As we head into peak running season we need to remember to nurture our bodies to avoid injury and ensure optimal performance. The benefits of incorporating yoga into your routine are great and span from improved muscle function during performance, through to faster recovery periods and better mental focus.
“One of the pitfalls of being a dedicated athlete is that we push ourselves so hard for the goals that we want to achieve, that many of the ‘extra’ tasks surrounding a healthy exercise routine can get dropped to the side. As a runner, this often shows up as our commitment to warm up and cool down properly. When I was training for the New York City marathon many years ago I finally experienced a shift in commitment, ensuring my training included a pre- and post-run yoga routine – the impact this had on my overall health in my body and mind was vast.” – Kristi Clark, Senior Facilitator at Power Living.
HOW TO START A YOGA ROUTINE
A yoga routine doesn’t need to take more than five minutes pre-run, and no more than 20 minutes post-activity. Of course, like anything else is life, the more time we commit the greater the benefits to be gained. But what’s most important is that you set goals that are achievable in your exercise and life regimes.
Moving through a gentle series of yoga postures before a run can start to warm the muscles that will be used, as well as bringing more lubrication to the joints and connective tissue surrounding the body. This can help prepare them to go faster quicker, or to sustain a more balanced pace with less cramping so you don’t need to break your stride. A common issue amongst runners is getting so caught up in the feeling of accomplishment once we finish a run that we lose focus on the bigger, long-term picture and don’t invest in the post-run recovery time. Yoga’s main purpose is not just stretching and strengthening the body but creating greater mental clarity and focus.
ACHIEVE BALANCE WITH BREATH
Yoga is one of the best methods to create a moving meditation (mediation meaning one point of focus rather than stopping our thoughts). Instead of spending your run focusing on your ‘to-do’ list or having those same old conversations running repeatedly in your head, draw your awareness to your breath.
See if you can start by listening to the sound of your steps, feel the ground underneath your feet, then slowly draw your awareness to how you are taking air in and out of your lungs. The practice is about creating uninterrupted awareness rather than trying to manipulate or change your breath. As you get into the groove of your runners pace simply observe the rate of your breath. Listen and feel the air entering and exiting your body. By simply resting your awareness on your breath you may notice that your breathing becomes less laboured and more rhythmic and gentle. Allow yourself to just stay with the breath for the full duration of your run. When you notice the mind starting to wander come back to feeling the inhale and exhale, and notice how that can take you into a more peaceful state of connection with yourself – even if you are still physically exerting and pushing yourself to your full capacity.
MAXIMISE YOUR POST-RUN ROUTINE
Use this increased awareness to take you right into your post-run yoga regime. When we are lost in our thoughts it’s easy to get caught up in the fleeting moments of elation we experience once accomplishing something (such as your longest run of the week) and instead just experience an inner steadiness and let that commitment hold as you untie your shoelaces and take time to really experience the effects of the run on your physical body as you hit the yoga mat. Taking up to 20 minutes after a run can help prevent injury but also allows the space to take in the experience of your run.
Sit with what you’ve just experienced, physically and mentally. Acknowledge how hard you’ve pushed your body. Instead of seeing your run as ticking a box, allow this activity post-run to be a time to just be with yourself. Focus loving, healing energy into the muscles that just worked so hard and find a balance between the dynamic energy of fast movement and graceful pace of slow yoga postures. You may find you have even more energy post-run by ending with this yoga practice, rather than going from 100% to zero. Take some time to settle back into an even pace for your body to move through the rest of your day.
Want to add yoga into your race day? Check out the Power Living x lululemon Yin Yoga Cooldown Station. Details here.