QT: The Benefits of Adding Yoga to Your Regular Routine
If you’ve been paying attention over the years, you’ve heard me talk about yoga at least once or twice.
One thing I’ve not done is really dive deep into why yoga can be so beneficial.
A listener recently reached out to me and asked if I could do an episode to go a little more in depth about the benefits of yoga for runners.
Sounded like a great idea to me, so let’s make it happen!
The Many Benefits of Yoga
When it comes to discussing the benefits of yoga, I’m going to break said benefits into three categories:
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved performance
- Miscellaneous benefits
Let’s unpack each of these a bit more, eh?
Reduced Risk of Injury
Can a regular yoga practice help you stay healthy as a runner?
There really are no shortage of ways that a regular yoga practice can help a runner avoid an injury.
Improved your flexibility/range of motion. Increased strength and stability, particularly in the core and hips. Improved balance and proprioception.
Can you draw a direct line from any of those benefits to a reduced risk of injury?
But does that mean there isn’t a relationship?
Not at all.
Improved flexibility can help reduce the risk of a lot of overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis, various tendonitis issues, and some minor muscular strains.
Strengthening of your hips and core can help improve your form, especially as you fatigue during the later stages of a race or long run. Being stronger through your mid-section also goes a long way towards reducing your odds of developing some IT band issues.
And by improving your balance and proprioception, you’ll be less likely to have any serious damage if/when you land awkwardly at some point during a run.
Is improving your flexibility a miracle cure? A silver bullet? A cloak of invincibility that guarantees you’ll never be injured agains?
But can yoga help you stay healthy and avoid many of the nagging issues that are prevalent in many runners?
You bet it can.
Improved Running Performance
How can doing a regular yoga practice help you improve your performance as a runner?
In many of the same ways that it’ll help you stay healthy!
If you’re not taking time off because you’re injured, you can keep training, right? And if you’re able to keep training, you’re able to keep making progress toward your goals, right?
So in a round about way, any activity that will help you avoid injury and an extended time off from training will also help you improve your performance on the roads and trails.
How else can yoga help you improve your performance?
Well, improving your flexibility and increasing your strength/stability are both keys to running faster and farther.
From a biomechanical perspective, there are only two factors that determine how fast you can run.
Stride length and stride frequency.
If your hamstrings are wicked tight, and most runners have hamstrings that are wicked tight, your stride length is compromised.
By improving your flexibility, you’ll be able to cover more ground with each stride which will result in faster paces on race day.
And on the strength side of things, increased strength in your hips and glutes will help you generate more power each time you push off the ground.
Building some strength in your legs will also help you power up the hills on race day and also maintain your pace in the later stages of a race.
You might think that some of the following ways that running will help your running are reach, but hear me out.
Your body doesn’t function in a vacuum; everything is connected.
As such, anything that improves any function in your body can, and will, benefit your running.
We live in such a fast paced world, and it’s not often that we slow down on a daily basis.
Yoga forces you to slow down. No notifications or alerts from your phone. Just you, your breath, and your mat.
Every time I do yoga, I feel more calm and relaxed after I finish.
And I think a big part of that is the sudden lack of external noise.
The benefits of being calm and relaxed are huge!
Relaxing allows our bodies to switch from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the “rest and digest” functions of our body.
That means improved sleep quality, hormone regulation, and a whole host of other things that will help our bodies function optimally.
The Bottom Line
When all is said and done, there are plenty of benefits of including yoga into your regular routine.
That said, is yoga required? If you hate doing yoga, should you force yourself to suck it up and get on the mat?
Not at all.
All of these benefits, and the many other benefits of yoga that aren’t covered in this post/episode, can be had in other ways. None of them are exclusive to a yoga practice.
But there aren’t many activities that check as many boxes as yoga does.
That’s why I love doing yoga so much, and why I’m not shy to encourage others to give it a try.
If you’re doing yoga regularly, keep on keeping on.
If you’re not, I think you should add it to the mix because it’s good for you and your running.
Do You Regularly Practice Yoga? What Benefits Do You Appreciate the Most from Your Practice?
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