Runners are often considered one of the fittest people on the planet but did you know that a number of them suffer from strength and flexibility issues? Surprising, isn’t it?
A runner typically strikes the ground nearly a 1,000 times in a single kilometre and with each step the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments take a severe pounding. So, how can runners protect themselves? This is where yoga can be a big factor.
Yoga and running are like the Yin and Yang of fitness. By practising yoga as a supplement to your running regime, you can further develop your strength, flexibility and mental awareness.
Strengthening of certain muscle groups
Running helps strengthen certain muscle groups primarily the hamstrings and quads. Overuse of these muscle groups over time causes pain and fatigue. It can also lead to imbalances in your body when only a few muscle groups are working while other areas tend to become weak and more prone to aches and injuries. Incorporating yoga into your routine helps you to engage both your major and minor muscle groups which work together to provide greater hip mobility and core strength. Many key poses in yoga activate the glutes and hips (which are often a runner’s weakness) thereby strengthening them. Yoga is comprehensive as it involves strengthening of the whole body and helps get the whole body involved while running.
Increases range of motion
Devout runners are most likely to have a limited range of motion because when they run, their bodies are only moving forward and backwards. However, doing a lateral movement like a side lunge or diagonally to do a wood chop might feel unfamiliar and difficult. By only running and not doing other exercises your restricting your body to move in different directions which will lead to overuse of muscles further increasing the risk of injury. This is where yoga comes into play by allowing your body to move in different directions by doing twists, warrior pose and lunges. Having greater hip mobility and larger range of motion not only improves your running performance but also minimises the risk of injury.
Breathing is central to both running and yoga. Having the right breathing technique while running provides oxygen to your muscles for endurance and prevents cramps. In yoga, it helps provide focus and awareness of the body. Ujjayi breathing in yoga focuses on diaphragm breathing where you inhale and exhale through your nose and done so in equal length. This type of breathing helps extend the breadth for longer duration improving endurance due to higher levels of oxygen. By focussing on your breathing pattern during your workout, you’re actively connecting your body and mind. This further facilitates in having a better control on your respiration rate which helps in maintaining the pace for longer. Other benefits of focussing on your breathing is better core engagement and body positioning both of which help you run more efficiently.
Running in general and even more so on the competitive side is a mind game. Yoga helps build focus and concentration by removing negative thoughts or unexpected distractions during a run. Yoga also provides runners with better mental strength to be more calm and reflective to better manage stress, builds self-belief and confidence during tough times that can be extended to other areas of life too. Through yoga, runners are able to pay attention to bodily signals and develop intuition that helps you differentiate true pain that is caused due to injury which otherwise might be ignored due endorphins produced during a run.