By Kristina Schultz
Cross-training is any sport, exercise or activity that supplements your main sport. Whether you are a beginner runner or an experienced marathoner, cross-training is key in taking great care of your body and mental self. One such great marriage is running and yoga. Here are several reasons why runners should incorporate yoga into their routine:
- Yoga improves strength by helping to recruit all muscle groups – Most runners primarily use their quads and hamstrings, which over time can lead to muscle fatigue as well as pain from overuse. Yoga is a total body workout that can help to increase your range of motion by doing non-running types of movements that incorporate not only the muscles that are used for running, but their counterparts as well. Yoga acts as a dual function process to stretch muscles that are overused and flex muscles that are underused. Moving the body in directions beyond forward/backward as in running, allows for a broader range of skills and capabilities. You can become a faster and more productive runner when all parts of the body become involved. When adding yoga to your routine and taking care of the whole body, you are also reducing your risk of injury as the body becomes more stable.
- Yoga draws focus to the breath – Learning to breathe mindfully in the studio may also help you on a run. Many forms of yoga utilize specific breathing techniques, teaching you how to breathe in a purposeful way. Training your brain to focus on the breath actively connects the mind and body. Yoga teaches you to breathe deeper and more effectively thereby improving your lung functionality, core strength and breath patterns. Yoga trains us in diaphragmatic breathing and expanding our lung capacity as well as incorporating the proper muscles to create this action. When these particular muscles become stronger and properly trained, it takes longer for them to become fatigued which can aide in your run duration as you are working more effectively. Bringing an awareness to your breath pattern during both yoga and running helps you better control your respiration rate so you can maintain your pace and flow for longer periods of time.
- Yoga teaches us about balance, both physically and mentally – Many poses in yoga recruit stabilization muscles. Poses such as tree pose, crescent lunge and eagle pose require balance and focus. Balance keeps us upright and focus keep us moving forward. One of the foundations of yoga is bringing balance to our lives. Not only is it important to train hard but recognizing the benefits of listening to our bodies and balancing hard work with rest, recovery and healing. Yoga also helps to control our emotions through awareness and breathwork which is helpful in times of discomfort. Learning to work through intense poses is a lot like enduring a long run.
- Yoga improves flexibility – We need strength to perform exercises and poses but also need the flexibility to move with freedom and ease. Yoga is a great way to stretch out the body, lengthen your muscles and release tension. Poses that focus on flexibility create elasticity and loosen up the muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissues that will ultimately help us to run with more freedom.
Yoga can be done in the comfort of your home or find a class in your neighborhood and enjoy the experience with others. A variety of yoga classes are offered across all five YMCA of the Fox Cities locations and are free with a Y membership. Visit ymcafoxcities.org for a list of classes, times and locations.
Adding yoga to your fitness routine is a great way to cultivate strength, balance, flexibility and breathwork to your run. Journal your experiences to gain full awareness of the giant strides you will take.
About the author: Kristina Schultz is the Fitness Director at the Appleton YMCA. She has a Bachelors Degree from UW-River Falls. Kristina has been in the fitness department at the Y for 17 years and a fitness instructor for over 24 years. She has several certifications in Group Fitness including ACE Group Fitness, NETA Group Fitness as well as many specific trainings such as Aerial Yoga, Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Yoga for Children and Seniors. Group Fitness is her passion! If you would like to learn more, you can contact Kristina at [email protected].