My friend took me to a yoga class a while ago. First, I was not sure if it is a suitable exercise for runners.
Runners are among the least flexible athletes, and yoga often pushes the range of motion of even the most flexible athletes.
I attended yoga occasionally and always sought to push myself to the max (which is not much compared to others). I now realize how important it is for athletes to ease into yoga.
You can get more from your running with yoga. It strengthens and lengthens your leg muscles, improves flexibility, and prevents injuries.
When you get older, you notice tightness everywhere, not just in hips and hamstrings, but in your back, neck, and feet. Everything feels offbeat. Exercises that once were easy now need extra care and effort. The long-distance runs and faster miles are gone.
Too many elderly, and also office workers, suffer from bad backs, often forcing them to abandon running altogether. Running days need not be behind, but you need to stretch the muscles of your legs and hips deeply.
In my experience, yoga instructors are excellent at reminding their students to take poses only as far as their bodies can comfortably go.
Taking this advice to heart is essential, and if you’re competitive like me, you may need to remind yourself a time or two to ease up.
I also now see the importance of consistency in yoga. Similar to all other fitness activities, flexibility brings progress and benefits. One of my goals is to practice yoga once a week. So far I’m sticking to it and loving it.
Benefits of yoga
Yoga is not just stretching. Here are some benefits of yoga:
- Increased flexibility/mobility
- Improved balance
- Increased upper body strength
- Increased lower body strength
- Increased core strength
- Stress management
Specific benefits for runners
- Increases range of motion of hips: the repetitive running motion causes the hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hip) to shorten over time, which can lead to low back pain.
- Improves single-leg stability & strength: single-leg strength is necessary to avoid compensations in the biomechanics of the running stride, which can lead to injury.
- Increases ankle range of motion: Similar to the hip flexors, the repetitive pounding of running can lead to decreased ankle range of motion.
- Improves the ability to use breathing as relaxation during laborious exercise (great for mid-run relaxation skills).
Tips for an injury-free yoga practice
- Pay attention to your body’s limits
- Train consistently
- If you have an injury let the instructor know, they’re great at offering modifications.
My favorite yoga poses for runners
- Downward Dog: increases calf flexibility, opens up the shoulders and chest
- Tree Pose: all about single leg balance.
- Warrior II: opens up the hips, glute, and quad strength
The Best Yoga Poses for Runners by strengthrunning.
Running and yoga can support each other, and they need not be two separate hobbies. Both are physical activities, inspiring one another, and regularly evolving. They keep you grounded and clear.