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How Yoga Can Help Runners

Sep 7, 2020

Sure, you're time-crunched and, okay, maybe a little intimidated about being the only person who can't touch his toes in a room full of Gumbys. But yoga could be a critical piece of your get-faster or get-healthy plan. Yoga has the potential to do so much good--improving strength, flexibility, and mental focus--that it's surprising that so many runners don't know a downward dog from an upward dog.

Why strike a pose? Studies have shown that yoga squashes stress, aids weight loss, eases pain, helps people stick to an exercise routine, and even improves running times. The strength and flexibility you develop on the mat--namely in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors--can help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free.

Additionally, holding challenging poses builds tenacity that'll pay off on the road. The poses can give you more than just foot strength, yoga can help control emotions. Enduring an intense pose is a lot like enduring a long run or tempo run.

For all the perks yoga offers, it still requires a cautious approach. Get too ambitious, and you could end up hurt and frustrated. This guide will make easing in easy.

From yin yoga to vinyasa, there is a dizzying array of classes to choose from. There's no single style that's best for every runner, and the consistency of your practice is far more important than the type of yoga you practice. If you're turned off by the instructor, the vibe, or the pace of the class, move on. Find a place with teachers you can connect with who understand your needs as a runner.

Your yoga practice should have a converse relationship with your training: When you're ramping up mileage and churning out hard workouts, stick with relaxing sessions. When your training eases up, you can increase the intensity and frequency of your yoga workouts. If you take on a rigorous practice in the midst of a monster training month, you'll interfere with your body's recovery and risk hurting yourself. The strength yoga builds in the feet, lower legs, and core will support you when the running gets tough.

It can take years to master yoga poses, so don't go to your first class (or your first 20) expecting to be the star pupil--no matter how many races you've run or how fast your PRs are. Focus on yourself, not what the person on the mat next to you can do. And realize there's plenty to gain from a less-than-perfect practice. So many runners are hard on themselves when they have an off day or they don't PR, but in yoga, you're encouraged to accept the body and mind that you have on that day and push it as far as it will go.

Runners' high pain thresholds coupled with their competitive natures can make them more prone to injury. If you have a troublesome or tight spot you'd like to target, talk to your instructor about ways to modify poses so you can get a gentle--and safe--stretch


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