Do you love the physical activity of running? Or, is the peaceful, meditative pace of yoga more your speed? Have you ever considered doing both?
Yoga and running are, quite literally, polar opposites. Yoga is a low-impact activity that combines breathing techniques and controlled poses to improve mental focus and strengthen the mind/body connection. On the other hand, running is a high-impact cardio workout, with a strong emphasis on improving physical fitness.
That’s not to say that yoga can’t improve your fitness, or running isn’t good for your mental health. They just happen to approach those benefits from completely different angles.
And when you combine the two, you can create the perfect cross-training regimen of strength plus flexibility. It’s an integration of breath, body, and mind. Here’s why yoga + running makes the perfect combo.
Yoga prevents the muscle imbalances that are common for runners.
Running is a repetitive activity that uses the same muscles over and over, which leads to muscle imbalances for many runners. On the other hand, yoga practice uses all of your muscles in different positions. It strengthens opposing muscle groups and also improves stability and lengthens shortened tissues.
Running regularly puts stress on certain muscles and causes tightness in others. When there’s no opposing movement, the body tries to compensate and puts stress on the skeletal system. Over time, as certain muscles get weaker and others stronger, runners become more vulnerable to injuries.
Yoga corrects this issue with poses that require the body to move in different directions, such as side-to-side or top to bottom.
Practicing yoga can improve your running overall.
Practicing yoga can improve your running overall because it strengthens your core by building muscle in your lower back and abs. This stabilizes your body and supports good running form.
Although yoga strengthens all the major muscle groups, its ability to strengthen and stabilize the hips can be especially helpful for runners. Not only that, but yoga classes can improve flexibility and strength in the pelvis, which improves running endurance.
Yoga Teaches runners how to use their breath to improve their running.
One of the biggest benefits of yoga for runners is the breathwork. It teaches runners how to be more aware of their breathing when running. It’s amazing for reducing tension and minimizing anxiety during a long run or before a big race. And, learning how to pace alongside your breathing will help you conserve energy.
Yoga is an excellent choice for recovery days.
While it’s not necessarily bad to run every day, most runners will perform at their best if they incorporate low impact recovery days into their training routine. Attending a yoga class on your recovery days will allow you to remain active and work opposing muscle groups while giving the muscles you use for running a chance to recover.
Stretching regularly during yoga sessions can also help prevent injury and help any injured tissues heal. It’s a great activity for building strength while recovering physically and mentally.
Yoga + running improves mental focus.
Yoga and running can work together to improve your mental focus. Both activities help you develop concentration and tune out distractions.
Over time, yoga practice can also help you recognize signals your body is sending out during a run. For example, pain can be masked by the endorphins released during a run. Yoga can help you learn to tell the difference between normal discomfort from exertion and true pain due to injury.
A yoga + running routine can be customized to suit your goals.
The options for combining yoga and running are virtually limitless. You might want to do a little experimenting to see what suits your goals. If you’re a more casual runner, you might enjoy one of the more intense forms of yoga. On the other hand, if you’re a serious runner looking to increase your mileage and endurance, consider more gentle, restorative yoga sessions.
Running compliments yoga for a well-rounded approach to fitness.
If you’re a yoga practitioner, adding running to your fitness regimen is a great way to round out your routine. Most forms of yoga don’t raise your heart rate long enough to provide a good cardio workout as running does.
Running also develops a different kind of strength than yoga does. It can take your yoga practice to the next level by improving your endurance and strength.
And, running is a repetitive activity. Some athletes actually call it “moving meditation” because it provides stress-relieving benefits similar to yoga. It can be an ideal extension of your yoga practice.
The Bottom Line
Whether yoga or running is your first workout choice, combining them into one routine makes the ideal cross-training regimen. When you do both activities regularly, you’ll enjoy the well-rounded benefits of flexibility, strength, mental clarity, endurance, and a better range of motion.