Yoga for Runners

TORONTO June 18th. In the eighth blog for our “Road to #STWM” series, Digital Champion Lisa Davidson talks about how yoga can improve your running! Lisa will be taking on the Toronto Waterfront Marathon for the second time this year and is practicing yoga as a way to train both her body and her mind to get through 42.2k on October 20th. You can follow Lisa on twitter @TorontoFitMom.

Yoga for Runners. By Lisa Davidson.

Yoga and running. These two forms of physical activity couldn’t be any further from one another on the exercise spectrum, but together they can help any runner reach new personal bests through breath and stretching. By introducing yoga into your training, I can guarantee that you will offset the effects of running’s one-dimensional nature and as an added bonus, you and running will live happily ever after.

As a yoga instructor, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I’m not flexible enough” as the excuse reason why one does not have a yoga practice. Yoga is not just for people who can wrap their leg around their head. Yoga is about the journey towards touching your toes (or wrapping your leg around your head – if that’s what you’re into) and allowing your breath to carry you from one position to the next.

As runners, we often forget about breathing, especially when faced with pesky things like hills. Instead of focusing on our breathing, we often hold our breath until we reach the top. Let me ask you a question, when you do that how do you feel? Tired? Heart racing? Like you can’t go on? With something as simple as proper breathing, you will find that you can calmly run one kilometre to the next, including hills, with ease.

Photo credit: Eva Redpath BCBD Retreat, Cabo San Lucas 2013

As runners, we experience a lot of pounding, tightening, and shortening of the muscles and not enough restorative, elongating, and loosening work. The body starts to compensate to avoid injury by working around any instability, putting stress on muscles, joints and the entire skeletal system. If you’re off balance, every step you take forces the muscles to work harder. Tight muscles get tighter and weak muscles don’t have a chance to become strong, and this is why you end up spending more time in recovery than training.

Runners can use yoga to develop strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. You learn how to coordinate your breath with each subtle movement. The result is your body, mind, and breath integrated in all action. Mental focus is also important for distance runners and yoga has a meditative component that can help keep you calm and focused through any training run and race.

Give yourself the best chance to succeed on race day and add yoga to your training schedule. In 2008, when I first ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I focused all my training on adding miles and speed, while putting my regular yoga practice on hold. Unfortunately, at the 24km mark of the race I developed tremendous IT band pain and spent the rest of the race in agonizing pain. This year, I am making yoga a regular part of my training routine! Since doing this, I have become a new runner. I am more in tune with my body, my recovery time is shorter, and on race day I will not only be physically ready, but mentally prepared as well.

Still think that the benefits of yoga for runners are overstated? How does this grab you: with a straighter spine, a stronger core and better focus you will become a more efficient runner. Check out this video from Get Fit in the City where I take you through a short yoga flow you can do at home. You can also join me on Sunday July 7th at Chopra Yoga Centre for a special Yoga for Runners Workshop. Contact me for more details @TorontoFitMom on twitter.

See you on the mat/pavement.

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