If you know me, you would know that I am not the most flexible person in the world — like less flexible than this computer I am typing on — but that doesn’t mean I shy away from anything that involves flexibility.
This hasn’t always been the case though.
In college there was a time when instead of an easy day we opted for a team yoga session, you know active recovery, taking an actual easy day and working on flexibility.
I wasn’t having any of it, I had a strict mileage plan and if I couldn’t fit those miles in during practice… when was I going to get them in? I had a bad attitude about change, I needed those miles! It was tough but I didn’t make it any easier on myself and coupled with thoughts like;
“I’m just naturally inflexible”
“I stretch everyday, what do I need Yoga for?”
and the kicker, “How is skipping an easy run going to make me better?”
Thoughts of a stressed out collegiate runner…
I am not afraid to admit when I am wrong, this was not the right way to respond. I should have gone into this with an open mind, but instead I was doomed to hate it with my negative attitude.
Which is the exact reason why I should have given Yoga a chance.
Lets talk about these mindsets for a second;
“I’m just naturally inflexible”
This is the exact reason why you should give Yoga a chance! No one is going to look at you funny because you aren’t going as deep into the poses, everyone has been there before. Just having a little added muscle flexibility allows your muscles to absorb the beating that running puts on them. So think of injury prevention as an added bonus— and take it from me, being inflexible makes life hard sometimes.
“I stretch everyday, What do I need Yoga for?”
Stretching post run is a good thing, for the most part. However what you achieve in Yoga is a more dynamic stretch that helps build strength and a dynamic flexibility that is more movement specific. So think of it as a more complete routine, you have added flexibility + Strength + relaxation — All good stuff.
“How is skipping an easy run going to make me better?”
I wouldn’t think of it as “skipping an easy run” because it doesn’t mean that exactly. However, if you have been training hard — a full recovery day is far from the worst thing that could happen.
Now that I’m not that stressed out collegiate athlete anymore, I understand (and preach through my coaching) that it is perfectly fine to take a day for recovery here and there, especially in the middle of a tough training block. Think of Yoga as cross training/core/lifting all thrown into one hour long session; and if you can throw an easy run in on top of that it is just icing on the cake!
Supplementing your “easy day” with a yoga session or a cross training session can do wonders for your training plan. Something that took me a while to wrap my head around — training doesn’t fully set in until you give your body a chance to absorb it.
That’s not even touching the mental aspect of Yoga.
I can’t talk about mindfulness enough, it really is a practice that has helped me immensely. It helps with my breathing as well as my focus on tackling one thing at a time. I credit it with helping me reach my most recent PRs as well as helping me stay on top of my life for once.
Breathing is something I don’t usually think of a lot but when I am stressed or thinking about something intensely — or writing a blog post —I can’t help but notice that my breathing becomes naturally short and quick. One thing you can really focus on with breathing is learning how to breath deeply and take long breaths. This is my practice when I feel an anxiety attack coming on; take a step back, focus on your breathing, deep in, hold, push out.
As for the lifting aspect of it; a good Yoga routine — depending on the routine or practice of your local yogis — will help build your core even stronger and will allow you to find those instabilities caused by your running motion. Injury prevention and added core strength will do wonders for your training overall.
If you would have asked college me, “would you rather be injured or take a day of cross training and yoga every week” I would have chose the injury free route.
After all, consistent training is the name of the game.
I’ve written before about the benefits of lifting in the past and although a few Yoga sessions a week can’t completely replace your lifting regimen but it can replace you’re easier lift. Yoga is just another tool to throw in your runner’s toolbox, and a damn good one at that.
Here are a few poses you can add to your training right now; but finding a proper class once or twice a week should be the ultimate goal – even if it isn’t a specific yoga for runners class, any intro into yoga can be a good thing!
What do you think?