Long distance running at any level is a rewarding, yet demanding sport that takes a great amount of training and dedication. As a runner, you may find yourself often looking for new training methods and ways to enhance their performance.
One activity that is often overlooked, but has countless benefits when worked into your regular routine is yoga. Many professional athletes and teams have realized the value of incorporating yoga into their vigorous workouts.
Building muscle and strength
Many see yoga as merely stretching and assume that it doesn't aid in building strength or muscle, but yoga actually isn't stretching at all. Yoga has been proven to aid in the building of muscle and strength. Through a series of muscle contractions paired with specific breathing patterns, yoga has been proven to increase:
Helps with the discomfort of tight muscles
A rigorous training schedule often leads to muscle tension and pain. This pain and tension often leads to unwanted downtime. So how do you relieve that pain and get back to training? Yoga!
Many yoga positions require specific poses and movements in a very controlled manner, such as the positions you might learn in a sequence-type yoga class. Doing these poses will force you away from harmful muscular compensation patterns that you may develop from repetitive motions. This can then activate your dormant muscles and give your overactive compensating muscles a much-needed break.
Improved breathing techniques and endurance
A known part of yoga is an emphasis on calmness and breathing techniques. Many yoga teachers believe that the way you breathe is paramount to your success in any physical activity. This technique may seem too simple to be effective, but it does make sense. It allows you to become more focused of what is going on with your body by making you more mindful and present.
Poor breathing techniques can make you short of breath and anxious, thus hindering your performance as a runner. Yoga teaches slow and evenly-paced breathing that can be easily transferred to running, especially long distances.
Helps prevent some running injuries
When you run, you have many repetitive movements. This means you are more prone to muscle imbalance because of the increased development of some muscles while others are ignored. Over time, this eventually leads to overuse injuries. Often these injuries are directly related to:
Classes that specialize in restorative yoga can help with the recovery of injured muscles and get you back on the road sooner after an injury.
Yoga can help prevent many types of injuries by:
Surprising benefit for endurance athletes
Many people do not associate yoga with increased levels of endurance. With many training routines, you will often spend many hours working your neuromuscular and metabolic systems while pushing your body to the max. The reason why you do this is to build your endurance, but it can also make you more prone to injury and quite honestly, sometimes burnout.
With yoga work that is geared toward building your endurance, you can get almost the same results, but without putting the added stress on your body. If you want to build your endurance, look for a power or “vinyasa” yoga class that places emphasis on strength and endurance. In this type of class, you will learn how to hold your body to maintain postural and mental composure while practicing breathing techniques that will help you focus more on your body.
For some athletes, power yoga can provide the missing link they need to be able to push their body through difficult situations or moments while competing. It can provide the tools you need, both physically and mentally to keep going instead of throwing in the towel.
Working yoga into your regular routine
You may be wondering how you could possibly work yoga into your already busy schedule without skimping on your existing training routine. It is easy to add some yoga exercises into your routine without having to figure out how you are going to be able to find time to attend yoga classes.
One of the great things about yoga is that it can work inversely with your training routine. On heavy training days, do an easy yoga workout that will help your body recover. Ramp up your yoga workout on light run days to build endurance and strengthen your core.
Consider adding the following yoga poses to your workouts:
1. Triangle pose to loosen tight hips and relieve stress
2. Chair pose can help strengthen your ankles
3. Tight shoulders can be relieved with the eagle pose
4. Downward dog to relieve tight hamstrings
5. Loosen up tight back muscles with the cat/cow pose
Contrary to popular belief, yoga isn't just for women and as many professional athletes know, it can really help improve your overall performance, both physically and mentally.
Keep in mind, not all yoga classes are created equal. As an athlete, you will want to find a well-rounded yoga class where the focus will be not only on flexibility, but also on strengthening, core stabilization, balance and endurance.