Yoga for runners…

I’m excited to present today’s guest blogger Christine Felstead — creatrix of yoga for runners. Those who know me, know that in addition to running, my other love is yoga. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Christine’s yoga for runners classes at the Downward Dog Yoga studio in the Beaches, which I’ll write about in a future post. Today’s post is an article Christine wrote for The Fartlek Runner on the benefits of yoga to runners. Enjoy!:

Runners love to run – and so they should! Running is a fabulous sport that invigorates the body and mind. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing a runner’s long, rhythmic stride, seeing the look of determination and focus on their face, and feeling their euphoria and sense of freedom that comes with every step.

The lucky ones — those who are structurally symmetrical and balanced — can enjoy years of running with minimal discomfort. But many of us aren’t in this elite category, and yet we still want to enjoy the benefits that running offers. Running affects the body through its repetitive use of the same muscles. Every sport or activity involving repetitive movement carries its own set of potential issues. Note the classic modern day overuse symptoms of lower back/shoulder stiffness and carpal tunnel strain from sitting for extended periods of time at a computer

While running, specific muscles in the legs, hips and feet are used in continuous repetition and become overused. Overused muscles will shorten from being in a constant state of contraction. Without opportunity to restore length to these muscles, they will continue to shorten and eventually restrict and even limit the range of motion of related joints, creating misalignment in the body that in turn makes one more prone to injury. While each body is unique, it is safe to say that runners are susceptible to tightness in the hamstrings, hips and lower back. Initial soreness may be a warning that something is out of alignment. Rarely will the issue go away simply by “running through it”. Moreover, taking time off running may cause the acute pain to subside, but once you’re back on the road, it’s very common for the injury to flare back up. Unless the initial muscle imbalance that caused the injury is treated, the same injury will reoccur.

Yoga is a perfect complement to running because it works to restore balance and symmetry to the body. However, while the stretching is such a key part of the benefits of yoga for runners, there are also tremendous benefits related to strength, lung capacity and mind/body centering. Benefits of yoga for runners include:

Strengthening: Improves strength in core and upper body and also in leg muscles that are not used in running (e.g., adductors, gluteus).

Lung Capacity: The conscious breath work that is practised in yoga can also increase lung capacity.

Mind/Body: The meditative aspects of yoga are well known, however many of us don’t immediately relate this to the meditative aspects of running. Especially during longer runs and/or races, the requirement to remain focused, calm and tuned to the body is key. Running is meditation in motion!

For the casual, avid or competitive runner, the benefits can include:

  • Improved running times
  • Feeling better while running
  • Less aches and pains
  • Nagging injuries that heal and do not recur
  • Reduce risk of new injuries

Now that you have been convinced of the benefits of yoga for runners, and perhaps interested in giving it a try, you may be scratching your head wondering where to start. If you live in Toronto you have a plethora of yoga resources at your fingertips – like Starbucks, yoga studios are everywhere. While all forms of yoga are good, I also encourage you to try one of my yoga for runners classes. These classes are tailored to the needs of runners and many students feel more comfortable knowing they are in the class with others that are equally stiff. I offer a range of workshop and drop-in classes across the Greater Toronto Are — for more details, please visit my website.

For those that prefer to practise yoga on your own, there is a yoga for runners DVD that is tailored to runners and provides the basics so you can start feeling the positive effects right away.

Kick off the new year with some yoga for runners – your body will thank you!

Christine Felstead has more than 20 years experience as a marathon and road race runner and used to run with the Metro Central Silver Runners. She has been practising yoga for 14 years and has been a yoga instructor for the past eight. Focusing primarily on runners and endurance athletes, Christine’s work with runners teaches them to incorporate yoga as an effective means of cross training, helping to keep them healthy and on the road.

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2 responses to “Yoga for runners…

  1. Well, this post caught me at a funny (perfect?) time. I’ve been having issues with my BUTT (I’ve self-diagnosed piriformis syndrome, which is probably was a bad idea…) and while I do some cross training, I have been slacking (thanks Christmas!). I mean, I’m no expert, but, Christine’s words about muscle imbalances and correcting the source of the issue rather than just resting really struck a cord. I may have ordered the DVD. Thanks to Christine for the information and thanks to Matt (again) for the blog!

  2. While I’m not a runner, I have seen the benefit of stretching and diversifying my workout in preventing injury, reducing chronic problems and aiding me in being more active. I hadn’t thought to use yoga as one of those tools. Thanks for the food for thought!

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