I am a Runner. Should I practise Yoga?

Why do so few Runners practice Yoga?

“Why do Yoga if I can Run?”

“Why lie on a mat and stretch when I’d rather do high-impact exercise and get sweaty?” [Without giving it away, some yoga classes, including mine, get you really sweaty!]

yogaforrunners1

Being a runner myself, I get it. In my pre-M.E years I ran whenever I could. I raced, I was a member of a brilliant running community (Run Dem Crew) and I practically lived in my trainers. I suffered running-related injuries, but considered it a small sacrifice in order to spend my week nights running and my weekends racing, culminating in 30+ race medals and in 2012, a 3:30:43 marathon. I knew running. I was running.

My response to Yoga back then? “Why? I’m fast. Who cares if I’m not flexible?” 

I wish I had listened to the people who told me Yoga would help me. Runners-knee injury recovery for one. Improved core strength for two (ever tired to race down a steep ravine, Hell Runners?) Ankle agility for three (racing through a woods and dodging the sticks/rocks/boulders?) Breathing. Balance. Hamstring flexibility… the list goes on.

Yoga is far more than stretches. It’s not just about flexibility. And you DO sweat. A lot.

Yoga improves overall strength, balance and agility that will greatly improve your running performance. Nobody is saying you need to stop running and only do yoga, or that to be any good at it you need to be able to put your foot behind your head. Yoga can fit in as part of your routine – it’s a win-win! Yoga is holistic, it’s uniquely strengthening and it will boost overall fitness in a way that is bespoke to the practice. Yoga and Running are the perfect complement, plus, it will greatly benefit not only your limbs, ligaments and muscles, but your mentality, throughout your training and on Race Day(s).

*

The average runner is likely to struggle with:

  • Short, tight hamstrings
  • Limited hip rotation
  • Tight hip flexors
  • Tight ITB
  • Fragile knees
  • Closed chest/shoulders
  • Weak core resulting in Lordosis or Crossed Syndrome
  • Habitual, sometimes inefficient, breathing (including a stitch)
  • Achiever-style thought patterns

The average runner could benefit from a yoga practise in many ways, including:

  • Lengthening of the hamstrings for improved speed, agility & resilience
  • Improved strength in the quadriceps
  • Opening of the hip joints
  • Improved core strength; helpful on steep up/down hill runs
  • Improved balance
  • Increased agility due to the activation of small muscles in the limbs to aid poses
  • Increased flexibility
  • Deep, restorative breathing
  • Mental clarity
  • Post-injury recovery
  • Yoga has no detrimental impact on the knee or ankle joints
  • It will leave you with a sense of being enough, regardless of how deep you go into a pose

*

Did you know?

There are 26 bones in our feet. Feet are essential to running, we didn’t need research to tell us that…. Running up or down a steep hill? Running for long periods of time with fatigued legs? Need agility running on un-even terrain? It’s the ankles that get the brunt of the impact. Yoga incorporates poses that will train the little muscles in your feet (and hands) that will greatly improve your ability to balance. Yoga builds strong foundations in the lower limbs, including all the muscles and ligaments in the feet. Yoga will put a runner in prime physique to tackle everything from a 5km park run to an 16+ mile cross country obstacle race….and if your routine isn’t that eventful, it means you’ll better dodge/move/avoid danger in your running whether it’s in a park, a wood or alongside traffic.

 *

Lastly…. For all you Runners who have not yet tried Yoga…..

Many Runners may not want to go to a Yoga class because they think they’re not very good/feel really inflexible. But fundamentally, if you’re a beginner Yogi and a Runner, both of these will be true! Nobody starts off brilliant. Remember your first ever run? Like you, the very best Yogi was a beginner once. As runners, our hamstrings get shorter, so unless we give them opportunity to stretch properly, this will only get more pronounced… Please have the confidence to turn up to a Yoga session and appreciate what your body can do, not what it can’t!