I came to the yoga practice via a running injury. It was my freshman year of high school and I was training rigorously with my cross country team, running five days per week. My dislike of stretching and resistance to cross-training led me to notorious tight calves and aching hips. So, when I stepped into a pothole on a long run, heel dropping until my achilles tendon tore, it became time to look at adding in other methods of exercise and rehabilitation. Only years later when I began teaching yoga did I begin to realize that this is the origin story for many yogis out there. Whether it be an injured achilles tendon or shin splint, a nagging hip or stress fracture, yoga often comes in when seen as a necessity. But the hard and fast truth is, the yoga practice will best supplement your running lifestyle, prevent injury and increase your sense of well-being when implemented consistently.
Even 10-20 minutes of practice after your long run can change the course of your week. Below, I’ve listed five reasons for every runner to take up a yoga practice. By sharing this knowledge, my hope is that you see how yoga can not only supplement, but enhance your experience of running to keep you pounding the pavement for life.
Faster Recovery Time
Ever go running two days in a row and the second day your legs feel like lead? They somehow seem heavier than the day before and with each step you’re just dragging. When you begin to incorporate yoga post-run and on your cross training days, you’ll begin to notice more ease in a demanding training schedule. Most yoga classes incorporate hamstring, quad, IT band and hip stretches to help you bounce back faster!
You Need Strong Hips!
Many running injuries result from weak hips. While a lot of us often feel tightness in the hips and hamstrings after a run, that tightness doesn’t necessarily equate to strength. When our hip stabilizing muscles are weak, we overcompensate for this weakness with other parts of the body during a run. So, that sharp shin splint? Its origin could be your hips. Strengthening your hips through yoga and muscle-building exercises can be key to injury-free running.
Strong Core = Good Form
Our ability to maintain good, upright posture has to do with our core’s ability to assist us. Having a strong core will help you keep your running form, too! With the amount of planks and vinyasas you’ll find in a Flow or Power class, you’re bound to gain core strength quickly. Get faster, prevent injury and feel good by planking it out!
Deepen Your Breath
The yoga practice teaches us how to breathe deeply while taking on the physical strain of postures. Through guided meditation, asana practice and breathwork, we can expand the capacity and length of our inhales and exhales. As you progress, you will notice these deeper breaths carrying over to your time on the trail. The easier your breath, the less effort you’ll need to exert to get the results you want out there.
The Joy of Mindfulness!
Yoga can promote mindfulness both on and off the mat. The more you tap into your senses and the subtle body in class, the more you’ll notice on your run! Do you ever head out for your run and immediately get into your head? Or maybe you go on auto-pilot? Once you start practicing yoga, you may find yourself paying more attention to the trees, people and happenings all around you!
Want to learn some running stretches? Check out the following links!