As we head into peak running season, we need to remember to nurture our bodies to avoid injury and ensure optimal performance. The benefits of incorporating yoga into your routine span from improved muscle function during performance, all the way through to faster recovery periods and better mental focus.
Kristi Clark, a Senior Facilitator at Power Living Australia Yoga, has been a runner for many years and uses yoga as part of her training ritual. A former Olympic level rhythmic gymnast and marathon runner, she knows how much strain intense physical activity can put on both the body and mind.
“One of the pitfalls of being a dedicated athlete is that we push ourselves so hard for the goals that we want to achieve that many of the ‘extra’ tasks surrounding a healthy exercise routine can get dropped to the side,” Kristi says. “As a runner, this often shows up as our commitment to warming up and cooling down properly. When I was training for the New York City Marathon many years ago I finally experienced a shift in commitment, ensuring my training included a pre and post-run yoga routine – the impact this had on my overall health in my body and mind was vast.”
A yoga routine does not need to take more than five minutes pre-run, and 20 minutes post-run. Of course, like anything else in life, the more time we commit, the greater the benefits to be gained. But what’s most important is that you set goals that are actually achievable in your exercise and life regimes.
Moving through a gentle series of yoga postures before a run can start to warm the muscles that will be used, as well as bringing more lubrication to the joints and connective tissue surrounding the body.
Focus, awareness and recovery
Yoga is one of the best methods for creating a moving meditation (meditation meaning one point of focus, rather than stopping our thoughts). Throughout your run, instead of focusing on your to-do list or having those same old conversations running over and over again in your head, draw your awareness to your breath. See if you can start by listening to the sound of your steps, feel the ground underneath your feet, then slowly draw your awareness to how you are taking air in and out of your lungs. As you get into the groove of your pace, simply observe the rate of your breath. Listen and feel the air entering and exiting your body.
Use this increased awareness to take you right into your post-run yoga regime. Taking up to 20 minutes after a run can help prevent injury, and also allows the space to take in the experience of your run. Sit with what you’ve just experienced, physically and mentally. Acknowledge how hard you’ve pushed your body. Instead of seeing your run as ticking a box, allow this activity post-run to be a time to just be with yourself. Focus loving, healing energy into the muscles that just worked so hard and find a balance between the dynamic energy of fast movement and graceful pace of slow yoga postures.