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4 Ways Yoga Can Benefit Runners
If you ask most runners what the most important part of their training routine is, without a doubt, they will say that the miles are what matter. Given the option of running for 30 minutes straight, or doing some type of dynamic warm-up for 5 minutes, a 20-minute run, and a dynamic cool-down for another 5 minutes, they will without question say that the more miles, the better.
This is understandable. After all, most runners believe that in order to become a better runner—to become faster, fitter, and to be able to go farther—they absolutely have to run as much as they humanly can, taking themselves just to the brink of exhaustion, fatigue, injury, and/or burn-out but without crossing over into those damaging territories.
What often ends up happening for many runners, however, is just that they get injured. They get burned out. They wonder why this happens to them when they were “doing everything right” by running as much and as hard and as far as they could. But therein lies the crux of the dilemma.
Balancing Your Miles with Yoga
It can take some convincing, but runners absolutely would stand to benefit from incorporating a daily or even just a weekly yoga practice into their lives. Many runners are reluctant to do this, however, because they don’t want to forsake their coveted mileage for what they view as “ancillary” work or mere “stretching.”
Presented with the options between running for the entirety of their lives, strong and injury free, or running for only certain periods of their lives and spending weeks, if not months or years on end riding the injury train, runners begin to realize the importance of whole-body cross-training activities—such as yoga—on their health and on their running.
4 Ways Yoga Can Benefit Runners
Yoga can be an effective way of targeting and strengthening your core. Runners know the importance of doing core work regularly—of strengthening the musculature not just in their bellies but also in their trunks and backs. But many runners think that all they should do are some periodic sit-ups or planks. Yoga can be an effective way to challenge runners to do core work ( see Navasana or Boat Pose photo right) that is better targeted to the musculature they regularly engage while running. In doing so, runners can essentially strengthen their chassis, so to speak, so that they can better physically support themselves during arduous efforts. There will surely come a time during a race or workout when a runner will start to tire and their form will start to falter. Having a strong core can help to carry them through, even when stuff gets tough.
Yoga can help rectify muscle imbalances. Running is a fantastic and effective cardiovascular exercise, but it is primarily an activity that runners complete in a singular plane of motion. Because of this, runners often become very strong in certain parts of their bodies, such as their quadriceps muscles, but weak in their hamstrings or glutes. A regular yoga practice can help to ameliorate these imbalances, leaving runners better off than they were and, in turn, less prone to injury.
Yoga can help strengthen a runner’s mental game. Running and racing require huge mental effort. Even if you’re the fittest person on the starting line, if your mental game is lacking, you are all but guaranteed not to race well when the going gets tough. Runners have an amazing opportunity to work on their mental game by incorporating yoga into their routine. Yoga forces them to slow down, concentrate on a singular breath and remain in the here and now, not anticipating how they may feel in two minutes or two hours. Yoga isn’t just about chants and mantras. Instead, much like running, it can become a type of moving meditation that helps bring people clarity in any situation. Most runners would stand to benefit from this tremendously.
Runners need not commit to hours and hours of yoga each week. In fact, even quick little yoga “resets” each day, every few days, or even once weekly may be sufficient. There are lots of “yoga for runners” videos available online from which runners can select routines that best fit their needs. Doing so will allow them to become better, stronger, and fitter versions of themselves than they ever thought possible. This is, after all, what runners are all about pursuing and realizing.
Study with Dr. Baxter Bell and YogaUOnline - Yoga for Healthy Aging: Curbing Inflammation to Prevent Chronic Disease.
JANE GRATES - Hiking addict and a fitness enthusiast. Performing at the sweet spot between minimalism and purpose to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade. She also loves to write reviews and recommendations on Runnerclick, ThatSweetGift, GearWeAre, and NicerShoes.