5 Reasons Why Every Runner Should Do Yoga

I just go back from running this afternoon in a very humid Central Park and I am beat! I did a one mile warm-up, 4 Yasso 800s (3:30, 3:34, 3:32, 3:30–so, according to Mr. Bart Yasso, I can run Philly in about 3:32. I’m gonna hold you to that, Bart!) and ran two and a half miles home to my apartment. Between that, my long run on Sunday and studying, I think I’ve had about enough for the day.

Hold up. Not so fast.

Oh yeah, I need to get my yoga on before the day is out. My body is truly asking for it. My hip is achey, my hamstrings are undoubtedly tight (sprints do that to you) and I’m sure that my back could always use a bind or two. Yoga has truly saved my running life!

Here’s the skinny on why I do yoga and why every runner (AND NON-RUNNER!) should invest his/herself in a yoga practice:

1. It will make you more limber. More limber=longer, lighter strides. Active stretching is the most effective way to increase and maintain length in muscle fibers. Those 5 minutes you spend stretching when you get home are nothing compared to 45 minutes of active stretching in a vinyasa yoga class.

2. It will help prevent overuse injuries that happen because of muscle/tendon tightness (which eventually lead to inflammation, ie. tendonitis). When we run, everything tightens up to prevent our joints from wobbling about. And that’s a good thing. But, we need to combat that tightness with stretching to avoid a nasty bout of tendonitis or shin splints.

3. It opens up your hips. The hips bear the brunt of every step we take and so our glutes and rotators end up being super-tight as a result, which leads to problems with piriformis, gluteus medius and a whole host of lower back issues. Oh yeah, you know all the talk about ITB syndrome? Yoga helps with that, too. You’re starting to think this is a good idea now, aren’t you???? Keep reading…

4. It will make you stronger mentally. As runners, we pride ourselves in being able to power through long miles with mental toughness. Ever tried to hold a bind in your side angle position while your hip flexor and quad are burning and tell yourself, “I can do this” when you feel like you’re going to fall over? Yeah, that’s hard, too. They compliment each other nicely that way.

5. It will make you stronger physically. Cross training is a vital part of every athlete’s preparation. Yoga hits the upper body, lower body and core all in one. It’s a one-stop shop for your total body workout and all you need is a mat!

There are free yoga classes everywhere you look. Studios that train people to become yoga instructors often have “community classes” that are either free or donation-based where their students practice teaching (under supervision, of course). Every lululemon store offers at least one free yoga class every single week at the store. Lots of community centers offer free or low-cost yoga for yogis of all levels and the teachers are more than happy to help a beginner through the class.

Why, just the other day, Ms. Tampa was telling me she visited my most favorite yogi guru, Rodney Yee whom she felt gave her such amazing special attention because she told it was her first time at his studio. See? Just speak up and help is on the way!

Yoga has changed the way that I run. I have to tell you, as awesome as I feel after a great run, I feel just as amazing after a tough (and/or fulfilling) yoga class. It has taught me to breathe through things and to test my limits. I’m grateful for having found it when I was in college and rediscovered it here in NYC. Truly, it’s a gift you give yourself.

Ok, I’m off to do my yoga. You? Go out and run!

But first, tell me: What cross-training activity/sport changed your life or your running life?