We know that taking up yoga is a good way to become more flexible. The benefits of yoga for runners are wide-ranging and often overlooked. Yoga increases your flexibility, improves your strength, stability, balance and breathing – and this all will benefit your running performance. In addition, it helps to calm your mind and develop mental strength.
Runners can’t ignore the benefits of yoga for too long. If you run regularly and don’t stretch properly, your muscles will feel tight. Eventually, the body gets stiffer and this can lead to injuries that could have been avoided. If you aim to increase your distance, or improve your running ability, incorporate yoga into your training routine. How does yoga benefit your performance?
Runners know that stronger leg muscles make tough runs feel easier. Good leg strength also protects your knees, while stronger core muscles helps you to maintain a good posture. Of course, squats, lunges and the plank do improve leg and core strength, but not everyone can’t do these exercises with an effective and safe technique. If your lower back or hips are already stiff then it will affect the quality of your squat. Just putting a weighted bar on your upper back and squatting when you’re already tight will only lead to even tighter muscles.
Sports trainers tell that diving into these type of free-weight moves could do more harm than good and it’s also quite daunting for some people to start squatting heavy. The risk of injury during yoga is much lower and it has a knock-on effect of improving flexibility, especially around the hips, which will in turn help with stride length.
When performing yoga poses, you are often using your own body weight for resistance and your muscles have to work very hard to support you. Most people know that yoga is a good way to improve flexibility, but people who have never done yoga aren’t aware of the fact that it’s actually amazing for strengthening. Holding various poses can be very demanding on the body, and requires a lot of strength strength and body control.
Yoga practitioners believe that yoga can reduce injury risk. As most usual types of exercise focus on strengthening specific muscle groups, this often results in tight muscles with a smaller range of motion and higher injury risk. However, a regular yoga practice will ensure holistic physical conditioning by strengthening muscles yet, at the same time, stretch and increase flexibility throughout the muscle groups.
Yoga does this by offering a mixture of passive and active stretching. Passive stretching, where you hold a posture for certain period of time, allows muscles to lengthen more, while active stretching, where the body moves and lengthens muscles dynamically, creates warmth and suppleness in the tissues.
Doing yoga regularly will also improve your your breathing. Most people don’t breathe effectively. A lot of us shallow breathe, not taking a full deep breath. Some people breathe too fast. Many people don’t use their diaphragm when breathing, so relying on the neck and chest muscles to pull the ribs upwards, which is a particularly inefficient way to breathe. Such ineffective breathing is common in people who have stressful, busy lives. With yoga, you learn how to control your breathing, slowing it down, breathing from your diaphragm, and taking a deep breath.
Yoga will also help to enhance your balance, as any pose where the muscles are contracting to hold you in position will provide more control over your trunk during your running sessions. For runners, good balance is of great importance, especially on uneven trails. When you run, you’re effectively hopping from one foot to the other, so poor balance makes you a less efficient runner. The poses where you stand on one leg are perfect.
Yoga is probably best known for improving your flexibility because you are holding postures with the muscles lengthened, improving elasticity in muscle fibers. All types of yoga lengthen and strengthen the spine, creating better posture and releasing tension from the body. People who work at a desk tend to carry a lot of tension in their neck and shoulders, often resulting in poor posture and a weak back. Some of the most effective yoga poses help to open the chest and shoulders. The Downward Dog is a great pose to reduce spinal pressure.
If you’re planning to take up yoga, try doing it at least once a week. Be patient, because if your muscles are tight, expect that it’s going to take some time to improve. Yoga is great to do on one of your days off from running. You can do yoga sessions two out of your three rest days – you’d get the added benefit of that strength and you’d be able to maintain flexibility. Hopefully, this will stop you from getting any major injuries.