It took me awhile to learn to love yoga. Like many others, I started going to yoga because I thought it would make more flexible. And because people told me it would be good for my not-so-zen, Type-A personality.
It wasn’t until I trained for my first marathon that I really started to crave yoga. At first I was integrating yoga into my marathon training because I felt like it was something I was supposed to do to keep my body flexible, limber and injury-free. I mean, is there anything better than half-pigeon when you’re recovering from a grueling long run?
The more I practiced yoga, the more I began to realize just how important yoga was to me as a runner – and not just because pigeon pose stretched out my tight hips.
It teaches you to reframe your inner monologue.
My favorite yoga class while I was marathon training was this super athletic, vinyasa style class that was unlike any other yoga class I’d ever experienced. The sequence would build slowly throughout the class, adding a new posture or two with each round. It meant you were doing a whole lot of chaturangas. It also made the class hard mentally.
Much like during brutal long runs, I’d spend class reminding myself that I can do hard things and I can stay strong until the end. Learning how to keep my inner monologue positive during yoga also helped me keep that same sentiment during my runs.
It’s low impact.
Training for a long distance race can be rough on your body. You are literally pounding the pavement, and sometimes for hours at at time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, yoga is low impact. Even though it’s low impact, a vinyasa yoga class can still get your heart rate up, challenge your muscles and leave your sweating. Your knees will thank you for the break.
It challenges your core.
Engaging your core is a huge part of yoga. It’s a part of just about every posture. A common reason runners get injured is due to lack of core strength. Yoga is a great way to really strengthen your core while also keeping you injury-free.
It’s a form of cross training
Running requires you to use the same muscles over and over and over again. This overuse of certain muscles and underuse of other key muscles can lead to injury. Yoga can strengthen those muscles that don’t get as much use while you’re running.
It reminds you to be mindful
Yoga is all about mindfulness and tapping into your body. Sometimes training for a marathon can feel like the exact opposite of mindfulness. You’re pushing your body to run an absurd number of miles. You kind of need to tune out your brain, otherwise your brain will tell you you’re crazy for running over 20 miles.
From my yoga practice I learned how to better listen to my body and I incorporated that sense of mindfulness into my training approach. I’d constantly check in with my body. Do I need to slow down? Can I speed up? Do I need a break? Through yoga and learning how to listen to my body, I also learned how to honor my body throughout training.