Guest post from Ann of Runners Love Yoga:
Runners love running, but many runners could run more consistently and fluidly by adding yoga to their training routine. By taking out just a few of those miles on the road, and replacing that time with a workout on the yoga mat, runners might find that their bodies feel rejuvenated and more efficient when they next take to the trails or streets.
Yoga helps a runner’s body in many ways, but two of the most important are through speeding recovery time and helping to correct existing imbalances in the body before they lead to injury. Stretching after a hard effort or race, or even just after a regular training run, helps prevent the body from tightening up, as happens with the repetitive motion involved in running. While this post-run stretching might be more obviously helpful after a more difficult effort, taking some small amount of time to practice yoga even after easier runs helps your muscles to get rid of any lingering lactic acid and increase oxygen flow. This post-workout stretching helps to keep your body balanced from side to side, but it also helps to both reveal and correct any existing imbalances of which the runner may be unaware—that is, until they get injured. By committing to a yoga practice, runners will often notice that one calf feels a little tighter than the other, or one hip feels different on one side. Yoga helps one notice and address these differences from one side of the body to the other, before they lead to actual injuries. In this way, yoga helps any runner to move more fluidly through their stride, and faster.
Yoga has more obvious physical benefits like building stamina and increasing flexibility, but one might not realize the extent to which yoga also strengthens the core—and yoga, besides being more enjoyable than endless sets of crunches, also comes with the added mental benefits of reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing the ability to focus. While doing yoga, a runner might not even notice that she is also working her core because a yoga practice truly involves all muscle groups of the body. Yoga also strengthens the legs, helps with balance and proprioception, and helps with general body awareness. These skills translate very well to an ability to run faster and more efficiently.
While yoga helps the physical body, it also has tremendous mental benefits as well which might traditionally be overlooked by someone looking to run faster. Yoga teaches those who practice it to be patient with their own bodies, to push just the right amount, to meditate peacefully and focus when necessary. Whether one is out on the trails for a couple hour long run, pushing through mile 23 of a marathon, or bursting through the finish line of a local 5k, the mindfulness and mental strength gained by yoga cannot be overestimated. Those new to the running scene as well as professional runners have a lot to gain by adding yoga to their typical training regime.