While running and yoga may seem to be two very different types of exercise, they need not be exclusive from one another. In my experience as a yoga teacher and athlete, I have found that runners who practice yoga on a regular basis are much more likely to stay injury free than runners who do not add yoga into their training routine. Believe it or not, when your foot strikes the ground during a run, the force of the impact is three to four times that of your weight. You can imagine what kind of stress that repetitive motion can put on your body after your feet strike the ground over one-thousand times per mile. I can tell you right now, without any kind of rehabilitating practice such as yoga the likelihood of staying injury free is slim-to-none.
Here is why running and yoga are the perfect combination.
Yoga will help to keep you injury free
Sports injury analysis has proven that the majority of injuries are caused by an imbalance within our own bodies. Whether that imbalance comes from improper alignment, joint instability or limited range of motion they all have one thing in common, they will inevitably result in an injury and cause some serious pain. As runners we all know that the most common pain experienced during running usually comes from sore feet, back pain, muscle tightness, or joint stiffness. However, the pain most runners feel is not from the act of running itself, but from imbalances that running exemplifies. So instead of treating running pain with ice why not try and prevent it thorough yoga. If you bring your body into balance through the practice of yoga, trust me, you will be able to run longer and harder, improve your speed and stamina, and decrease your recovery time needed after a workout.
Yoga will improve your Balance and Alignment
Good balance and alignment are two of the most important aspects of staying healthy and injury free as a runner. Poor alignment and lack of balance can over time cause serious back pain, joint pain, and lead to more serious injuries, all of which can result in not being able to run in the future. So how can you avoid going down this painful path as a runner? It is as simple as rolling out your yoga mat and start practicing, even if you only practice one time a week, the balance and alignment you will learn through every single yoga posture will help keep you injury free in the long run. Think about it, if you are able to balance on one leg in a held yoga pose, what do you think will happen when you miss a step during your trail run and instead of twisting your ankle by falling off balance you are able to control that movement and keep yourself from injury. It is a no brainer to me that if you want to stay a healthy runner for decades to come, it is very important that your yoga practice stay right along there with you.
Yoga will increase your Stamina
While Yoga and Running may be very different from one another, one aspect where they are both similar is the importance of stamina and consistent breathing to the success of the workout. Since it can be really difficult to gain control of your breath while running, yoga does an amazing job of creating a safe and consistent way of gaining control of your breath through a one breath to one movement practice, also known as sun-salutations. Because the breath and body connection is so important in a yoga practice, after time, runners will find that they are able to use the connections they learned in yoga to control their breathing during a run without very much effort. Almost every single runner that I have worked with has said that one of the first things they noticed after beginning yoga, was a sense of ease in regards to their stamina and breath control, when before it was one of the most difficult aspects of their running.
Flexibility leads to longer strides and faster race times
As runners we all want to improve from race to race. And even if you don’t really care about your race time, I think it is still fair to say that the quicker you can get through your workout the better. One of the primary reasons why runners are incapable of increasing their speed is due to stiffness in the joints, and lack of flexibility and motility throughout the muscles. Because the practice of yoga focuses so strongly on lengthening the body through deep stretching, over time flexibility in postures will increase, causing an increase in joint motility and stride length.
So for all you runners roll out your yoga mat, and start practicing, you will be amazing at how much better you will feel when with running and yoga!