Thursday, May 5, 2016

Five Reasons Yoga is Good For Runners

Back in the day, I was a pretty consistent yogi. What started as a way to ease stress while planning my wedding 15 years ago turned into a solid love for all things yoga. I even became a Level I Vinyasa Instructor, though I don't teach classes. But as the years moved along and my running miles ramped up and my interest in other forms of cross training increased, yoga took a back seat. Sure, I still practiced every now and then. I've even combined forces with local yoga studios to offer Running + Yoga programs (stay tuned as these may be coming back in the future!). But, sadly, that initial love affair had fizzled. Until recently.

Before I go on, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to show them some love!

A couple of weeks ago, my stress level was at an all-time high. My insomnia has been bad, which hasn't helped. So I did a couple of Sun Salutations in the back yard while my girls were napping and I instantly felt relieved. I immediately remembered how much yoga used to help me relax and regroup, something I've been having trouble with doing lately. That evening I met up with friends and I brought up how much just a few poses helped me feel better. We decided to start going to the local studio together and we all asked our husbands for class passes for Mother's Day (here's hoping mine comes through!). And in the meantime, I've joined the #MayIBeginYoga2016 pose-a-day challenge hosted by @beachyogagirl and @kinoyoga on Instagram. It's been so fun so far!



Since I've rekindled my love affair, I thought I'd share why I feel yoga is so important for everyone, but runners in particular.

You may think that the laid-back, peaceful aspects of yoga wouldn't necessarily mesh well with runners. But yoga has a place in any runner's training plan. Here's why:

1. Yoga helps with muscle imbalances. The problems many runners deal with have to do with tightness and imbalances between muscles groups (such as over-active quadriceps and under-active hamstrings). Practicing yoga on a regular basis will help not only build strength in the areas where it's most needed, but increase the flexibility of those muscles as well. For instance, runners have notoriously tight hips and calves. Doing yoga on a regular basis can help increase the flexibility in these areas, while building strength in opposing muscle groups, allowing for a more efficient running form.

2. Yoga helps build strength and increase flexibility in soft tissues. Regular yoga practice that is done correctly will help build strength and flexibility in the joints, ligaments and tendons that are the most vulnerable to injury, like the IT band and the Achilles tendon.

3. Yoga builds a killer core. Yoga is an excellent way to build strength in the abdominal and back muscles, as well as your hip flexors and glutes (all of which are part of your core), which can help runners keep their running form as they begin to get tired during long training runs and races, among other important things.

4. Yoga can help runners bring focus to their training. It is very easy to get into a running rut, especially when you're not training for anything specific. Yoga can give you that much-needed boost. When you start seeing results in the form of increased strength and flexibility, you will be excited and motivated to keep working. And yoga can also help with the dreaded burn-out when nearing a big race. Sometimes doing something other than running can really help balance the monotony of training.

5. Yoga is a great stress reducer. Let's face it, most runners are pretty Type A. We can get pretty obsessed with split times, miles logged, race calendars and more. Practicing yoga on a regular basis can help the stressed-out runner relax and do something that doesn't require a GPS, watch, playlist, etc. Yoga brings balance to a frazzling sport. Even the most laid-back runners can get caught up in the frenzy of running and yoga can help reel you back into a calm state of mind. I know just the few poses here and there over the past couple of weeks has really helped me relax.

What is the best way to incorporate yoga into your running? Yoga can be a great cross-training activity on non-running days. Just be careful not to do an especially vigorous yoga routine the day before a hard workout such as a speed workout or long run. And, if you plan to do yoga on the same day as a run, try to do your run first if possible, especially if your yoga routine will be over 30 minutes. Long yoga sessions will tire the muscles, potentially changing your running form, which may lead to injury. If you have to do yoga on the same day as a run, or the day before a hard workout (if there is a yoga class you really love taking, for example), try to give yourself some time to recover between the two activities. Make sure you hydrate and eat so you can be at your best for both activities.

Do you practice yoga? If so, how often? Do you think your running can benefit from yoga?

13 comments:

  1. I always say I don't like yoga bc when I workout I want to be sweating a feeling the burn. But I have never tried it so can't say I dont like it.

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    1. You should give Vinyasa yoga a try! It's a very good workout, moving from pose to pose. I usually have to wipe my sweat off my mat several times throughout a session!

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    2. Or you could just do 108 sun salutations at a stretch... By the 40th, you'll be soaked in sweat :)

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  2. Like you, I haven't practiced yoga for a while, but I used to go to class at least twice a week. I liked it (and thank goodness I wasn't the only guy in the class) because it helped me focus on relaxation (without actually realizing I was focusing) and it put me in a peaceful place for more than an hour. But most of all, it helped me strengthen my body and I'm sure it helped my running. It probably helped strengthen my weak ankles, too. I'm a big fan of it; now I just have to get back into it and do it! And when I think about it, even just 15 minutes each morning for sun salutations would work for me. (But then at some point, I'd have to do Warrior 3. Uh oh.) Namaste!

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    1. Yup, just 15 minutes can help. And Warrior 3 isn't so bad ;)

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  3. My running definitely has benefited from yoga. I'm pretty sure I've written a post about it too! Love Yoga and all the benefits it provides.

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    1. It's been so fun for me getting back into it.

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  4. I really enjoy yoga and need to get back into it. I agree it is very helpful for runners.

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    1. I hope you're able to get back into it soon!

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  5. Agree completely! I feel like as my mileage goes up I do less and less yoga, but really need to make it a priority

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    1. I've felt a difference even with just a handful of poses. While I'd love to do a longer session, I just don't have the time right now. But doing something is better than nothing!

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  6. You know I need to incorporate this into my life! I meant to start that challenge when you did but ... Life. In the new house. On that porch.

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