Running is a hugely popular sport in this country with race participation nearly doubling since the year 2000. There are obvious physical and mental benefits of a regular running routine, however the sport is not without its perils. Injuries as well as physical and mental exhaustion affect runners, especially those who run long distance. Runners are notoriously competitive and push through discomfort while running. The body’s natural endorphins tend to hide the discomfort which sometimes leads to short and long term problems.
From tight muscles to sore feet and bad backs, runners can suffer from a wide variety of health concerns.

One of the best ways to mix up the routine, stay healthy and prevent injury is to cross train with another sport like yoga. As a whole-body exercise yoga increases flexibility, strength and balance. Yoga strengthens the body’s stabilizing muscles leading to a stronger core and greater ease while running. Yoga practice also focuses on alignment which can often be an overlooked, though very important, aspect of running.

The mental focus required during yoga practice helps runners better understand the inner workings of their bodies allowing them to have a more well-rounded exercise routine. In 2006 Dr. Donahue of The University of Nevada measured the efficacy of yoga on the runner’s mind. The trial examined 90 high school long distance runners and found that those who practiced yoga before running showed significant improvement in their performance.

Athletes know that a healthy heart and lungs are necessary to keep them running at peak performance. Yogic breath practice, known as Pranayama, increases oxygen in the blood and keeps the respiratory system strong. In his book, The Healing Power of the Breath, Richard Brown explains how dynamic breathing practice can improve health, restore balance and enhance performance levels by opening capillaries and oxygenating the bloodstream.

Incorporating yoga into your routine can be as easy as adding 10 minutes to your warm up and cool down practice. Restorative yoga can help rejuvenate overworked muscles especially during training season.  Check out this awesome series of yoga for running videos by Rebecca Pacheco for Runners World.

[Photo by Christopher Haugh – CC BY]

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