Often called runner’s high, the joy of making it to the place where you lose sense of time and simply connect to the road in a run is why many runners continually return to the open road. Running is a minimal gear activity and one you could start today by literally stepping out your front door. Being a runner can take you throughout the seasons – add a rainproof layer, a breathable wool top, and the run continues in even the most extreme temperatures. Runners love their hobby. However, if running is all that you do, you may begin to see injuries creep up as imbalances could occur. One helpful way to keep injuries at bay is by adding yoga into your training. Yoga has been touted as a runner’s best friend and there are many reasons to incorporate yoga into training.
Increased Body Awareness Can Lead to Injury Prevention
Running is repetitive action with the same muscle groups being used continuously. The quadriceps, IT band (iliotibial band), hamstrings, glutes, and calves are the major muscles engaged during a run. Using these muscles, repetitively, without cross-training or stretching could lead to injury. Tendinitis or stress fractures occur by trauma from repeated actions, especially as we age. Introducing the stabilizing, strength building, and stretching found in yoga can decrease the chances that injury will occur. Not to mention the added benefits of mindfulness and breathwork found within a yoga practice. Mindfulness teaches an individual how to listen to their body and this practice of noticing the body is one of the best ways to prevent an injury from ever happening. Mindful awareness protects us by assisting us with knowledge of being present with what our body is trying to say. A mindfulness practice, found within yoga, can draw attention to your body if joints hurt or ache during physical activity, this mindfulness can prevent injury, as we are attentive to the pain, recognize the pain, and then stop instead of trying to push through pain – specially in joints.
Breathwork, developed in a yoga class, assists runners with increased stride, power during hill climbs, and helps with maintaining an even pace for longer. Increasing VO2 max, or aerobic capacity, is crucial for racing and running successes. VO2 max is the volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that you consume while running. If an athlete has a high VO2 max, then they carry the ability to pump large amounts of oxygen-rich blood to all the muscles that are working. This maximum oxygen intake is vital physiological variables which lead to increased performance and endurance for runners and athletes. In yoga, the breathwork associated with a physical practice is called pranayama. Pranayama translates from Sanskrit as “breath control.” Practicing breath control increases a runner’s ability to control their breath while racing. There are numerous studies and practices available which point to increasing VO2 max by learning proper breathing techniques. It has been shown that when a runner learns to change unconscious breathing patterns, then body oxygenation and VO2 max will also greatly improve.
Oftentimes runners, who maintain a balanced running career, get by without injury. When preparing for longer runs or races, adding yoga into the mix strengthens and stretches muscles of the body, keeping runners safe, as well as stable during a run. With increased oxygenation and body awareness, the mix of running and yoga do seem to be ideal.
Yoga Impacts Concentration for Runners, Taking Them the Extra Mile
“I first went to yoga back in 2016. I was regularly running, so why not do yoga with beer?” Dylan, an avid runner in Knoxville states. “I enjoyed the mindfulness that came. Figuring out what I needed to do with my body required all my focus, and all the other daily chatter got quiet. This mindful element was not something I noticed until afterward. A refreshing difference with yoga and running is that in yoga it is never a competition. You focus on becoming better at ‘your’ practice. This mindset is also beneficial for running, race or not. On a happy side note, I met my wife, Mary, for the first time at a yoga class.” The added benefit of improved concentration for a runner is huge. Maintaining focus on the miles that are between you and the end of the run or the finish line takes a huge amount of focus. One of the Eight Limbs of Yoga (the core philosophies of yoga tradition) is all about focus. In Sanskrit, the ancient yoga language, Dharana, the 6th limb of yoga, means focused concentration. Runners often talk about having focused concentration, or dharana, when in a race. Look at any runner’s face during a marathon, or intense race and you can visibly see this concentration or dharana. If you’re struggling to maintain focused mindsets while running, this is another situation where yoga can provide assistance. In yoga poses, such as tree, the yogi must maintain focused concentration, dharana, on a single point that is not moving in order to maintain balance. This concentration in tree pose is maintained while the yogi lifts their leg, raises arms overhead, and perhaps even says. This is one example of where concentration is ‘taught’ in a yoga session. This concentration learned in a yoga class, trains the mind for daily life. Concentration during a yoga session increases focus, and this practice carries off the mat into daily life and therefore into running. For additional training with concentration, we recommend meditation, which is the next limb of yoga, dhyana.
Wellness for All Athletes Across East Tennessee Runner, cyclist, walker, hiker, you name it and we think that any form of movement benefits from the added practices of mindfulness and breathwork. With this article, we partnered with @865running to bring the benefits of yoga added into a runner’s cross-training. At Rigazzi, we custom create classes and programs for the athlete, or inner athlete, in all of us. Why not take add yoga to your training routine to reap the benefits? Check out one of the community classes that Dylan mentioned above, or reach out to schedule a private class for you, your workplace, or school! We guarantee the practice will improve not only your run, but also your mind and overall fitness goals.