Yoga for Runners – What’s the Relationship?

There is a phenomenon, commonly understood in the running culture, called the runner’s high. Recent studies support the theory that humans are a cursorial species that evolved to run for the benefits of hunting. Such studies correlate the benefits of consistent moderate aerobic activity elevates endorphins and and elevates a process called endocannaboid re-uptake that leads to making you feel awesome.

Are there methods outside of running that adequately prepares your body for running a marathon?

Anybody who has committed to a running program may likely understand the benefits of the runner’s high. I have lived in the daily bliss of a consistent running practice and experienced the increased energy and improved mood associated with this training. My challenge in previous years of maintaining a high-mileage running program was staying healthy through the pounding. Race day arrived with my body hosting an assortment of minor injuries that became issues along the run. During the months building towards my most recent marathon, I chose to try a different method to my training. Rather than work a traditional program of progressing my weekly mileage and maintaining a consistent running program, I chose to commit to a consistent yoga practice, build cardiovascular strength and endurance through teaching spin classes, walking stair mills, and impact training with plyometrics.

Is a yoga practice sufficient preparation for running a marathon?

I set out to run the 2013 Denver Rock and Roll Marathon as a testament of the benefits of a daily yoga practice. My intention was to simply be present and continue to progress towards my goal. So much of a marathon is a mind-game. I feel that running consistently for hours is no different than sitting in meditation, or committing to a yoga practice for the same passage of time. Putting this theory to the test would be a painful experiment. Around mile three, doubts began to creep into my stream of thoughts. I still had to run my current distance eight more times and the math and calculations started to predominate my consciousness. My doubts fed the fear of what might happen along the run and how uncomfortable that might be. I reaffirmed my intention to simply be present to the moment with no desire to be anywhere else. Unconditionally accepting the circumstances of the moment is the core of conscious living. Practicing mindfulness is great mental preparation for psychological factors involved with distance running, but there is a physical element that, if not respected, can make the hours of pounding torture on the body.

Prepare yourself for the challenge ahead.

After the steadiness of my running groove began to fade every step of pounding on my body began to resemble more of a continuous controlled fall than any respectable running form., There was only willpower that kept me moving forward. The lessons I learned from this marathon apply to life. At the end of the day, what really matters is that you can see your life as a compilation of experiences that served their purpose, helping you understand the lessons that your soul strives to realize. As you choose to separate emotions rooted in fear, and begin to see all of your life as this tapestry of experiences, there is this potential to tune into a greater understanding of yourself. Around mile twenty my greater understanding said that I would have done myself a favor to log more miles during my training program.

Practice proper preparation

While my body was strong and healthy on race day, I was absolutely broken for the following week. While my yoga practice had me mentally prepared to endure through discomfort, the lack of adequate running training left my body unprepared for the challenge at hand. In the past, I came to race day with nagging injuries that were irritating, but my recovery post-race was quick and painless. I wouldn’t train distance running in preparation for holding downward facing dog for hours. Both train mental discipline, but neither method alone is sufficient training for the other. Running and yoga serve to complement one another, especially when training for an endurance challenge. Impact training such as plyometrics, low-impact cardio training, and strength training are all training methods that will help prepare the body for the challenges of race day. There is still no substitute for logging the miles on your feet to prepare for running by just practicing running. Developing the runner’s high during the months prior to race day will prepare both your mind and body to experience the miles with a sense of euphoria instead of a struggle through agony. Your body will thank you.

This article was originally written by Matt Gagnon. As a wellness professional, he guides clients to emphasize balance while working towards their goals. As a teacher he works to create an experience for students that is light and empowering. He teaches the process of progressing into advanced postures by demonstrating the steps in a style that is adaptive and accessible. Matt encourages students to see beyond comparison and competition with others and present the practice as a journey into the depths of understanding the self.

Kyle Weiger

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