The right breathing techniques can make all the difference when it comes to going the distance and fighting muscle fatigue. It can also save you from the dreaded (and sometimes completely debilitating) stomach cramps or side stiches. Yoga is all about the harmony of breathing and movement. Every pose in yoga requires strong and focused breathing allowing you to go deeper and hold for longer. This transfers over to maintaining control over your deep breathing during your runs.
Build muscular control
Yoga focuses on the small muscular movements that make up each exercise. This can help grow better body awareness and help you harness control over every muscle during a movement. We get so used to the consistency and repetition of our running stride and lifting movements it can be easy to lose awareness and even become passive. Yoga helps hone body awareness so that the next time you’re doing squats in the gym or speed work on the track, you can be laser-focused with controlled and more powerful movements.
Let’s face it, running is one of the most mentally challenging activities there is. Yoga is one of the best ways to harness focus and mental control while pushing physical limits. This may be the hardest benefit to measure but can do wonders to get you to a new PR or help you push past the wall on a long run.
These are just a handful of reasons you should pick up yoga and give it a try for yourself. Make the time to dip a toe in the yoga pond and start reaping benefits. Just like anything new, start slow and build up little by little to prevent soreness. Let yoga start filling in the gaps where running falls short and start improving strength, flexibility and mental focus.