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Cross-training: Runners Benefit from Yoga, Big Time

April 28, 2011

With spring officially in full-throttle, many of us are eager to whip out our running shoes and hit the pavement or trails; maybe we’re even training for an upcoming event (Bayshore Marathon, anyone?).  But as you’re lacing into those sneakers, hear this: Now is a great time to re-dedicate yourself to your yoga practice—or develop a yoga practice, if you’ve never tried yoga before—because yoga is the perfect compliment to a running regimin.

What can yoga do for runners? For starters, it builds strength and length in the muscles. It also increases flexibility, which prevents injury and keeps you loose and limber.  Finally, it helps runners develop better awareness of the breath and improves mental focus. In a Runner’s World article on yoga and running, Sage Rountree, a triathlon coach and author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga,  says, “[Yoga] teaches you to be in an intense situation—perhaps deep in a back-bending pose—and to bring awareness to your form and your breathing to make the situation manageable. This skill is invaluable when at mile 18 of 26.2. You’ll learn ways to cope, which will benefit you as an athlete and in life.”

A recent article in The Windsor Star stated that there is an increase in the number of runners who cross-train with yoga.

Via windsorstar.com:

Ottawa’s Blue Bamboo Yoga studio owner Stephanie Vincec, a runner herself, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people joining her yoga for runners’ classes.

“Runners’ hips, lower back and hamstrings are in constant motion and are prone to injury. When you run those muscles become shorter because they are contracting. Yoga can target those areas and help lengthen the muscles.”

Vincec, who has run a marathon, credits yoga for improving a person’s stamina and flexibility. For quick results, she recommends that runners do yoga at least twice a week.

Another benefit of yoga for runners is the focus on breathing, Vincec says. Many of us are shallow breathers and don’t utilize our full breath.

“Deep breathing only through your nose is called Ujjayi. It slows down the breath and deepens it, which increases lung capacity and is helpful to runners. Oxygen rich blood can boost performance and endurance for runners,” Vincec says.

Runners should incorporate poses that open hips and release tension in the thigh and groin areas. A few poses to try: low lunge (releases and stretches the muscles of the thighs and groin, also stretches the abs, chest, shoulders, armpits and neck); happy baby pose (opens the hips, stretching the groin and releasing the low back); cobbler’s pose (also known as bound-angle pose; stretches the inner thighs, groin and knees); head-to-knee forward bend (stretches the hamstrings, groin, spine and shoulders); and legs-up-the-wall pose (a restorative posture that relieves tired legs and feet, and passively stretches the back legs).

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