Why is Yoga the Perfect Cross Training for Runners?
Ahh, runners. We tend to be a bit of an edgy bunch. Training for a race is by its very nature a structured endeavor; you have your deadline (race day), you have your tasks (training plan), and you have the rest of your daily life that needs to accommodate said schedule. What if someone—me, for instance—told you that one of the best types of cross-training for runners could also help free your mind and let go of the stress of training? Enter yoga, an age-old, tried-and-true way of keeping your body and spirit in great shape.
Written by Coach Karen Peterson
Edited by Pavlína Marek
When you embark on a journey through race training, it’s important to remember that nothing prepares you for running like running. However, if you want longevity as a runner, the “other stuff” (sleep, nutrition, cross-training) cannot be ignored.
We’ve heard a lifetime’s worth of talk about the importance of the mind/body connection, but what does that mean? In a world of literally a million distractions, with each of us constantly curating our influx of entertainment, news, and… whatever we call all the rest of the massive amount of content available to us, when are we distraction-free to really nurture that connection?
How Yoga Differs: Breathing and Presence
This is where yoga is different from just about every other form of exercise. By its very nature, we can’t tune out, whether we are practicing in a live class or virtually. Yoga demands our full attention, forcing our minds to enter a meditative state.
It’s often a bit unsettling to really tune in to where you are stiff and lack mobility. (Hips, anyone?) But various types of yoga use breathwork and movement, from the intensity and vigor of Vinyasa to the slower, deeper, and more meditative Yin, to dig deep into where we hold tension. (Wondering what style to try? Check this out.)
The lungs get into the act in a big way. Once you practice it, yogic breathing can help you control the intensity of your running effort—and help you use your breath to ease tension and anxiety, both on and off the pavement.
Stretch out Those Legs (and Arms, and Back, and…)
We runners tend to lack mobility and flexibility due to the very nature of our sport. Yoga is a great way to remedy that. But what if your body isn’t supple enough?
As with any type of physical activity, I urge you to check your ego and self-criticism at the door. As a wise former yoga instructor of mine said, “Not doing yoga because you’re too stiff is like not showering because you’re too dirty.”
Simplicity for the Win!
Finally, yoga can be simple! Props aren’t necessary—not even a mat if you don’t have access to one.
I love both Yoga with Adrienne (um, she also has a really cute dog) and Yoga with Kassandra on YouTube. You can search by length of video, type of practice, and best of all, they both have a huge selection of yoga specifically for runners.
Check in with me at coachkaren(AT)thesfmarathon.com if you would like some personal guidance and recommendations! And remember to breathe. 🧘