Yoga For Runners
How can yoga make you a better runner? Its just a bit of stretching, right? Oh, but it's so much more than that.
Yoga has been around for centuries, dating back to 2500 BC (Tran et al, 2001), so you can't exactly say it's a 'fitness fad'. But the real question is, will it help your running?
Isn't stretching bad for runners?
As you're likely aware, there is conflicting research on the benefits of stretching and running, which indicate that it could cause a higher risk of injury due to musculoskeletal instability and decreased muscle efficeicny (Van Mechelen, 1993; Hjeljac, 2004; Wilson, et al, 2010). To date, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support any correlation between yoga and decreased injury prevalance in running injuries (Rifkin, 2011).
Lets say we take on board what research has told us about stretching. We can conclude that you shouldn't stretch excessively directly before you do any activity that requires force or power. Stretching a muscle right before a race will increase its length and possibly reduce the optimal tension required to contract efficiently, therefore reducing power output. It could put your muscles in a comprising position and increase injury risk. But it doesn't appear to be that common of a problem for runners, or we would have much more evidence to support it. In fact, if you have an asymmetrical inflexibility, it could actually be contributing to an injury and cause more problems.
Now that all the negative points are out there, here are some positive things to consider as to why yoga will make you a better runner.
The Benefits of Yoga for Runners
Yoga is mainly focused on increasing flexibility, but it has other benefits too. It is a series of postures, meditation, breathing exercises, and movements to increase strength, balance, endurance, vo2 max, as well as other mental benefits such as; increased mood and stress management (Tran et al, 2001; Donohue et al, 2006; Woodyard, 2011). There are many different kinds of yoga out there focusing on different aspects of your well-being. You'll probably be surprised that a lot of our classic 'runners stretches' originate from yoga postures. For example, the pigeon stretch for glutes, downward dog as a dynamic calf stretch, even a hip flexor stretch is very similar to some of the warrior postures in yoga.
Can't touch your toes? Nor can most runners. But don't forget that about 80% of runners get injured each year. See what im saying? Don't be a sheep, be wolf. Give it a try!
Here are some 'yoga' based stretches to help your running. Try going through this flow of stretches, holding each one for about 10 seconds. Perhaps after a run, not before...just in case.
(photo credit to: myfitnesspal blog at : blog.myfitnesspal.com)
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