Asking a runner to be still when he could be out pounding the pavements may seem like misplaced advice, but despite the difference in pace, there’s a lot to gain from making yoga a part of your cross-training routine. Not only does it improve your running form, but also helps in preventing the most common running injuries by strengthening your cores and making you more aware of your body in general.
Fix the tight spots
As a runner, you’re more than conscious of those few muscles that you end up overtaxing thanks to the repetitive nature of the sport. Hamstrings, calves, quads, hip muscles and the iliotibial (IT) band fall into this category and any stiffness in these specific muscle groups can end up hampering your run or lead to really painful cramps. Yoga aids in loosening and lengthening out such tight spots in your body to their highest range of motion.
The downward dog pose is ideal for lengthening and opening out your hips, calves, quads and hamstrings besides adding some stretch to your upper arms, shoulders and back that can get stiff from running. Dig your heels deep into the ground and lift your buttocks as high as they can go to maximise the stretch.
Strengthen your cores
You know the importance of strength training as a runner; particularly with regards to the feet and ankles that take brunt of your body weight as well as the impact of the surface on your runs. For road and treadmill runners, this is particularly crucial as the impact felt is more during repetitive routines.
The Warrior III asanais a great post-run workout for strengthening the ankles, legs, shoulders, and back muscles, while at the same time improving your posture – and we all know how important that is for a good run. Stay in the final position of the pose for 30 seconds to a minute and remember to exhale when you release yourself from it.
Trail runners especially will vouch for the advantages of being able to stay upright and on your toes while negotiating nooks and crannies and dodging loose pebbles on the way. The more you can strengthen your legs and improve your balance, the less likely you are to twist an ankle or fall down when you’re on any type of uneven ground.
The Half Moon pose is a good way to work on your balance. Not only will it further strengthen your abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks, and spine, but also improve your coordination and sense of balance across all surfaces.
All in the mind
Apart from targeting specific muscles, yoga also helps in you in less apparent ways by controlling your breathing technique and de-stressing your mind. Endurance athletes vouch for the fact that bursts of negativity and fatigue during a run can hugely affect the outcome—something that meditative yoga can reverse by keeping your thoughts positive and focused on the present.
Cooling down with the Bridge pose for example, is a highly restorative and energising way to relax, free your mind and simply luxuriate in the strength and poise of your body, especially after a satisfying run.
Main Image: Matthew Ragan