“You want me to put my foot where?!?” “Am I really supposed to be able to reach my toes without bending my knees?!? “ “Are you sure my hip won’t dislocate if I try to twist it that far?!?”
These are the questions that “run” through the minds of most runners when they go to their first yoga class.
Once they get passed the initial shock of how limited their bodies are, their minds often settle into another internal monologue – “Does this count as a workout?” “Maybe I should have spent this time squeezing in a few more miles instead.”
Many runners, especially those training for a marathon, are not willing to give up valuable running time to attend yoga classes. They know that running more miles can improve their race day performance, and they don’t see the same benefits from yoga.
As physical therapists and experienced runners ourselves, we believe that yoga can improve your race day performance. Yoga helps prevent injuries, allowing for more intense training and therefore faster racing performances. Runners utilize the same muscles, in the same plane of motion day in and day out. This initially helps build strength, but over time, the repetition causes the muscles to become “tight”, which is a source of many overuse injuries. Yoga helps to counteract the tightness built up while running and lengthens muscles in multiple planes of motion, creating an overall balance and promoting proper alignment.
The definition of running is having one foot on the ground at a time – meaning your body is relying on that one foot to keep you from falling over or spraining an ankle. It is surprising how many runners have poor balance. Yoga promotes overall balance and stability.
A big part of yoga is focusing on controlled breathing and being mindful of the way the body is moving. This body and breath awareness teaches the mind how to tune out distractions – a skill which is very useful for runners. An awareness of the body during workouts aids in the decision of when to push and when to rest. It also acts as an alert to the early signs of an injury. Tuning out distractions is a helpful strategy for race day when nerves, family members and weather conditions all attempt to play with your mind.
Runners must check their competitiveness at the door when entering a yoga class, as it is important to practice within the limits set by each individual body (however inflexible that may be). After the first couple classes, it gets easier – remember the first time you started running?!?
The benefits will start to kick in quickly and it will become clear that improving flexibility, alignment, stability, balance, body and breath awareness all contribute to healthier and better running performances.
If you are ready for these changes, please join us every Monday night leading up to VCM at 6:15pm for our Yoga for Runners Series put on by: Green Mountain Rehab & The Green Mountain Running Medicine Shop. $10/class!