Is yoga good for runners? With Carla Molinaro
Written By: SportsShoes
Team GB ultra-runner, adventurer and running coach, Carla Molinaro joins us to deliver a yoga session specifically designed for runners. She also explains the benefits of yoga for runners and answers many other frequently asked questions.
HOW IS YOGA BENEFICIAL FOR RUNNERS?
Yoga has a host of benefits for runners including; building strength, increasing flexibility, preventing injuries and providing relaxation. Here are the benefits in more detail:
1. BUILDS STRENGTH
It strengthens your lower body and core helping you gain more power on your runs. Through yoga we learn to stabilise and strengthen our bodies which aids and improves our running form. By increasing our hip stability, this leads to building a solid pelvis for us to drive our legs forward and build strength through our arms and shoulders in poses such as downward dog which help with our arm drive.
2. INCREASES FLEXIBILITY
Through a variety of different poses, yoga helps to increase your range of motion helping you gain a greater stride length and therefore become faster. There is a balance to be had with flexibility and running, as we do actually want our muscles to possess some stiffness as this helps the force move through our bodies and propels us forward. It is all about getting the balance right by having a nice range of motion and some solidness to our muscles to make us run fast!
3. INJURY PREVENTION
When we run, we put stress on our bodies and our muscles tighten. Without doing anything to help compensate for this, we put stress on the skeletal system and eventually imbalanced muscles become weaker and more vulnerable to injury. Yoga helps us with our bodies balance, symmetry and alignment. By giving our bodies balance and working on our alignment we can help keep those injuries away which so often happen because we are wonky and overcompensating for a tight hip or overextended lower back for example.
This is a big one! I find as runners we are always looking to get sweaty, pushing our bodies to the limit and wanting that feeling like we have really worked out. However, sometimes it is good to just unwind and relax. Through yoga we intentionally slow things down which will help you to relax and unwind, which in our busy lives is so important. Yes, you may still find some poses challenging and you will get a sweat on but you will also relax into poses and maybe even fall asleep in a position or two (I once fell asleep for a whole hour yoga session, it was great! ☺), but your body will love you for slowing everything down.
WHICH TYPE OF YOGA IS BEST FOR RUNNERS?
All yoga is great and it is more about finding a type that you enjoy and a teacher that you like. A Hatha or Vinyasa style class is probably a good place to start as the poses are based on flows and movement which will get your body moving in the right directions. Yin is also great as you hold the poses for longer and get into the connective tissue and facia surrounding your muscles. Nidra can be good if you are looking for a nap but it won’t help to increase flexibility.
I specialise in yoga for runners and in my classes I focus on how a runner’s body moves and take elements of yoga and mix it with balance and strength, but I don’t incorporate the meditation side of yoga, I use running for that!
CAN I DO YOGA WITH RUNNER’S KNEE?
Yes, you can and yoga can really help to ease the problem. There are lots of reasons for getting runners knee but some include tight ITB, a weak glute med (I think most runners get told they have weak glutes at some point in their lives - this is completely normal) and tight hips. If you watch the video (embedded above) there are some great exercises to help combat this.
SHOULD I RUN OR DO YOGA FIRST?
This is down to personal preference and in short it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing it! Some people prefer to get a good stretch in before a run and others like to get a good stretch in after a run. When I do yoga, I like it to be the last thing that I do before I go to bed as I then feel nice and stretched out and ready to sleep!
WILL YOGA MAKE ME A FASTER RUNNER?
Yes! Yoga helps to increase the range of motion in your joints and muscles and it strengthens your muscles too which helps you gain more power on your runs. Yoga can help to activate all the muscles in our bodies that get lazy when we run. By engaging more muscle fibres, you generate more power to move forward more quickly.
IS YOGA ENOUGH STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNERS?
I think it is a great start but you really should incorporate a strength and conditioning session into your training programme alongside your yoga session and your runs. This will make sure that all the bases are covered so you are working on mobility, strength, balance and flexibility and you are giving yourself a great chance of preventing injuries and being the best runner that you can be.
HOW DO I BALANCE YOGA AND RUNNING?
This is the tricky bit and I really don’t think you need to go crazy on the yoga front. I do 1 S&C and 1 yoga session a week, normally on my easy run days. My sessions are between 30 – 40 minutes long and I find that a manageable amount, I still feel the benefits and can fit it all into my training programme.
If you are a bit short on time pair up a run with a yoga session. Get your mat ready before you leave the house and as soon as you come back from your run it is there ready for you to get straight into a good stretch!
IS FLEXIBILITY BAD FOR RUNNERS?
This is a great question and runners do actually want a degree of tension in their muscles. This helps create the force needed to propel you forward. However, the majority of runners that I see and work with have incredibly tight muscles (me included) and this can actually hinder your performance slightly as it stops you getting the full range of motion through your joints. So, whilst too much flexibly can be bad if you are not a contortionist and the average runner struggles to touch their toes with straight legs, then some increased flexibility will do you the world of good and won’t be bad for you at all!
Thanks to Carla Molinaro for these fantastic tips and check out her website if you’re interested in yoga and the benefits it can have on your body – she’s not just a SCY teacher, she’s also a record breaking ultra-runner, adventurer and running coach.
If you’re perfecting your favourite yoga moves, whether it’s for the ‘Gram or just for yourself, you’ll want to make sure you’re kitted out with everything you need. Our yoga store is fully stocked with a wide range of yoga clothing and accessories, so whether you’re a seasoned pro, or just getting started, you’re sure to be well prepped.