If running is your preferred form of exercise, you know how hard it can be on your body. With all the health-boosting benefits that a regular running routine brings (think improved heart health, calorie burn, and runner’s high, to name a few), it also comes with its fair share of downsides. Runners are no strangers to the tight, sore muscles and aching joints that are the consequences of such a high-impact exercise. If you aren’t pairing your running with exercises that lengthen and strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility and mobility, injuries are common.
So incorporating yoga into your routine is one of the best exercises that avid runners can incorporate into their workout routines. Here’s why you should be adding yoga into your training, plus some of the best poses you can try.
What Is Yoga?
The practice of yoga dates back thousands of years. As opposed to other kinds of exercises that focus solely on your physical fitness, yoga is a more holistic and spiritual discipline, combining physical movement with breathwork, meditation, and consciousness.
The way that yoga looks can vary depending on the kind that you practice. But as a general rule, yoga takes you through a series of poses that challenge your physical strength and flexibility while also focusing on breath work and mental focus. These aren’t just static exercises, either – rather, yoga is an ever-moving “flow” that takes it far beyond a simple stretching session.
While the spiritual tenets of yoga are still very much honored in the modern day, the practice has taken on newfound popularity as an exercise for improving physical fitness in addition to mental.
Why Runners Should Try Yoga
Yoga is a wonderful exercise for anyone who wants to improve their mental and physical fitness, but it’s especially helpful for athletes looking to get the most out of their training.
Flexible ligaments are a must for runners, both for preventing injuries and for reducing soreness afterward. Most runners are already used to incorporating dynamic and static stretching routines before and after your workout, but adding yoga into the mix can take your flexibility one step further.
Even better: not only does regular yoga training improve your flexibility, but it also helps with mobility. Mobility refers to how well your joints can move through a range of motion, and ignoring this in your training can get in the way of both your flexibility and your performance as a runner.
Yoga complements strength training exercises very well since it can reduce your risk of injury and improve your recovery time between runs. The complex poses and movements also challenge your muscles and balance, which makes it a great exercise for strengthening your core and improving your posture during runs.
Many of the challenges that come with long-distance running are in your mind. The repetitive movements might get boring after a while or you might be dealing with physical discomfort, but both can present roadblocks for your training. Practicing yoga challenges you to stay in the moment and work on your mental focus.
In addition to slower yoga practices that are focused on stretching and mobility, there are also more high-intensity versions of yoga that can help you get your heart rate up while challenging your muscles in a different way than they may be used to. For example, hot yoga is designed to get you sweating, and power yoga can seriously strengthen your muscles by capitalizing on bodyweight resistance training.
Overall, incorporating yoga into your workout routine can help you become a more well-rounded athlete who is less sore and more protected from sprains and common runner injuries.
Yoga Poses For Runners
Here are some key yoga poses (or asanas) that can target the muscles and joints that are most affected by your running training.
Downward dog is one of the cornerstones of any yoga flow, and it’s an especially good pose for runners. This inverted yoga pose can help you stretch out your hamstrings, calves, and feet, all of which are important for your running performance.
Avid runners are usually no strangers to tight hips and achy backs. Pigeon pose involves a very deep stretch that can help loosen those tight hip flexors and muscles in your lower back to relieve some of that pain. It’s also a great way to stretch any tight glute muscles that could be contributing to your soreness.
Lunges are probably already in your stretching arsenal before and after your runs, so take their benefits one step further by getting into a low lunge. This stretch can help you open up your hips, groin, quads, and hamstrings.
The butterfly pose, also known as the cobbler’s pose, is a great stretch for opening up your hips and reducing back pain. It also targets your thigh muscles, which commonly become tight and painful from long runs.
The forward fold is a classic asana for increasing the flexibility in your lower body and your spine. You can either practice this pose in a sitting or a standing position – be sure to take it slow and find your limits when you’re beginning to avoid overstretching and potential injury.
Practicing the triangle pose is an excellent way to work on your stability and lengthen your spine, both of which are necessary for efficient and pain-free running. In addition, it can open up your hips, strengthen your core muscles, and improve the flexibility in your knees.
If you want to be the best runner you can be, you can’t just focus on strength and speed alone. Increasing your mobility and flexibility are often overlooked but the consequences can be severe. Incorporate yoga flows into your training a couple of times a week and you’ll be giving your body all the tools it needs to be a stronger, more pain-free runner.