“Stretching” my Running: Cross-Training with Yoga
I’ve been running consistently for over three years now, which simultaneously seems like a drop in the bucket and an eternity when I think about what I’ve done with it. At about the same time that I started running, I took my first yoga class and began experimenting with it. I enjoyed the workout, and remember thinking that I would sweat more during a 60 minute yoga class than I did during a strenuous run. This was a huge shock to my former concept of yoga as a relatively easy activity. Needless to say, I was VERY wrong!
Running has since turned into an addiction with amazing and rewarding results, and I hope it will be a part of my life for a long time to come. For whatever reason, my yoga practice never really stuck. I would attend a class here and there, but I never really developed any consistency. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve written down the schedules for classes on campus the last three semesters, but never actually went to one. Life is, of course, busy, and there are always gong to be multiple demands on my day. However, I think I had forgotten how good it felt to immerse myself in the poses, letting everything else wash away from the day (much the same feeling that I get when I head out on a solitary run, ironically enough).
Lately, I had begun to think more and more about returning to yoga. This has been in large part due to the beautiful epicurean’s conviction to her practice, and the new studio she has begun attending. On a fairly regular basis for the past few months, I would be leaving for a run just as she would be leaving for a hot yoga class, and we would return, equally exhausted, sweaty, and satisfied. I think she might have noticed my yoga envy, along with an understanding of the potential benefits of yoga for my running. Thus, when my birthday rolled around, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift card for Ignite Yoga.
I attended my first class yesterday, and it felt absolutely wonderful! The addition of the extra heat and humidity was actually a welcome aspect of the class, which is funny considering how much I have discussed the ridiculous heat this summer. It had been almost a year since I had attended a yoga class of any kind, but the poses still came back to me, although not quite as easy as riding a bike. The instructor also just happened to be a triathlete, which had me even more excited and confident before the class even started! The various poses stretched just about every critical muscle group for my running, and it felt wonderful. The addition of the heat provided the extra warmth in my muscles for much deeper stretches than I could ever get on my own as well. In addition, a recent study has shown yoga to be good for asthmatics as well (of which I am one). Needless to say, I’ll be going back regularly, and I’m excited to incorporate hot yoga into my training routine.
With time, I hope to be able to incorporate short yoga poses into my pre-run and post-run routines as well. There is quite a bit of information available on the link between yoga and running, and it is an area of interest that I am just beginning to explore, so expect more to come in the future! As I sign off, I thought I would share this concise list of benefits that I found particularly relevant and encouraging.
Here are some key benefits brought by combining running and yoga (source: http://www.yoga-abode.com/node/1322):
- Strength and flexibility: although running can add extra pressure on the joints, those who do enjoy it will find that stretching properly helps them go further whilst helping prevent injuries. Through yoga one may enjoy an increased flexibility in all leg muscles and those attached to pelvis.
- Breathing – yoga teaches breath awareness, and breathing properly is a key part of an efficient, pleasurable and healthy run
- Balance – both help develop core strength and postural awareness, hence helping with posture.
- Resistance – the cardiovascular aspect of a run may help build stamina and endurance within a yoga practice.
- Mental focus – yoga helps to be centred, and long distance running requires mental (as well as physical) focus and discipline.
- Stress relief: both have been proven to relieve stress and tensions.