Remember the old “Got Milk” ads and campaign in the mid-nineties? Like milk was such a staple and necessity that the ad almost insinuated that you might be an anomaly if you didn’t drink it. Almost implying even, that all healthy specimens consider milk essential. You may be asking yourself, what does milk have to do with Yoga? Well, runners let me ask you if you’ve “Got Yoga” in your life and if you realize how beneficial to us runners it can be?
The Multi-Facets of Yoga
Yoga has proven to offer a myriad of benefits like lowering blood pressure, reducing insomnia, and offering awareness and harmony for both mind and body. This probably sounds like a campaign ad as well. But for runner’s Yoga should be strongly considered as part of your training regime for the benefits of increased flexibility, muscle strength, and protection from injury.
“Running can lead to injury because of its repetitive nature and the resulting musculoskeletal imbalances. On a physical level, yoga restores balance and symmetry to the body, making it the perfect complement to running.” – Human Kinetics.com
According to this blog excerpt on Human Kinetics.com, https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/the-benefits-and-effects-of-yoga-for-runners, the runner’s body and the practice of running itself being such a repetitive singular plane exercise, can mean that a runner’s strength resides dominantly in his/her’s legs or lower body. It can also mean that muscles that would assist movement in other planes (the same muscles that assist balance and stability while running) become weak. Thus, major muscles groups doing all the work and becoming tight or “bound” and weaker ones taking a back seat to cropping injuries. Per the blog excerpt, “biomechanical imbalances” can lead to pain and dysfunction. And none of us want that!
Re-establishing a Physical Baseline
I have to admit that I had almost forgotten how great I could feel after an hour-long yoga session in heat. I am pretty disciplined about stretching after I run, and even trying to implement short 10-20 minute yoga sessions 2-3x/week in my own training. But, if I’m being honest, I know that I’m not always as thorough or spending time on reaching all corners of my body. I’m guilty of only focusing on the major running muscle groups. I.E. – hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, calf and Achilles, groin or inner thigh and IT Band.
Until I went to a heat yoga session the other day, I had forgotten how good and much more thorough a professionally led yoga session could feel. As a former sports and orthopedic massage therapist, I fully understand that our bodies are an entire kinetic chain and that our bodies nerves, muscles, and joints must all work together in a chain to produce motion. After I ran about five miles, I went straight into the yoga class. I came out feeling a much free-er physicality and range of motion even just in walking.
When and How to Implement Yoga
As a runner, you may like to implement yoga on rest or light cross training days as an alternative to pounding the pavement. Or you may choose to add it post run for the mobility and stretching benefits.
I’ve even implemented runner’s yoga over the years for the cross county team that I coach. I firmly believe that it aids them in all of the above mention benefits, but also helps to improve their range of motion. Surprisingly, even though these are some of the toughest athletes I know, the yoga and pilates sessions are still challenging and fun. My fellow coach and good friend Jen has become yoga and pilates instructor certified and has brought her lessons to our kids in the form of PiYo or as she likes to call it “Yoga-Latte”.
The PiYo a.k.a. “Yoga-Latte” sessions not only work flexibility and mobility but also challenge the core muscles and kinetic chain stabilizers. I also personally use and am a huge fan of the Runner’s World Yoga for Runners DVDs with Rebecca Pacheco.
You’d be surprised at how much upper body strength that Yoga can even require in poses such as downward dog. Or the strength and stability required for planks during a PiYo session. I may have allegedly even felt the burn in my quads and thighs during a few of the warrior poses.
The Runner’s Mental Edge
Did you happen to read any of the previous blog posts I’ve written on mindset? I wrote one called “How to be a Zen Runner“, which talks about present mindset and how to finesse your mental game in order to become a more present mindset athlete. Experts say that when you can obtain a present mindset, you can tap into “the zone” or what I like to call being a “Zen Runner”.
“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention; and sharpens concentration,” – Dr. Nevins for American Osteopathic Association
So I’m getting back to realizing that deliberate yoga practices and perhaps even a once a week longer yoga session is what my body could thrive on. I used to be so impatient during a yoga class and get bored. And perhaps maybe it’s my age coming into play here or that I now understand better what yoga does for my body, but I’m sold on yoga. New Year’s Resolution #1 – implement more regular yoga sessions into running routine and training.