Apr 24, 2014

Posted by Jo W. in , | 4/24/2014
Yesterday, I shared the different types of yoga classes that I enjoy the most. I have been practicing yoga regularly for the past month, and I find that I am reaping the benefits in my running and cycling. Here are some ways that yoga can be used to improve your training.

Increases awareness of your body and breath

During a yoga practice, you increase your awareness of your body. It is important for runners to be in tune with our bodies and pay attention to the little niggles that can become full blown injuries. Being aware can let us know when we need to back off on training.
Yoga also helps us practice controlled breathing and deep breathing. Most of the time, we breath shallowly and don't exhale and inhale to our full lung capacity. Breath awareness can help our running by teaching us to breath more smoothly, expel more CO2, and take in more oxygen to power those muscles.

Great way to stay active on rest days

A rest day from training doesn't mean that you have to be inactive. Yoga is gentle on the body, but it can still give you a good workout. Sometimes it's hard for me to take a rest day because I just want to train hard everyday (I probably would if I could!). I know that recovery days are important, and going to a yoga class is a good way to do something active while giving my muscles a chance to recover.

Improves flexibility

Ever feel really tight or sore from training? I certainly do when I am in the middle of a hard training cycle. Yoga can help counteract the tightness by stretching those muscles and connective tissues that are used for running. Flexibility is also important for runners so we can use the full range of motion of our muscles to run more efficiently and prevent injury. A slower-paced class may hold poses longer to get a deeper stretch, while a flow practice warms your muscles up for more dynamic stretching.

Prevents burnout from training

During a training cycle, doing the same activities every day can cause mental fatigue. Try a faster-paced yoga class to replace one of your workouts to keep things interesting. Some of my yoga instructors are tough and we do a lot of crunches, planks, and push-ups that leave me sore.

Tones the core and upper body

Core strength is so important for runners. Having a strong core helps us run with good form, which is crucial for preventing injury. Has your form ever gotten sloppy when you're fatigued? That probably means your core needs some work.
My arms and shoulders definitely feel more toned after practicing yoga, since most of my training mainly works my lower body. It's important to tone the entire body to prevent any muscle imbalances.

Thinking about starting a yoga practice?

Like any sport that is new to you, it's better to take it slowly. Learn the different poses and work with an instructor to make sure that your body is properly aligned. Don't jump into head stands, crow pose, or back bends if you don't know what you are doing. Some poses can take years for yogis to master, so don't be frustrated if you can't do them yet! Your yoga practice is yours alone, and it won't do you any service to compare yourself to others.

Have I convinced you to start practicing yoga, yet?
What is your favorite pose?


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