By Mireille Massé, M.Sc., Canfitpro Certified Trainer
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the president of one of Canada’s largest marathons. During our talk, I discussed the possibility of hosting an after-event yoga session for runners to discover its many benefits. His answer was: “Personally, I’m not too keen on esoteric activities and anything ‘ommmmm’ related!” Interestingly enough, his response is precisely what I am hoping to debunk by hosting this activity.
Although some people practise yoga to meditate or find inner peace, runners too can draw considerable benefit from yoga’s assorted poses and routines. And their overall health stands to experience a powerful boost.
Three Good Reasons for Runners to Practise Yoga
1 – Boost Muscle Strength
We’re not talking about mind-boggling poses worthy of great yogis! Some poses should even be avoided and are not necessary to a runner’s physical health. It’s all about acknowledging that running does contribute to muscle imbalance, and yoga for runners helps correct some of them.
Strengthening muscles that are less involved in running – like inner thigh quadriceps and gluteus medius – helps prevent or correct some injuries.
The focus should also be placed on strengthening core and upper body muscles that are often overlooked by runners.
This type of workout leads to a better balanced body and in particular, to better posture in long distance runners.
Yoga exercises also involve a considerable amount of shoulder, arm and back movement that only engages the weight of the body which leads to longer, stronger muscles. Not necessarily to ‘bigger’ ones − like people who work with weights.
Long term, this translates into faster running speeds!
2 – Flexibility
Most runners lack flexibility and because of this, they shy away from yoga. Yet yoga does not require flexibility! It is one of its objectives, and proceeding at your own pace is important.
Runners often love working with intensity, and are performance-driven. They should therefore be mindful of not going beyond their limit, and practising yoga for personal reasons, free of judgment and competitiveness.
Yoga is similar to running: it requires years of practice and a good dose of personal humility!
If you try to push a yoga pose too far, you risk injury and compromising your running regimen.
Seeking advice from a professional, who knows and understands your runner’s habits, is extremely important.
3 – Breathing
People frequently ask me how a runner achieves optimal breathing. To run longer or faster, beginners and advanced runners alike discover their limits do hinge on cardiovascular fitness.
For instance, doing intervals is a good way to work this fitness element, but within limits.
I also suggest working on breathing at rest. Sitting in a buddha-like position or resorting to highly elaborate techniques aren’t necessary – it’s all about knowing how to ‘stop’ yourself!
In the long term, a number of participants do find a way of overcoming injury and stress. Boosting your concentration and knowledge of the human body while improving your performance as a runner − now these are other very good reasons to start practising yoga.
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