Loving running as much as I do, it’s kind of a surprise that it’s taken me so long to write a blog about the benefits that yoga provides for runners.
Since I’ve started by yoga journey, I’ve made considerable improvements in my running ability, and have even PR’ed (gotten personal records) in a few races. Now, this may be due to that fact that I was like, super sick at the beginning of the year, and anything would be an improvement over how I was running at the time, but for the sake of this blog, let’s look at how yoga may have facilitated my running improvements.
The first, and pretty obvious, benefit that I’ve noticed from yoga is that I’m not so darn tight all the time. As I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts, I’m naturally about as flexible as a steel rod. Even the doctor comments on how inflexible I am during my physicals. Because of my inability to touch my toes, post-run periods can get pretty painful. If I go to bed after a hard workout without stretching or taking an ice bath, I’ll wake up in the morning and literally not be able to move.
Practicing yoga on a regular basis has done worlds for me to help me recover from runs. Yoga is a time for me to focus on what is sore and what hurts, and gently ease into the area to help flush the toxins from it. Since running is pretty much go, go, go all the time, yoga is a nice period of stop, stop, stop where I can do what feels right and take care of myself.
These people are probably smiling because they’re excited to do yoga after they run. (Photo CC by Carolyn Coles)
Another benefit of yoga for runners is that it provides a means for increasing strength (upper body strength especially) without lifting weights. Like most runners, I have the upper body strength of a newborn kitten and no desire to lift heavy things and put them down again.
Yoga is a body weight exercise, and body weight exercises are arguably better for increasing overall fitness than lifting weights is. Body weight exercises, especially yoga, simultaneously increase strength, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and balance. Yoga won’t give you jacked arms, but will probably make a person’s overall strength index better than someone who only lifts. One of my favorite high school memories is this time I had to arm wrestle a mean girl who was on the volleyball team, who probably thought she would kick my butt because I didn’t do a whole lot of conventional lifting. But I did do yoga. So therefore, I smoked her.
This is the look of victory I had on my face when I beat her. Only more feminine. (Photo CC by Hector Alejandro)
So yeah, this whole section kind of got off the topic of how yoga helps runners get stronger and got more on the topic of how I beat this girl that wasn’t nice to me at arm wrestling because I did yoga, yoga is still very, very, helpful to runners in increasing their body strength.
A tacit, but logical, benefit of yoga to runners is breath control. I mean, think about it. In yoga, learning to be mindful of the breath helps the yogi learn how to tolerate pain. Wouldn’t learning how to control the breath in running help a runner push through walls and run fast even when they’re hurting? (The answer, in case you don’t know, is yes). This is the number one improvement I’ve noticed in my running since I’ve been doing yoga. I’m constantly conscious of keeping my breath even and controlled, which helps my body regulate its oxygen usage in an efficient manner, which helps me run longer, faster.
This person is probably smiling because she already ran, and now she’s doing yoga. (Photo CC by Matt Madd)
While doing yoga won’t really help a person get faster (the only way to get faster is by running more, faster), it can help with the little aspects of running that often get overlooked. It helps improve flexibility, strength, breath control, and just makes a person a little more chill and less tense all the time.
So the moral of the story is, I love yoga and running, and I want you to love yoga and running.