Ask any runner on the street if she’d prefer to log as many miles as she can or take time away from her training each week to hit her yoga mat, and the answer would be irrefutable: most runners want to log all the miles, all the time. It typically isn’t until and unless a runner gets sidelined with an injury that she’ll begin incorporate cross-training and strengthening exercises, like yoga, into her routine.
Yoga may sound antithetical to many runners, but truly: in order to get stronger, runners ought to slow down more. So many runners incorrectly think that in order to become as fast and strong as possible, they should be running as hard and as much as they humanly can. They don’t realize that more often than not, this spells disaster and, if nothing else, overuse niggles, if not full-blown injuries.
Below, I’ll describe in more detail how yoga and running can make a winning combination. The key ingredients to this winning duo include the following:
Yoga Can Help to Rectify Runners’ Many Muscular Imbalances
Typically speaking, runners only really move in one plane of motion. As a result, they become really strong in that one particular plane, and their muscles, also, become really strong — but only there. For example, runners’ quadriceps muscles may become super strong, but their opposing muscles, the hamstrings, may remain severely sore, weak, and tight. Runners who incorporate a regular yoga practice into their routine can help to rectify these imbalances and can eventually help correct them. In doing so, runners can become stronger and more balanced and thus, more injury-proof in the (proverbial and literal) long run.
Yoga Can be an Effective Way to Strengthen Runners’ Core Muscles
Runners know how important it is to have a strong core, and that goes beyond having a six-pack abs. Having a strong core means having strong stomach, back, and trunk muscles, and yoga is incredibly effective at isolating those muscles and working them appropriately.
Yoga Can Be an Excellent Avenue to Hone runners’ Mental Games
A lot of people say that running is 90% mental, so it goes without saying that it’s critical that runners’ mental games are on point at any given time. Many runners, however, fail to spend an appropriate amount of time navigating the murky waters of their mental fitness, and it isn’t until they give up before they should and underperform in key workouts and races that they realize that their mental fitness isn’t up to par. Yoga, on the other hand, with its slower-paced and deliberate movements and meditative vibes, can be an excellent avenue through which runners can work on their mental fitness. Yoga often forces runners to slow down and focus on the here-and-now, not hypothesizing or catastrophizing about how they might feel in the future.
There Are Plenty of Running-Specific Yoga Practices Out There
Finally, as running has gotten more popular over the past decade, devout yogis seem to have picked up on this potential and have thus released all sorts of running-yoga collaborations. Whether you want to attend a “yoga for runners” class at a brick-and-mortar yoga studio in your community or follow-along with a youtube “yoga for runners” video from the comfort of your living room, there is something out there for everyone. Sometimes runners fear that they won’t be able to keep pace with the yoga instructors’ movements, but oftentimes “yoga for runners” -type classes are scaled to exactly meet runners’ bodies’ demands, inflexibility and all.
Runners don’t need to sacrifice tons of their weekly mileage to accommodate a new yoga practice. Instead, simply incorporating even a few yoga moves into their daily stretching and flexibility routine can still allow them to reap the benefits.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you’re first starting yoga, you likely will feel uncomfortable or silly and perhaps even self-conscious about your perceived abilities — or lack thereof — with your new routine. Don’t sweat it! Remember that we were all newbies once. Take solace in your courage to do something new, to supplement your already existing fitness routine with something that’ll be good for both your body and your mind.
Whether you’re going to add a ten-minute yoga flow to the end of your daily runs or hit a studio for a 90-minute class each week, incorporating yoga into your running routine can potentially keep you free from injuries and burn-out and help you to feel stronger overall.
Yoga has been around for millennia, virtually the same as running, and millions of people the world over can’t be wrong about its effects on their health and well-being. Try it on for size with regards to your running, and you, too, may be singing its praises soon.
AUTHOR’S BIO: JANE GRATES
A certified hiker and runner. Performing at the sweet spot between minimalism and purpose to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade. She also writes reviews on sites such as Runnerclick, NicerShoes, GearWeAre and ThatSweetGift.