Lately I’ve been really into yoga for runners. I wasn’t a believer until I tried it! Now I find it very helpful as a part of my stretching routine. When I first started running, I had my doubts about the exercise as a whole. It is very high-impact and can be hard on my joints. And, I had the mistaken assumption that runners do nothing but running. In fact, I found that I am a much more successful runner if I make running a part of my larger fitness goals. I want to be a fitter, faster, more limber person. Yoga is a big part of that. And as it turns out, yoga helps me be a better runner.
Why Yoga?It never works well to just do exactly the same exercise, day after day. Using a combination of exercises in any workout regimen is just good common sense. Working out different parts of the body at different rates conditions the whole body more effectively, and also helps to avoid overuse injuries. Personally, I find that I need to mix it up to keep from getting bored, as well. I run regularly, but not every day. On my off days, I add yoga to stretch and relax my muscles. And it’s also an excellent workout for me. I first started with the Yoga for Athletes DVD, and then once I felt comfortable, I focused on a few specific poses that are best for runners. Stretching and focusing on my breathing helps me to prevent shin splints, which is a killer to any runner’s routine.
Using Yoga in TrainingYoga is particularly important when I’m in training. Oh, the wickedness of preparing for a half-marathon! It is exhausting, and I am tempted to overdo it sometimes. When I’m in training to extend my distance, speed or general endurance, I keep my yoga work light and generally relaxing. That way, I can use it as a cool down after my run, or on a non-training day. Then, once my big day is over and I can cut back a little on my distance, I take the yoga up a couple of notches. There are still a few positions I haven’t mastered completely, and they deserve my time.
Yoga Poses for Runners
There are a few positions I like to use to help me stretch out. The first is the Baddha Konasana. I sit tall and put the bottoms of my feet together, like a butterfly. I lean forward to stretch my back. Then, I move into the Upavistha Konasana (wide-legged seated forward bend). In this position, I extend my legs out at a 90-degree angle and stretch forward again. Another position I like is the Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged standing forward bend). Standing with my legs wide apart, I raise my arms in a T shape. Then, I bend toward the ground. After a few long breaths, I return to a standing position. The first few times I tried this, I could not touch the floor. Enter, yoga blocks. I ordered them from Beachbody after seeing them used in a YouTube video and they really helped me get used to the new poses. Before I knew it I was touching the floor without them.Pranayama on the RoadIn learning yoga, I studied the importance of breathing during exertion.
Proper breathing, for me, is the difference between barely reaching my goal and readily exceeding it. I like to start with Kapalabhati The fast expulsion of air helps my lungs to stretch and expand so that they can take on more air once I get into the heat of my workout. Then, I shift to Deergha Swasam for the rest of my run. I focus on keeping my breathing sufficiently full but not too deep. I don’t want to run out of breath too quickly or find myself tired from the act of breathing.Yoga seems the opposite of running. But, they work together very well. Yoga helps to stretch my muscles, relax me after a long run, and teach me to control my breathing, which make me a better runner.