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
Helps with the discomfort of tight muscles
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
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
- Poor flexibility
- Poor core strength
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:
- Increasing flexibility
- Building a stronger core
- Aligning the spine
Surprising benefit for endurance athletes
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
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.