What You Need to Know About Yoga for Runners
When you’re running a lot, and training for an endurance race, such as a half or marathon, the repetitive nature of running can lead to muscle tightening and musculoskeletal imbalances, which can lead to injury.
Lots of runners are often reluctant to try yoga. They’re worried they’re not bendy, put off by tales of meditation and chanting and don’t want to ‘waste’ precious workout hours without sweat and calorie burn to show for it (and let’s face it … if it’s not on Strava … it didn’t happen!).
But us runners have a lot to gain from including yoga to our fitness regimens. Read on to for What You Need to Know About Yoga for Runners
As a runner, practicing yoga (yes, you ‘practice’ yoga) can help you restore balance and symmetry to our bodies, as well as reducing stiffness and improving flexibility. Yoga isn’t all about stretching, yoga also strengthens underused muscles, helps with balance and breathing which are all important for running.
Yoga Improves Strength
Runners have strong muscles in our legs that are used for running, but often have weak upper bodies and muscles, including opposing leg muscles, that are not regularly worked.
Unless you incorporate additional strength and conditioning into your week it’s likely that your arms, back and abdominals are relatively weak and that can cause issues with your posture and running form.
The poses held in yoga strengthen the bodies key posture supporting muscles and muscles which are underused when we run. Yoga strengthens the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors which are often weak in runners.
It’s so important that us runners have a strong core. A strong core improves running posture and allows our limbs to move efficiently, saving energy, which means we suffer less fatigue and reduce our risk of injury.
Yoga Improves Flexibility
A lot of runners hardly stretch before or after runs. Including yoga into your weekly workout schedule will ensure you stretch and lengthen muscles that have been tightened by your training.
Overly tight muscles are also weak muscles. Yoga stretches tight muscles helping them become more flexible and also decreases muscle and joint stiffness. This leads to having more fluid and easier movement which can reduce niggles, aches and pains.
Tight hamstrings are the root cause of many running related injures. Lots of yoga poses require bending, which helps the lower back and hamstrings, and opening up the hips. Loosening out your hip flexors and hamstrings from yoga, your risk of injury from running is significantly reduced.
Yoga Improves Breathing
Breathing and good lung capacity is really important for us runners. The better your lung capacity, the more oxygen you can take in which helps with running stronger for longer.
However, us runners are guilty of breathing shallow and fast and only using the top portion of our lungs whilst running.
Breath work in yoga encourages you to take slow, deep inhalations and long exhalations, where you use all of the lungs, the upper, middle, and lower portions too. Yogic breathing has been shown to increase lung capacity, and greater lung capacity increases endurance and improves overall athletic performance.
Which class should I join?
There are so many styles of yoga to choose from and you should choose what’s best for you based upon your goals, whether that’s improving your strength and stamina, core stability and balance or for recovery and relaxation. But what’s most important is to join a class that you enjoy taken by instructor you love.
Here are some ideas for you.
If you’re looking to improve your strength and stamina and want a faster paced class, you should try Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga or Ashtanga.
These classes are fast paced, higher intensity classes where one posture flows to another in a sequence. You’ll find the sequences repeated at each class.
These classes can feel like a hard workout and they will develop your strength and stamina, like a high intensity workout!
Lots of runners are drawn to this style of yoga (as it’s high intensity), but if you’re doing a yoga class for cross training and you’re in the midst of a heavy running programme, you could end up fatigued from the intense workout.
If you’re looking to improve your core stability and balance try Hatha Yoga.
This style of yoga is slower. It’s great for beginners as you’re talked through poses and get to hold the pose for a longer period of time. This allows muscles to fully release, stretch and strengthen.
Holding poses for longer will help you develop your core strength and stability, body alignment, and balance.
Hatha is a great class to attend if you’re marathon training. It’s a less intense class, but will still build strength in under worked and weak muscles, challenge your balance, stability and flexibility.
If you’re looking for a relaxing class to help with recovery and improve your flexibility try restorative yoga
This style of yoga is about improving flexibility and helping with recovery and is a relaxing, less intense yoga class and ideal to include on a rest day after a long run to help with recovery.
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