More and more athletes are turning to yoga to up their game, and this seems to be especially true in the running world!
When running training is combined with a regular yoga practice, then the potential to enhance performance, reduce muscles soreness, and decrease recovery time all exist. In fact, yoga is often praised as the perfect recovery activity for runners. It is a fantastic way to keep the body active during a running rest day, whilst also helping it to heal and prepare faster for the next run.
Today I'm explaining some of the fantastic benefits that runners can enjoy when they take up yoga!
When you run often or when you run for long distances, then the muscles that are being utilised for this type of activity can become tight. This is because running is an incredibly repetitive movement that requires the same muscles to get involved and stay involved for the duration of the run.
The muscles that are called upon the most when you are running are the hamstrings, hip flexors and the muscles of the calves. Additionally, the muscles that work to stabilise the thighs and the hips also have to pitch in.
Yoga works to reverse this problem by lengthening the muscles to directly tackle this tightness. This happens naturally as you stretch and flex the body out! Not only will this speed up the recovery process after a run, but can also help to ensure you maintain your usual range of motion.
If you have ever been out for a long run and then felt really stiff the next day, then you will certainly already understand the benefit of lowering the impact of this as much as possible!
Many yoga poses work to strengthen the core muscles. These might not immediately appear to be muscles that will help you to win a race, but bear with me!
Building a strong core will help you to maintain your powerful form as you run. It will also help you to maintain your stability and better enable you to protect your posture as you move. The lower back also stands to benefit from a strong core, and will help to reduce the likelihood of pain or injury in this area.
Master the Breath
If you are going to improve as a runner then it is essential that you are able to be in control of your breathing. This will enable you to better practice the breathing techniques that can be your secret weapon as you power through a race, or even just to help keep you going comfortably when you are out running for fun.
Breathing is one of the most fundamental aspects of yoga, and once you master your breath then you will be well on your way to getting your body and mind in sync. When you are pushing yourself with your running, it is essential that you breathe in a way that supports your body.
Understanding and controlling the breath is one of the very first things you will do as a student of yoga, and is something that you will practice with each and every pose. It will soon come naturally to you, and this can then also become true of your running practice.
Train the Mind
A strong mind and positive mood is often the key to competitive running. Being able to push yourself further to carry on when your body is ready to give up can make all the difference when it comes to getting over that finish line!
Yoga is a practice that trains both the body and the mind. It teaches patience, balance, and an appreciation for all that the body can do.
Whether you are out running for fun and want to give yourself a boost, or you are racing towards the finish line at an event, positive affirmations and personal mantras can really help you to find the motivation to power through!
‘I am powerful, I can do anything'
‘I am relaxed and focused, I always finish strong'
‘My energy is endless, I can do this'
Affirmations and mantras are something that you will learn more about on the mat, and can actually be utilised at any point during any day to kick-start your mood and motivation!
Feet and Ankles
Your feet and ankles will be absorbing much of the impact of running, and the more body weight you are carrying, the more strenuous this will be. If you are running on hard ground, such as the road, then this something that is all the more important to consider.
The feet and the ankles are the foundation of your body and are key to providing support to the rest of the body during your yoga practice. Standing poses will of course be the most beneficial for improving the balance and stability provided by the feet and ankles, and you will be able to observe the improvement as your practice progresses.
If you are a trail runner then you will generally be running on an unpredictable course and can therefore be at an increased risk of falls and injuries. Improving your balance and coordination is key to success here, and this is certainly something that a regular yoga practice will help you to develop.
Yoga for You
Depending on what kind of runner you are, the type of yoga that is best suited to your training may differ.
If you are a competitive runner then you may be drawn to the challenge of fast-paced yoga classes, such as Ashtanga or Hot Yoga. However, if you are running several times a week for an intense training programme, then choosing a gentler type of yoga can be better for your body.
A gentle yoga class is also a great opportunity to quiet the mind and to be kind to your physical self. This can be exactly what you are craving after putting your body through the paces of training. Hatha Yoga or Restorative Yoga are two excellent choices for this reason.
Restorative Yoga in particular encourages deeper stretches and focuses on alleviating stress and anxiety – two things that your body will surely thank you for.
You may also be lucky enough to live in an area where runner specific yoga classes are available! Classes of this nature will target the muscles of the lower body and will place less emphasis on poses that work to strengthen the upper body.
Aiming to get to a yoga class on your rest day is a fantastic idea, and you may also flow through a few poses shortly after each run to help the body cool down, stretch, and ease out of the activity.
New to Yoga
If you have running for a long time but are new to yoga then you may find engaging in this practice to be uncomfortable at first. It may feel as though your muscles are waking up after a very long rest.
If this is the case then be sure to ease into your new yoga practice gently and never push your body past the point of comfort with each pose. Embrace each new pose as a fresh challenge, and let your body tell you how well it feels able to flow through the movement. You will undoubtedly soon see the benefit and improvement – both on and on the road!
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