Runners love running; they usually don’t require much convincing when it comes to increasing their mileage. Supplementing those miles with a regular yoga practice, however, can greatly improve running performance. Here are 4 reasons runners need to do yoga—making all that time spent on the road, track, or trail more fluid and efficient.
1. Injury prevention through increased mobility and strength.
The worst part about being a runner is being an injured runner. Most runners become injured at some point with their sheer enthusiasm for training: we’ve all been there. You are on your commute to work, injured and unable to run, and a group of runners enjoying an invigorating morning workout passes you by. That can feel like an agonizing moment. A regular yoga practice can keep you from experiencing the pain of not running; yoga can prevent nearly all common running injuries from plantar fasciitis to IT band tightness. Yoga corrects imbalances in your body from old injuries or new ones, and makes you more mobile and strong so injuries never crop up in the first place. Yoga enables runners to train more consistently without taking unplanned breaks for an injury, and—what most runners do not consider—it can also help them to recover faster and train harder. With the help of yoga, I was able to complete an average of 40 races in 2014, 2015, and 2016. On Mondays, I run to and from teaching yoga. I quite often have raced on the weekend and am a little sore on the run to class; without fail, I always feel looser and stronger on my run home.
2. Improved speed and efficiency from a stronger core.
Yoga gives you a stronger core, which makes you into a more efficient, faster running machine. Yoga core workouts tend to be more interesting than pumping out a thousand crunches so you are more likely to stick with your routine—and the yoga comes with great mental benefits too.
3. A deeper belief in your own abilities.
Yoga lets you trust yourself and be more confident and calm come race day. Besides helping to reduce overall stress, yoga offers a competitive time-out from running’s emphasis on speed and place. This lets you to be more competitive when you do toe the line because you’ve allowed yourself space to relax and recharge. There’s also nothing like that first time you balance in a new pose like bakasana (“crow pose”)—this feeling of empowerment carries over to your running too.
4. Better body awareness.
Yoga coordinates your movement with your breathing; after practicing yoga regularly, you learn to do this intuitively. A runner who practices yoga has much greater, more nuanced body awareness than a runner who does not. With yoga, you can grow to understand in a much more specific way what your particular body needs at any certain moment. In other words, yoga allows you to understand when you feel just a little off, or when one hip flexor is a little tighter than the other, or alternatively, when you feel really good. This allows you to figure out what you need to give yourself workout-wise and stretch-wise at any given time to maximize your training—even if this means backing off from a particular pose. Yoga teaches patience in the long-term; the fun of the yoga journey is that new poses are always there waiting for you.
Adding even a little yoga to your running routine can go a long way towards aiding your running. Whether this is 15 minutes of stretching before you go to sleep or a couple yoga classes spread throughout the week, a consistent yoga practice leads to consistent running—and that makes for a happier, faster runner.