If you are a runner you will know it’s highly repetitious and high impact. We are on the count down to the Gold Coast Marathon event in July, the streets and pathways of the Gold Coast are full of seasoned and not so seasoned runners. Those increasing their mileage and building towards Half and full Marathons, will begin to notice the onset of twinges and aches which over the next few months maybe hard to resolve.
New runners, may go through a period of almost permanent minor injuries. Ranging from aching knees, feet and ankles and shortened tightened muscles.
These experiences should be no surprise as it’s calculated that each foot strike puts about 3 – 4 times your body weight impact through your body!
Yoga well and truly deserves a regular spot in your running program and is invaluable as part of your cross training protocol. Minimizing the risk of injury, complement rehab of existing injuries, yoga can and help you focus on your race day or training goals.
Muscle tightness post running happens for a couple of reasons. Firstly, no one is perfectly balanced, constant repetition means that imbalances are compounded and other muscles will be working overtime to compensate. Any tightness will end up tighter and any weakness will end up weaker!
For example, many runners, especially females use the power of their quadriceps, constantly lifting their legs to stride out. In fact, your glutes should be propelling you forward given they are part of your core (or powerhouse of your body). This constant action results in sore quads and tight hip flexors as they contract to facilitate the lift.
Another example is tight hamstrings, usually due to tightness in the lower back, or lumbar spine, and sometimes caused by lack of stabilization through the lower abdomen and the glutes.
Running is also performed in one direction only. However, during yoga practice you are encouraging your body to move through many planes of motion. Importantly yoga heats and gently lengthens those muscles susceptible to imbalance and overuse through running.
What Brings Yoga & Running Together?
Mind Body Connection
Yoga encourages us to cultivate our mind body connection. It helps build awareness of how you use your body and how you feel in your body.
Focus & Confidence
Anyone who practices yoga regularly has experienced the awesome clarity it brings to your life. Yoga enhances your ability to focus and develops a single pointedness. Why is this useful for runners? It helps your commit to your goals and attaches discipline to them. Letting go of any clutter in your life that’s not allowing a smooth path for you. Not eating correctly to support running, or surrounding yourself with positive like minded runners are just two examples.
Yoga takes courage! Ask anyone who’s ever toppled over in headstand or forearm balance. Running takes a lot of courage as well, whatever your distance or goals, it takes bravery to get out there, covering distances you’ve never run before. Just as yoga is a practice so is running, it takes commitment and courage.
Breath & Movement
At Essence of Living we practice Vinyasa Yoga. Every breath is linked to a movement. We are either inhaling of exhaling as we move on the mat. We try not to labour our breath, or cling or grab our breath, we want to breath seamlessly using every portion of our lungs. This helps us when we are running and fatigue sets in. We know to drop our shoulders, open our chests, (our heart space) let the prana rise, allow oxygenated blood to refuel fatigued muscles.
Relax your breath, slow down our pace and move consciously. This calmness created by yoga really translates into your running economy, to move with as little effort as possible, resulting in running faster and longer!
Incorporate yoga warm ups & cool downs as part of your run. Why not start with some Sun Salutations before you set off and finish your run with some yoga postures? There are plenty of postures which are great to counteract the effects of running and allow you to sustain both your yoga and your running with ease and joy.
It’s important to ensure that the postures below are only completed once your body is warm. Either post run or after completing a warm up which should be at least 6 – 8 rounds of Surya Namaskara A.
Anjaneyasana Variation hamstrings, calves
Ukatasana Variation (one legged squat) glutes, quads, barefoot balance, focus
Padangustasana (Foot Toe Pose) hamstrings, lumbar
Virasana (Hero Pose) quads, knees, lumbar spine
Ardha Matsyedransana (Half Sage Twist) shoulders, hips, spinal twist
xTrianga Mukaikapda Pashimottasana (One Leg Intense Forward Stretch) flat feet, dropped arches
Other pose options for research & use:
- Pashimottasana (Intense Forward Stretch) hamstrings, spine & shoulders
- Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) Restorative, great post run
- Anjaneyasana (Crescent Moon Pose) hip flexors, quads, lumbar spine
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose) thighs, groin, hip flexors
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose) lymphatic drainage, barefoot balance, focus
Maria is a yoga teacher at Essence of Living, a certified personal trainer and run coach. She has completed many half marathons. She is available for private and semi private sessions where she can work with you to develop a yoga practice to sustain and improve your running performance.