Yoga complements running and can be a highly beneficial cross-training activity following a run and on non-running days. Practicing yoga on a regular basis helps build and strengthen muscle groups that play a major role in stabilization, as well as engaging and activating underutilized muscles.
Yoga works the whole body, especially the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors. It also engages smaller stabilizing muscles that don’t receive attention from other workouts. This is critical for runners, as these muscles improve the balancing and stability needed to prevent injuries and run safely on the road and especially on the trail.
Yoga allows the runner to practice active recovery, which is considered more beneficial than resting completely or sitting. Active recovery is a low-intensity workout that fits into your training schedule every few days or when tapering to break up the repeated cycle of strenuous workouts. It helps keep blood flowing in order to assist muscles to recover and rebuild after intense physical activity.
Other examples of active recovery besides yoga include, but are not limited to walking, hiking, or swimming. Yoga as an active recovery method offers other benefits, including practicing Pranayama breathing in conjunction with the positions. This technique involves breathing deeply with control through the nostrils. This breathing practice trains the respiratory muscles, improving lung function and elasticity.
Psychologically, yoga can improve mental focus while running. The mental benefits of yoga enable the runner to better deal with negative thoughts by silencing the mind or working through them with empowering thoughts and feelings.
The stretching that is implemented in yoga programming can increase flexibility and restore range of motion both of which are critical for a runner to reduce the risk of injury. When practicing yoga after a run, keep the workout brief in duration and low in intensity. Longer practice post-run can overly exhaust muscles, which increases the risk of suffering a running or overtraining injury.
Runners looking to begin including yoga in their training plan should start gradually with one training session per week, increasing to two sessions after three or four weeks.
Jessica Diaz is an ultra runner, loving wife & mother, owner of a Siberian Husky, RRCA Running Coach & Race Director, as well as Marketing Director at The GYM Cape Carteret Aquatic & Wellness, The Studio at Cape Carteret and CEO of Diaz Media.