I’ve dabbled with yoga since college, mostly teaching myself through magazine articles and videos, but only in the last month have I actually attended a yoga class. Now, it’s Yoga for Athletes, so we don’t hold the poses for a super long time, but I’m already seeing how it’s going to positively affect my running. In fact, thanks to Beth who sent it to Linden who sent it to me, the Yoga Journal has a great article about how running and yoga make the perfect pairing.
The authors Baron Baptiste and Kathleen Finn Mendola make the argument that though yoga and running are “on opposite ends of the exercise spectrum,” we shouldn’t exclude one for the other. They say, “Running and yoga make a good marriage of strength and flexibility” (2)
Runners frequently get a bad rap for being inflexible, and the experts always tell us to improve our flexibility to prevent injury, right? I, too, am guilty of bypassing pre- and post-run stretching because I’m in a hurry or have something more important to do. But after a hard workout or race, we still feel the effects of that work on our bodies days later. Yoga balances the muscle pounding, tightening, and shortening from running and restores, loosens, and elongates those same muscles (4).
As part of our training, runners learn to push through the pain of side stitches, burning quads, stiff knees, and sore feet. Part of that ability comes from the endorphins running produces, but we all know runners who have ignored their bodies and pushed through the pain only to regret it later when they’re sidelined with an injury. Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies and gives us confidence in how we respond to our bodies signals (8). This awareness can improve our workouts because we’ll know when our bodies are ready to handle an all-out, knock-em-dead workout/race or when they just need an easy run (9). Yoga can also teach us how to relax and how to breathe properly (10, 11).
We don’t need to be kinesiology experts to know that when our bodies are misaligned in one place, the rest of our bodies try to counterbalance the alignment. Usually, this misalignment and counterbalancing results in discomfort, and if we ignore it, it will lead to injury. We can use yoga to strengthen our bodies so all their pieces stay in place (13). By doing so, we can prevent injury, and that makes us all happy.
Like most of you, I, too, knew that flexibility was important to my running, but I didn’t do much about it when I was training for last fall’s half marathon. As a result, I developed a little knee problem that probably could have been prevented with the strength and flexibility yoga offers. Now I schedule my yoga just like I schedule my running; it’s just another part of my training. For 45 minutes twice a week, I’m instructed in elongating, loosening, and restoring my muscles. The instruction is important because I don’t have to figure out how to be more flexible and strong on my own; it’s sort of done for me, so that’s one less thing I have to think about.
I’ve merely summarized the Yoga Journal article—there is so much more to glean from it—but hopefully, you, my fellow runners in the blogosphere, will consider adding yoga to their training regimen.