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Why All Runners NEED 10 Minutes of Yoga

Alison Heilig
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This may sound completely crazy to you but hear me out anyway… running and yoga go together like PB and J. Laugh all you want. I’ll explain.
 
Runners tend to be quite opposed to trying yoga – many I know have even called it “boring” and “not a real workout” (what kind of yoga did they try, by the way?). But the parallels between the world of running and the world of yoga are vast. Runners tend to gauge the quality of their workouts in terms of the balancing of effort and ease; yoga is an exercise in mastering the art of balancing effort and ease. Runners often report running to keep their cool, clear their head and chase the runner’s high; yoga has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to maintain a sense of sanity, reconnect with oneself, and find inner peace.
 
Yet, despite the numerous similarities, running and yoga are also incredibly complimentary. For example, the repetitive and high-impact nature of running often leads to overuse injuries; yoga strengthens the body through a wide variety of low-impact movements which is a fantastic way to limit the chance of developing those nagging side-lining aches and pains. Also, let’s be honest, runners aren’t generally known for their ability to honor their bodies and rest when needed; yoga is an excellent way to learn awareness of one’s body, acknowledge when rest may be exactly what is needed and, most importantly, to be okay with that.
 
Running experts and coaches have long touted the benefits of cross-training for runners and the role that such activities play in building strong and injury-resistant athletes. But with so many possible activities and so little time, what’s a runner to do? Don’t worry – I’m going to make it very simple for you.
 
If you’re a runner – recreational or otherwise – and you only have time to squeeze one form of cross-training into your already-packed schedule, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that stretches, strengthens, and prevents injury better than yoga. Yoga truly offers the biggest bang for your cross-training buck. It’s got everything that runners need to run longer, stronger and stay injury-free.
 
For those of you who are still not convinced or think you just don’t have the time to squeeze an entire practice in (yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all), allow me to simplify it a bit further for you.
 
2 words: Sun Salutations
 
Seriously, just a few minutes doing a simple yoga sequence is all you really need to get rolling and start feeling all the fabulous benefits of yoga. How can it be that simple, you ask?

When you run, here’s what primarily happens in your body:

1. Your quads and hamstrings move your knees
2. Your glutes and hip flexors move your hips
3. Your core muscles stabilize your hips and spine
4. Your lower leg muscles move your ankles and absorb impact
5. Your neck, shoulders and back subtly move your arms while limiting tension in your upper body
 
Now let’s break down your typical Sun Salutation, shall we? Surya Namaskar A is a sequence of poses that collectively serve the following functions:

1. Strengthening and stretching your quads and hamstrings
2. Strengthening and stretching your glutes and hip flexors
3. Strengthening and stretching your core
4. Strengthening and stretching your lower legs
5. Strengthening and relieving tension your neck, shoulders and back
 
Hmmm… that second list looks kinda familiar, doesn’t it? That’s right, the parts that keep you running are precisely the same parts where you build strength and provide some much needed TLC when you flow through a Sun Salutation. You just can’t find a better pairing – trust me, I’ve looked.
 

 

So if you’re looking for the perfect compliment to running, you can call off the search party now.
 
Need another reason to buy in? Yoga solves that age-old question of what the heck do I do right before and after my run? (to stretch or not to stretch) and it’s totally customizable depending on the runner.
 
Morning runner? Sun Salutations are a terrific dynamic warm-up that you can flow through to get your body primed before heading out.
 
Mid-day or evening runner? A few rounds of this sequence at a slow and steady pace is an awesome cool down to reset body and mind after your run.
 
Not a running day? So what?! Sun Salutations are a great way to get a quick strengthening + stretching practice in anywhere, anytime.
 
Included in this article is a video of the pre-run warm-up I use to get me all jazzed up to tackle those early morning miles. Do you have your own go-to yoga sequence that you swear by? Share it in the comments below so we can all give it a try!
 

 

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Alison Heilig

Alison Heilig is the poster child for fitness fusion – an ultra-marathoner who loves to lift heavy stuff and practice yoga. From formerly unhealthy exercise-phobe to 70-pound lighter running coach, personal trainer, yoga teacher, fitness blogger and active adventurer, she encourages others to have fun with fitness. Check her out at mtgathletics.com and thepursuitofawesome.com

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