5 ways yoga has made me a better runner

ATB. Powered by yoga. And a ton of training.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but 99% of these posts are about running and yoga. Or running to yoga. We have grand (GRAND! I swear!) plans to branch out into more exciting fitness endeavors (remember that time we climbed the CN Tower? It was crazy, and awesome. And not about running or yoga!)

 

1) It’s all about the breath

For all you non-yogis out there, here’s a secret: breathing makes everything better. Even when you are running. I find concentrating on my breath while cranking out a long run means less stitches. When a spot is especially uncomfortable, yoga has taught me to breathe to that space. Thanks to this, I get into a meditative zone more quickly and am more aware of how my body is reacting to running.

 

2) There’s a difference between discomfort and pain

Growing up, I was the kind of person who pushed through pain. In a high school basketball game, I got an elbow in the face, which gave my a bloody nose and black eye. In the medical time-out, I shoved tissue up my nose, iced the eye and got back out there right away. What can I say? I was young and stubborn. (I think we won the game. I don’t remember.) I’m less young, but not less stubborn. When I started yoga, I was keen to do ALL the poses and be the best in the class. Yoga class is a competition, right? What, it’s not? I learned this eventually. I also learned that when you’re just uncomfortable, you can push through it, but when you’re in pain, you can back off. This seems obvious, but it took me a looooong time to apply this to running, but I’m also a smarter runner because of it. I’ll push through anything when the time and place is right (like a race I want to PR in, perhaps), but that when I’m training, it’s okay to back off and let your body heal.

 

3) Focus on the here and now

In yoga class, you’re supposed to focus on the here and now, leave whatever is going on in your life off the mat. With running, it should be the same. When you leave behind your daily regime, your stresses and your problems, running can become an hour to yourself to reflect and escape. When your mind is free, your body is free, and running is more fun and more therapeutic.

 

4) Success comes in small increments

When I first started running, I was all “hell yeah, I can sun a sub-4:00 marathon! I’m fit, I’m dedicated, I’m competitive. I’ll happen, no problem.” Spoiler: it has yet to happen. I was keen to go big and fast right away. But that’s not how running works. In yoga, you take it step by step. Maybe you start and you can’t touch your toes. After a few classes, you might be able to touch your lower shins. Then the tops of your feet. Then the floor. But this takes time and patience. Running is the same way. You need to start small and build — reasonably — on your successes. After almost two years of running, my A goal is a sub 2:10 marathon on May 6. I think I can do it, but only because I’ve worked hard over these 18 months to get to this point. And when it happens, it will be glorious.

 

5) Runners need to do more than running

You don’t need to be into yoga as a runner. Maybe you like cycling or swimming or pilates. It doesn’t matter. But running is such a repetitive motion that puts strain in very specific muscles. By adding something else to your training program, it will make your work-outs feel fresh and will work other muscles in your body. And it will make you a better runner. I swear.

Not convinced? Try this free mini-lesson from YouTube. It’ll change your mind, I know it!

 

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