Will Practicing Yoga Help My Running?

Heifers! I promised you a few weeks back that we'd have some guest bloggers stopping by, and today I'm pleased to introduce you to my friend Kat.  You can follow her on twitter by clicking here.  

Kat stopped by today to talk about yoga, and how it can help your running.  Have a read: 

Will Practicing Yoga Help My Running?

As a lifelong runner I have felt a noticeable improvement in both my mind and body once I incorporated a regular yoga practice into my routine. Initially I was surprised at how much there was to learn and absorb in yoga. I had visions of people in complex poses and was relieved to find out that not every form of yoga included handstands and arm balances. I started out with a vinyasa class that was suitable for beginners. Within time I moved along to more advanced classes all the while enjoying the positive effects of yoga on my running.

When I roll out my yoga mat I feel like a transformation inside me takes place. Once it is unrolled and I plop my body on it I begin to relax. I know that for the next ninety minutes that I will not think about anything, but if I am distributing weight into my feet, where I am holding my tension, or is my back nice straight in my plank? My thoughts may wander a bit and I allow them to. During class I feel strong, brave, powerful, accepting, and more loving towards myself and others. It is not a place to compare yourself to others so it’s a good balance to counter a competitive mind about running times. Something as simple as a balancing pose can teach a lesson on patience and persistence. Accepting that possibly the left side is more flexible than the right side. I am one of those people who forgets to breathe. I need the reminders to breathe. I found that sometimes the savasana was the only time I had a quiet mind which allowed me to turn my thoughts inward. Small changes start to take place after attending classes for a few weeks. My core becomes stronger over time which helps my running form. All of the life lessons and challenges in yoga lends itself to long distance running.

As runners we all know what's it's like to set a goal. Sometimes it’s a distance goal such a half marathon or running each mile under a certain time. I have stressed myself out with trying to achieve a particular time and I missed the joy of running during it. We ambitiously sign up for a race while still on a high from our last one. We set out with a plan and start pounding out the miles. Our mental game may be on point throughout training or we may struggle. Weather changes, family obligations, or an illness may take us off track and suddenly our mindset is no longer optimal. We may stick to our plan not wanting to be derailed from our goals. We may stay so focused on crossing the finish line that we may miss cues that our body is giving us that we need to cut back or that an injury is starting. Our bodies may have different plans for us. Shin splints may start, hamstrings become tighter, and backs may become sore due to improper form as the miles pile on. Without being in tune with our bodies we may wind up causing damage. We can avoid harming ourselves by beginning and consistently practicing yoga.

Yoga has helped me in all areas of my life, but especially with my running. Sometimes all I would do was make sure I had completed all the miles in my training plan as my only form of exercise. Having yoga as part of my weekly routine I could feel a significant difference in my body. My hips felt more open, I had a greater range of motion which made it easier to lengthen my stride.   Many stretches may be familiar already as part of a daily run prep, but a longer and more focused practice can have many benefits. The positive outcomes include flexibility, strength, energy and a focus on breathing. For example, my legs are much stronger which makes running up hills that much easier!

Even just a short series of poses can increase energy so an entire day is more productive.

On your mat complete self acceptance is key. It doesn't matter how fast your last mile was, Strava isn't there telling you if you've earned a medal by completing a segment faster than usual. Whatever you bring to class and on your mat is exactly what you need.  Be open and patient with yourself! Allow the positive thoughts to sit and resonate with you. Feel your crackly and tight muscles begin to get softened and loosened up. Focus your energies on relaxing and nurturing your body. There are no cheering crowds as you hold your down dog.

As a result of combining yoga with running will make room for more personal records as the risk for injury is reduced, more muscles are engaged, and breathing becomes more mindful. Knowing how much yoga benefits my life it makes me want to share with others a similar experience with the same positive effects. Namaste!


About Kat:

Kathy Boraski.  Princeton NJ. Passionate about Fitness. Lifelong Runner of distances up to half marathon.  Sprint distance Triathlete. Crossfitter. Kids Yoga Teacher. Special Education Teacher.