We’ve already talked about how cross-training with yoga can be beneficial for runners by improving their core strength and making them less injury prone in general. There are several elite athletes who echo this sentiment and believe that yoga makes a difference to their run, particularly when it comes to improving concentration and mental focus.

Two-time US 5000m champion Lauren Fleshman, who started practicing yoga after injuring her foot, claims that following certain asanas proved beneficial in the long run. “Yoga helps me control my emotions while I’m in discomfort on the road,” she said in an interview with Runner’s World. “Enduring an intense pose is a lot like enduring a long run or tempo run.”

In fact, plenty of several major sports teams and athletes work this ancient stretching and strength discipline into their pre- and off-season workouts. Rebecca Pacheco, a 2009-Boston-finisher and Runner’s World yoga expert designs yoga sessions particularly for all kinds of runners to improve their mental focus and flexibility. One of her favorites, she is quoted as saying by asanaBoston, is the “supta baddha konasana using lots of props, so it also becomes a heart opener. That one is divine.”

Veteran marathoner John Farah has run several competitive events, but he swears by his yoga workouts. While it took him a while to figure out the kind of yoga his training routine was most suited for, he confirms that it’s not just the physical benefits of the sport that have him hooked.

In a column for CNN, he writes: “Call it a cliché, but yoga really does feed your soul as much as it does your body. I’ve learned that as much as I love being active and on the go, it really is necessary to take time out of each day to slow down, to forget about your computer, your smartphone and all those e-mails, to take some time away from your kids and your job and your responsibilities.”

In her eponymous autobiography, Olympic distance runner Zola Budd echoed the effect yoga can have on a runner’s mental strength and focus: “I felt more in touch with what was happening—I could actually feel the track.” Why do you need this as a runner? Simply put, yoga strengthens the body parts that are most impacted through running and this helps to absorb some of the shock that your feet ego through as you pound that pavement or trail.

Rebecca Pacheco swears by yoga for improving muscle structure and flexibility (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)
Rebecca Pacheco says yoga improves mental focus and, of course, flexibility (Image: Dina Rudick | Boston Globe)

Even renowned ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes who has written several books on long-distance running found himself pleasantly surprised when he gave yoga a shot. On Dean’s Blog, he talks about trying out Bikram and Power Yoga and recommends that all runners figure out the kind that works for them the best.

He writes: “Those who practice yoga regularly may tell you about the many virtues of the workout. I’ve heard everything from yoga removing toxins, aiding digestion, enhancing memory, aiding prostate health, and even boosting libido. That’s all good if true, but that’s not why I do yoga. I’m not trying to excise my demons and cleanse my system. I’m trying to get a solid workout and improve my running. For that, it seems to have been working pretty well lately.”

Gul Stretch
Ideally I like to practice Hatha yoga twice a week:Gul

Finally, even our Chief Fitness Officer and FirstRun’s in-app running coach Gul Panag calls yoga an indispensable part of her training. “Flexibility is very important. One doesn’t have to be super flexible for running, but your muscles need to be stretched out. Ideally I like to practice Hatha yoga twice a week, and I focus on Suryanamaskars, since they stretch every limb of your body”, she says of her flexibility workout routine.

Main Image: Reebok

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