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Runners are notorious for two things :
a.) Hating injuries that stop them from running.
b.) Hating cross-training even though it might help prevent those injuries.
I am definitely guilty of both of those. I would rather run than hit the gym for a strength session or go to yoga for a good stretch. But I recently realized how much yoga can help prevent injuries—and not just for the reasons you think.
Yoga is a great way to spend time stretching those over-worked muscles fatigued from miles and miles of pounding. It can be a good strength workout too. You can work on balance and breathing in certain yoga classes. There are so many options for styles and levels of yoga every runner can find a good class for their experience level. I’ll admit that I mainly like it for the stretching aspect as that’s something I neglect.
In a recent yoga class I listened as the instructor calmly guided us through a series of sun salutations. When we first started she encouraged us to notice our bodies and observe where we felt tight. We took a few minutes in down dog to feel if the right leg was tighter than the left or vice versa. As we paddled out our feet in that semi-upside down position I stretched my right hamstring and then my left. I paused with one knee bent and pushed back into my right calve, then repeated on the left.
Slowly I was able to pick up on the differences on each side. It felt good to stretch the back of my right leg but a little harder on the left. I made note of where I needed more time stretching later. I felt my shoulders tight from all the running I had done the day before—better make sure I’m not tensing up my upper body while running! Each move and variation was a chance to check in with my muscles.
These small feelings of tightness or the release of a much needed stretch are ways our bodies talk to us. It’s saying where we are tight and need to focus on foam rolling or stretch more. If you notice one side a lot tighter than another that may be a sign of a muscle imbalance.
Things like soreness, tightness, muscle imbalances and fatigue can lead to injuries. One way to prevent an unnecessary running injury is to check in and listen to your body. If it’s trying to tell you it needs rest, recovery, fuel, other…you can meet those needs.
Yes, you can also check-in with yourself during a run but sometimes we get lost in the music and miles. Yoga is a great time to really observe and check-in with your body. Use that time not just to go through the motions, but really pay attention to anything your body is telling you it needs to stay healthy.