Today, I want to talk about the 3 reasons why yoga makes you a better runner. As runners, we tend to enjoy moving, and often look at yoga as something boring or unimportant. Although you may not get your heart racing as much, yoga is a challenging workout that will help you to to improve your strength and mobility, reduce your risk of injury, and ultimately help you become a better runner. Below, I’ve outlined my top 3 reasons why yoga makes you a better runner. Enjoy!
#1 – Increased Muscle Activation
My number one reason for why yoga makes you a better runner is increased muscle activation. What does this mean? Don’t your muscles activate when you start running? Yes and no. Most of us spend our day sitting at a desk, driving in a car, or commuting to and from work, and when we’re doing that, most of our muscles are switched to off. It takes deliberate, focused exercises to turn your muscles back on, and unfortunately, the ones that tend to be most important to exercise are the ones that get lazy. For runners, that means your core (abdominal muscles), your glutes, hip flexors, and ankles.
Think of these muscles like switches on a switchboard. In order to activate these muscles, we need to switch these muscles from “on” to “off”. The intense focus and mindfulness involved in getting muscles to activate in yoga helps you turn on these muscles before a run, which means that you are now running with more efficiency thanks to increased muscle activation. Not only does it make you more efficient, it also PROTECTS you. Running without the proper muscle groups activated means that the other parts of the body have to pick up the slack. This occurs notably in your ankles, knees, hip, and back – in other words, areas that should be under as little stress as possible! Turning on your muscle supports healthy joints and allows you to run faster and further with less discomfort.
#2 – Increased Mobility
My second reason for advocating yoga for runners is because of the benefits that come from increased mobility. When I use the term mobility here, I’m mainly referring to flexibility. (Click here to learn the difference between the two.) Flexibility speeds up your recovery, reduces strain on your joints, and helps to reduce your risk of injury. It’s a form of strength all on its own, yet most of us tend to neglect it because we don’t think it’s important enough. The truth is that the more flexibility you have, the larger your potential for strength becomes. Improving your flexibility means you have an increased range of motion, which leads to more power and a longer stride.
Not only this, but flexibility also makes your muscles longer and more stretchy, which means that they pull less on the tendons connected to the bones. Notably for runners (as described in the previous reason why yoga helps runners), this means that you will have less strain in your ankles, knees, hips, and lower-back as a result of more flexibility. The maintenance that regular flexibility work does for your muscles enables you to be healthy even if you run frequently. Avoiding this maintenance work (stretching, flexibility-focused exercises) is the same as not brushing your teeth on a regular basis – eventually you’re going to get a cavity, or in the case of your body, an injury. To sum up this reason, increased mobility means a reduced risk of injury – and that’s something that we all want!
#3 – Increased Cardiovascular Ability
If you’ve heard anything about yoga, I’m sure you’ve heard that breath is extremely important. This is very true. One of the largest distinguishing features of what makes yoga unique from other exercise is its emphasis on breath. Yoga not only teaches you to be more mindful of your breathing, but also helps you strengthen and improve the musculature and posture of the axial skeleton (your torso). It helps you improve your posture, which allows your diaphragm to take it more air and function more effectively.
It also strengthens your abdominal muscles, your intercostals (the muscles between your ribs), and improves the strength and mobility of all of the muscles in your torso. In this way, yoga DIRECTLY improves your cardiovascular ability, and it’s something that you won’t get in the vast majority of other types of fitness. This is reason #3 why yoga makes you a better runner, and one that I’m sure all of us can agree on!
Those are my top 3 reasons for why yoga makes you a better runner. Undoubtedly, there are many more we can also list here, which I chose not to list for brevity’s sake. If you have been on the fence about starting yoga, I hope that this blog has helped influence you to consider starting. The great thing about these benefits is that it does not take long for you to begin to notice them. Try doing 10-minutes of yoga before you go for a run, and you’ll see what I mean! Click here to check out my Top 5 Pre-Yoga Postures for Runners.
If this list has you excited enough to get started with a yoga program, you’re in luck! The Man Flow Yoga Community is home to a group of runners who are already using yoga on a regular basis to become better runners. This group includes Ironmen, triathletes, and casual runners. Join our community through the Man Flow Yoga Members’ Area and get access to our Yoga for Runners Program, a full workout library, tutorials, and much more!
Still not convinced yoga can improve your ability to run longer and tougher? Here is a testimonial by veteran marathon runner Ryan Ebeler.
After 20 years of experience training for sport, strength, and many endurance events I thought I knew my body. Apparently I did not. Using the workouts and programs on the Man Flow Yoga website I grew a butt (glutes if you prefer). Something I didn’t think was possible. Besides improving my looks, posture, flexibility and the way I move, I believe Man Flow Yoga is a performance and strength building game changer. Dean’s precise instructions and the nature of the man flow programs allows me to strengthen muscles I would have missed due to the nature of weight lifting. Muscle can’t hide when you do Man Flow Yoga. Like me, I think you will see plateau breaking results from Dean and Man Flow Yoga team.
– Ryan Ebeler, Florida