Running whether we like it or not results in muscles tightening, soreness and the occasional injury. Despite having the fitness of a healthy 21 year old we feel as stiff as our 85 year old grandmothers when getting up from our desks after a 9-5 day. The fact is the majority of us spend over 8 hours a day sat on our arse where our hamstrings naturally shorten, our back arches and our shoulders slouch forward. Yoga is the perfect way to increase flexibility as a runner and help assist with loosening out tight muscles and reducing the risk of injury whilst also improving strength and even helping develop controlled breathing. So yeah - I’m sure we are all time crunched and maybe a little intimidated by being the only one in the class that can’t touch their toes but winter is here and now is the perfect time to put the excuses away and look at yoga as a way of being able to hit our PB’s. Let’s take a look at why we should all dedicate a small piece of our week to hitting that yoga matt.
You will develop strength in key areas including the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors which can help you run more efficiently. By holding certain poses it will require certain muscles to stabilise the body developing their strength. All this strengthening of key muscle areas will result in a strong and balanced running posture which is vital for the transfer of energy making your technique much more efficient.
Develops Flexibility and Loosens out Muscles
Two key ares which will really benefit from taking up Yoga are the hamstrings and lower back which are typically problem areas for runners. Yoga has certain focus points in lengthening through the posterior chain and opening up the hips which helps relieve tension in the hip flexors, TFL, and hamstrings. Lengthening and loosening up the hamstrings and lower back can lead to increased stride length for runners which can play a fundamental part in the improvement of times.
Reduces the risk of injury
Yoga is the perfect way of relieving muscle imbalances which are usually developed by runners. Discovering different degrees of flexibility on different sides of the body can be the catalyst for really working on these imbalances and generating equilibrium on both sides of the body. Having muscular imbalances for an athlete can lead to a number of risks or injuries, so working on this can lead to greater efficiencies and decreasing the risk of injury.
Teaches breathing control
Holding poses in Yoga teaches you to control your breathing under pressure or under tension. As a runner there are times when your lungs are under serious strain and breathing can become fast and shallow. With the incorporation of yoga into your routine it can teach you breathe better allowing you to deliver a larger amount of oxygen to the muscles when needed, consequently increasing performance.
You’ll become a better pacer
We are all guilty of it… When someone passes us in a race we automatically think about increasing our pace or trying to keep up with them until we realise that we can’t or at least shouldn’t. Yoga teaches the value of patience and when and when not to push ourselves further. Teaching our body and mind a calm attitude and self restraint when necessary to maintain that steady pace and stick to the race plan is really valuable when it comes to racing.
If you are not sure if yoga is right for you - there is a number of great workouts on Youtube that you can try from beginner to pro. We recommend starting out at beginner level if you haven’t done it before. If you are not one for sticking to home workouts then join a local yoga studio and attend once or twice a week.