Yoga to Improve Your Running Performance

Woman doing child's pose

How Yoga Can Help You Improve Your Running Performance

Running plateaus happen to most runners from time to time. If you're frustrated by your inability to increase your speed or improve your endurance, adding yoga to your training regimen may offer a simple solution to the problem.

Yoga Prevents Muscle Imbalances

Running strengthens your calf muscles, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Unfortunately, building up these muscles may mean that other muscles become weaker. Muscle imbalances can affect the alignment of your spine and cause gait issues that slow you down and increase your risk of injury. Hip and back pain, tight muscles, knee and ankle issues, and decreased flexibility and mobility can also occur due to imbalances.

A hamstring strain, Achilles tendonitis, or knee pain may be signs that your muscles aren't balanced. Yoga sessions offer a whole-body approach that work all the major and minor muscle groups and strengthens your core.

Yoga Can Improve Your Flexibility

Tight joints and muscles affect your gait and the length of your stride and may even slow you down. Do your hamstrings tend to tighten up when you run? Performing downward-facing dog or the seated forward bend poses will stretch those muscles and keep them flexible.

If hip tightness is a problem, the bound angle or pigeon poses will naturally enhance your flexibility. The child's pose, a deceptively simple pose that works your glutes and muscles in your hips and lower back, is a must for runners who want to improve flexibility. During the pose, you'll sit on the floor with your legs tucked under you and reach forward with your upper body to touch your head on the mat.

Tight muscles can restrict your stride, making it impossible to run as fast as you want. If you practice yoga just two or three times a week, you may soon notice an improvement in your speed. When post-run muscle discomfort is a frequent problem, yoga offers the perfect way to prevent aches and pains.

Have a Running Injury? Yoga Can Help You Recover

Although you may need to take it easy for a few days or weeks after an injury, remaining too sedentary can lead to muscle tension, scar tissue formation, and reduced range of motion. While you recover, practicing yoga will help you stay flexible and active. Yoga also strengthens muscles and tissues that may have become weaker during your recovery period.

If you're like many avid runners, you might not want to take pain medication. When you perform yoga, your body releases natural painkillers called endorphins that also help improve your mood. Thanks to yoga, you may be able to avoid pain medication or at least use less of it.

Yoga Also Offers Mental Benefits

Running is just as much about mental preparation as it is physical. Anxiety and stress can affect your running performance and even make you question your ability to succeed.

Deep breathing and meditation, two key aspects of yoga, can help you find the mental reserves you need to keep going when you don't think you can run another mile. Elite athletes, including runners, often rely on breathing exercises when competing. In fact, steeplechase runner Stephanie Garcia told Runner's World that focusing on her breathing during a race helps her overcome mid-run doldrums.

Synchronizing your breathing with your movements may also make movements more natural and fluid and may reduce anxiety.

Repeating a mantra during meditation clears your mind of negative thoughts and feelings and improves your awareness of your body. When you use your mantra during runs and races, you're more likely to feel centered, focused, and positive.

Could yoga help you improve your performance? We'll help you find the perfect yoga class for your needs when you contact our studio.

Sources:

Runner’s World: How 5 Elite Runners Use Yoga to Improve Their Performance, 3/1/17

Yoga Journal: 10 Ways Yoga Makes You Faster, 4/12/17

Self: Why All Runners Should Consider Adding Yoga to Their Routines, 1/15/19