Marathon season is fast approaching. Runners are getting in their last weeks of training before the spring marathons begin. Many runners believe they are too restless and need too much rapid movement to ever really enjoy or benefit from yoga. But just because running and yoga are so drastically different doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and benefit from both.
Yoga is an excellent way to tone, relieve stress, and center yourself. But what are the benefits of yoga for runners specifically?
An important component of yoga for runners is static stretching, which can lengthen muscles. So can that part of yoga improve runners’ performance?
When you are striding out while running, having a certain amount of muscle length can help. When you go from running an 8-minute pace to a 7-minute pace, you’re trying to do speed work and you’re asking your muscles to lengthen, so having that level of flexibility is beneficial.
So, should all runners practice yoga?
For people who are sprinters, they’re working mostly on fast-twitch muscle fibers, and there is some concern that too much stretching can convert fast twitch to slow twitch muscles. But someone that’s a runner is going to run more often than not, and yoga could serve more as a way to cross train. Cross training is meant to work the muscle groups you don't usually work and to give you a mental break—yoga is great for that.
A smart runner can incorporate yoga into their exercise routine by recognizing that there are so many types of yoga, and if you’re seriously looking to take up the practice, it would be beneficial to find out which style would be best for you.
One thing to keep in mind too is that, depending on the type of program you’re on, for marathoners for example, most will do their long run on Saturday because they're working during the week. But if you’re doing a 90-minute [high-intensity] yoga workout the day after a 16-mile run—you might fatigue yourself.
There is some literature that shows that in order to see changes in muscle length, static stretching must be sustained over the course of weeks. Stretching once isn't going to do it, but in order to sustain that length you need to continually practice yoga.
Yoga can also help improve strength and flexibility in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip-flexors—all essential to your run. They even add that yoga can reduce injuries through this increased strength and all-around heightened awareness of your body. Yoga can be an excellent way to cross train, and a particularly good mind-cleanser, and listen to your body when incorporating it into your training plan.
For more information on the benefits of yoga for runners, contact Answer is Fitness.