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The Benefits of Yoga for Runners

You probably already know what an awesome workout you get from running.  It strengthens your heart, prevents chronic diseases, and lowers stress levels, all while zapping loads of calories.  But here’s something you may not know:  running isn’t the only form of exercise you should be doing.

Scientific studies have proven, and runners themselves can even attest, that there are some massive benefits to be gained from supplementing your running with yoga.  Here are just a few reasons why you should consider adding it to your workout routine:

 

Yoga Improves Flexibility and Strength

When you do yoga, you are lengthening and loosening all of the muscles in your body, alleviating the stiffness and muscle tightness that running can cause.  Also, because yoga helps to align your muscles and bones, it enables your body to move more efficiently and puts you at lower risk for injury.

According to Bruce Dick, M.D, a partner of Orthopedic Associates of Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York,

“Yoga, improves strength and balance, but one of the best things it can do for runners is increase flexibility.” Dick goes on to state that, “If you don’t have the flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings to create an adequate range of motion, your body will ask that motion to come from other joints—joints not meant to produce that motion.  So you get early fatigue, early breakdown, and you expose yourself to injury.”

 

Yoga Develops Stamina

Thanks to it’s emphasis on controlled breathing, practicing yoga makes your respiratory system stronger. And those challenging poses that you have to hold can help to build your stamina, something that’s absolutely essential to excelling as a runner.

 

Yoga Facilitates Recovery after Workouts

While you can certainly find intense aerobic forms of yoga (like Ashtanga or Power Yoga) to practice, you can also choose to do yoga workouts that are more restorative – think of it as a luxury stretch for your sore muscle groups.  Some poses to try are the Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, Corpse Pose, Pigeon Pose, Supported Fish, and Child’s Pose.

 

Yoga Promotes Mindfulness

Yoga poses can be challenging, and in order to perform them correctly, you have to be aware of your body.  In addition to relieving tension, this awareness forces you to tune out distractions and stay focused on the present moment, a mental skill that easily carries over to running. It’s no wonder rehab centers offer exercise programs that include yoga and running to promote active wellness. As a runner, if you can be focused and mindful, you are more likely to get “in the zone” and maximize your level of performance.

 

Putting it into Practice

Just like your training runs have a purpose, and as such, vary in intensity, so too should your yoga workouts.  If you just finished a long run or you’re coming off a week of high mileage, gentle yoga poses can enhance your recovery.  If your training cycle is currently in a resting phase or you’re taking an off day, you might want to try the more intense, challenging forms of Yoga mentioned above:  Ashtanga or Power Yoga, which are good for building strength and flexibility.  Sage Rountree, USA Triathlon coach and author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, recommends implementing a schedule that includes the following components:  poses that stretch and loosen muscles after runs, core-strengthening poses at least three times a week, and a longer full body routine on off days or easy days.

 

To put it simply, if you’re a runner, and you’re serious about becoming a better one, you should consider doing yoga to take your training to the next level.  There are tons of benefits to be reaped from its practice, and you don’t want to miss out on them.  For a stronger, faster, more flexible, less injury prone body, the verdict is clear: just say ommmm.

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