runwell blog

5 ways yoga makes you a better runner

One thing that attracts runners to running is that there’s perpetual motion, you’re actually going somewhere, moving. Many of us can’t stand to run on a treadmill or stationary bike because we feel like we’re standing still, it’s too boring, our minds need the scenery to change.

But as runners, sometimes we really need to just stand still, and stretch, for long periods of time. Why?

Running is a high-impact, repetitive exercise that over time, can cause biomechanical imbalances in the body. Overusing some muscles while underusing others can cause the overused muscles to shorten, leading to overcompensation, impairing biomechanical efficiency.

Don’t be intimidated by the yoga ads that show a svelte woman bending like a pretzel on a mountain top. You don’t have to be flexible to start yoga and it’s suitable for every body type. In fact, those who are the least flexible (a common quality of avid runners) have the most to gain.  

Flexibility

It’s likely you have suffered from at least one of the common running injuries: runner’s knee, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, pulled hamstring, lower back pain...but being more flexible (not overly flexible, though) can help prevent and treat many of those injuries. By stretching the muscles that are tight, you increase the range of motion in the related joints, meaning you move more easily and those nagging aches and pains will start to go away.

Breath control & lung capacity

The breathing patterns used in running generally involve quick and shallow inhalations and exhalations, which only uses the top portion of the lungs. At the core of yoga is breathing, and yogic breathing involves long, deep and cleansing inhalations and exhalations, which uses the upper, middle and lower portions of the lungs. The better the lung capacity, the more oxygen is circulating through the system which over time, increases lung capacity, which increases endurance and makes you a better athlete!

Plus, by learning to control and regulate your breathing, it will be easier for you will sink into a rhythm without thinking about how long you’ve been at it or how far you have to go.

Mental focus

Along with breath control comes mental control. Yoga has several different styles, some require yogis to hold poses for a very long time, other styles require fast transitions, all require incredible balance and mental focus. Long-distance running comes with some mental obstacles as well as physical, and having the ability to get yourself through them makes you a more effective runner.

Recovery

Yoga possesses restorative powers disguised as inversions - which can help runners recover faster from those long jaunts - a key to being a healthier and faster competitor. While running depletes the body of energy, yoga oxygenates the blood and actually creates more energy so you feel restored and energized. 

Strength and balance

Overly tight muscles are also weak muscles. A fully functional muscle not only contracts when needed, but relaxes and lengthens on demand. Yoga poses usually involve using several muscles in a variety of planes, whereas running strengthens only the muscles needed for running, causing an imbalance. Yoga is perfect weight training without having to use barbells, and a core workout included. Win-win. 

Get to a local studio to give it a try, several offer promotional offers for new students. We suggest trying a few different styles, like vinyasa / flow, yin and hot yoga. You won't regret it. 

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