Yoga and Running: The Perfect Duo

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If there is anything runners have in common, it is our outright disdain for one thing: Stretching.

Stretching before a run? No way! I have no time and I’m anxious to get going. After my run? Definitely not. I stink and I just want to slam the cheeseburger I rightfully earned. Before work?  Still tired from my last run. Before bed? I’ll probably fall asleep. So what’s a girl to do?

As I’ve gotten older, I finally admitted to my body that it needs to cross-train, stretch, and allow for active muscle recovery. But if you couldn’t tell from my introduction, I tend to come up with more than a few excuses. My one solution? Yoga.

Yoga is a runners best kept secret. It’s a form of exercise, but also has other health benefits for your mind and body. When used in combination with a thoughtful training schedule, it can enhance your training, improve your mental and physical health, and decrease your risk for injury. Below are some of the top health benefits of incorporating yoga into your running, or any, training plan.

#1 Improve your flexibility

When you run, your muscles are in a constantly contracted state. If you don’t counter this contraction with stretching, the muscles will shorten, increasing your risk for injury. Improving full body stretching can help with unnecessary muscular tension. This can help with that stiff feeling you sometimes feel during the first few strides of your run or that locking sensation mid-run when your muscles seize up and don’t want to move. Using yoga to stretch throughout the week can help with these problems.

#2 Strength training

That’s right folks, turns out we get a two-for-one deal here, where yoga practice can improve flexibility while also strengthening muscles at the same time. Sometimes when we run, we feel as though we are using the same muscles over and over. Yoga allows for a full body workout while targeting lesser-used muscles. Additionally, there is a unique focus on core strengthening in yoga, which can help with your overall strength and balance. Vinyasa yoga flows tend to provide whole body strengthening while also allowing for recovery and stretching.

#3 Balance work

Throughout our body, we have a lot of stabilizing muscles that help support bigger muscles on our runs. If you’re worried about twisting your knee or rolling your ankle, yoga can help with that! Balance work is an integral part of yoga. It allows for stabilization of small muscles, such as the ACL in your knees and your stabilizing ligaments in your ankles. Strengthening these can decrease your risk of injury on uneven terrain or when performing quick, sudden movements on a run.

#4 Ease of practice

Yoga is EASY. Yoga does not take any formal training nor involve participation at a gym or group classes with a fitness instructor. You can incorporate short yoga stretches before and after workouts, but also use yoga for active recovery and strength training. Yoga is versatile and there are a million variations to meet you and your body where you’re at.

In conclusion, Yoga is a quick, easy practice that you can incorporate into your training plan, not only to stretch your muscles pre and post-run, but also to allow for active muscle recovery, balance work, and mindful reset and rest. You can practice it anywhere, anytime while enjoying a multitude of benefits.

Best of all, your running legs will thank you as you cross the finish line.

See you on race day. Namaste.

Emily Foertsch, DNP, is a nurse practitioner in the Christie Clinic Department of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. She specializes in the prevention and correction of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints, and ligaments. In her spare time, Emily and her husband, Peter, enjoy being outside, traveling, and hiking. Emily is a busy boy mom, runner, and yogi!