So you’ve heard about yoga. You’re a little curious. But what can it do for you, a runner? Well, truth be told, lots. Not only is yoga great for stretching muscles tightened from mile after mile, it’s also a surefire way to build strength and stability, both essential for any avid runner. So, get out of your comfort zone and give it a try! Here’s a list of advice for runners seeking to become first time yogis.
- try it
- work on your foundation
- pay attention to your timing
- listen to your body
- jump in too quickly
- give up
- make it a competition
- skip out
The first step to starting your newfound relationship with yoga is to actually try it. You might not know which kind to pick, and that’s ok. There are many different types of yoga, from Bikram to Power to Restorative, each with a different purpose and a different vibe. So, experiment! Try a slower paced class for beginners. Loved it, but thought it was too easy? Kick it up a notch and go for a more intense class. You won’t know which kind of yoga is right for you until you try it.
Just like training for a race, building your yoga foundation takes time. Treat your yogic journey with the same respect you treat your running. Instead of going all out right away, focus on mastering the basic movements. Get comfortable with the way your body feels during yoga. Then, with time and practice, things will soon become second nature. Before you know it, you’ll be able to do your progressions in your sleep and the classes will become more about the mental aspects of yoga—meditation, breath, calming your mind. These things are equally important as the physical aspects of yoga for a runner, and they will both go hand in hand when it comes to helping you progress in your running.
For the beginning yogi/ running enthusiast, timing is everything. Start off slow. It’s best to space your early training out—make those first few classes count as you’re learning the movements and how your body responds to yoga. When you’re ramping up training for a distance race or another kind of competition, it’s ok if your yoga sessions are few and far between. In fact, its beneficial for you to not overtrain, your body needs time to recover if you expect it to perform athletically. Likewise, in times when you’re running less, you can add more yoga back into the equation. It’s all about balance and finding what’s right for you. Don’t overdo it.
Let’s be honest, runners are prone to all kinds of injury. From your feet, to your knees, or back, running can take a toll on your body that’s not quick to go away. However, have no fear, yoga can help. Regular yoga practice will strengthen the muscles around your joints, helping protect you from future injury. Also, the consistent stretching that a yogi performs will help immensely when it comes to post-run recovery. Already have an injury? That’s ok too. Talk to your yoga instructor about your ailments, they’ll be able to direct you on the best ways that yoga can help you recover, and how to prevent re-injury. If you’re already hurting, don’t push yourself past your limit. There’s no glory in worsening your own injury.
The worst thing you do when it comes to beginning your journey with yoga is biting off more than you can chew. Don’t go overboard. Take things slowly and let yourself progress naturally. If you don’t, you put yourself at higher risk for injury, potentially severe enough to hold up both your running and your yoga. Remember, it’s ok to be a beginner. We don’t start off as experts in anything; it takes time for us to learn and grow, and that’s exactly how you should approach yoga.
Yoga can be tough, that’s part of the fun. Especially for a beginner, mastering the basic poses and movements will be difficult. But don’t give up if you’re struggling! Hold those poses for as long as you can! Toughing it out in the yoga studio will translate directly to the road, mental tenacity goes a long way. Next time you’re having trouble out on a run, the skills you’ve gained from yoga (clearing your mind, focusing on the task at hand) will help you push through the discomfort and keep going.
Unlike when you’re running a race, yoga is not a competition. It’s about exploration, self-discovery, and discipline. So instead of worrying about what the yogis beside you are doing, instead focus on yourself. Focus on your breath. Feel the mat underneath your feet and let your mind be free. Skill will come with practice, there’s no need to get ahead of yourself.
The best way to reap maximum benefits from a yoga practice is to do it regularly. So make it as much of a priority as scheduling your runs. You won’t regret it!
If you’re a runner, yoga is definitely in your best interest. Not only is it a great way to stretch out sore muscles, you’ll also build strength and stability essential for the road. Take things slowly, experiment with different types, and find the yoga that’s right for you. Don’t move too quickly or get too competitive. Soon enough, you will have created a beautiful partnership between running and yoga.