Yoga and Running seem like a match made in heaven. Taking part in either Yoga or running improves both our physical and mental well-being. It stands to reason that putting them together would only increase these benefits. To a degree this is true. Many people happily do both. I personally have seen an improvement to my running after adding yoga to my workouts. But I am a runner first and do yoga on the side. If your intention is to go as far as you can in Yoga then running may not be the best sport for you. Running tends to tighten our muscles which makes attaining those difficult poses more challenging. It can be done, but it will make your journey harder. If you are a runner first, however, then yoga can be a wonderful thing.
Yoga and Running
Why is yoga good for Runners?
Yoga is the perfect tradition to take up on the side if you are a runner. The movements and poses contained within Yoga are wonderful for developing muscular strength, flexibility, and balance. This provides runners with more support for the various joints which take a beating during a hard run. Knees, hips, and ankles are especially prone to injury in runners and any added support for them is worthwhile looking into.
The ability to breathe easily and fully while running is an important tool that runners can learn during yoga practice. Yoga places a great deal of importance on making you aware of your breathing and your body in general. Many runners struggle with breathing fully from the diaphragm while running and this can hinder performance.
Yoga is also good for making us more aware of our bodies. By consistently checking our form for each pose runners can gain a mindfulness that makes keeping good running form easier. Especially when we are tired. Bad running form tends to creep in as we grow weary and this can make us more prone to injury. Developing a habit of always checking our form is helpful in combating this.
Because many of the poses in yoga require balance it is a good tradition for increasing our mental focus and confidence. This mental fortitude combined with the deeper breathing and form awareness can be highly beneficial during long runs. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the benefits of yoga then I suggest our articles here – Yoga for Beginners, starting 30 days of Yoga
Yoga and Running – Which one should I do first?
People seem to be fairly divided on this. Many people swear by warming up with yoga and just as many are convinced that yoga as a cool-down is the way to go. There is a general consensus, however, that you should not do a very strenuous yoga workout right before a run. While you want your muscles warmed up they must remain somewhat tightened to withstand the impacts of running. Loosening your muscles and joints too much before a run could lead to injury. It is best to keep your pre-run workout lighter and leave the strenuous workouts for off days or a few hours after running.
The order in which you do your yoga workout is a personal choice and different ways work better for different people. You might need to experiment to find out if a warm-up or a cool down routine is best for you.
Some Benefits of Yoga before a run.
- Can be used as a warm-up
- Can focus your mind and breathing in preparation for a long run
- Yoga can help you relax. Being relaxed during a run generally improves performance and lessens aches later on that are caused by tension. This is especially true in the shoulder region.
Some Benefits of Yoga after a Run
- Stretches out muscles and joints.
- Seems to aid in a quicker recovery and fewer aches and pains if you recently increased your speed or distance.
- Restorative breathing and relaxation techniques can be beneficial after a long run and aid in helping you relax and feel restored.
Which one do you prefer?
When it comes to yoga and running I do not claim to be an expert. I am still fairly new to yoga although I have done a good bit of research on it while trying to learn. I started with my 30-day yoga challenge and have continued to practice since. Since my results post, I have come to a few conclusions regarding how Yoga and Running mesh for my own training.
- I prefer to use Yoga as a cooldown. I noticed a large difference in my recovery time if I do a bit of yoga after a long run. Especially now that I have increased my distance.
- While doing yoga before a run did make that first quarter mile a bit easier, overall it didn’t seem to benefit my end time or recovery. An easy first mile works just as well.
- Doing yoga during my off days helps keep me centered and I have definitely noticed a difference in my core strength. My lower back no longer aches after long runs – this was primarily caused by a weak core and lack of stability in my hip joints while running. My muscles are more capable of keeping things stable now.
Yoga and Running – Conclusions
If your goal is to be a better runner then I don’t see how yoga can be a bad addition to your training program. Provided that you are aware of your limits and don’t try to push too hard or too fast, which can be said for any sport!