Run­ners and yoga

Up un­til a few years ago, you likely wouldn’t have found many run­ners in barre or yoga classes. “It seemed as if yoga and barre were re­ally taboo amongst run­ners,” says Amanda Nurse, an elite run­ner, run coach, and yoga in­struc­tor based in Bos­ton. Run­ners

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To­day? “yoga for run­ners” is a highly searched thing. Run-spe­cific classes have made the practice more ap­proach­able to non-ex­perts, keep­ing many run­ners in­jury-free and men­tally and phys­i­cally strong. “Some of our most en­thu­si­as­tic clients are run­ners who have im­proved their time but have also worked through phys­i­cal pain and in­jury that was lim­it­ing their abil­ity to find the joy that brought them to run in the first place,” says Sadie Lin­coln, co-founder and CEO of barre3. “Our run­ners come to barre3 to cross-train, re­hab in­jury, and also to de­velop men­tal strength and focus.” Many of the com­pany’s mas­ter train­ers and in­struc­tors are run­ners them­selves, she adds.

Of course, not *ev­ery* barre and yoga class is cre­ated equal, so if you’re look­ing to change up your non-run days, try to find a stu­dio that of­fers yoga geared to­ward run­ners (or some­thing of the like). Not only will you be sur­rounded by like-minded peo­ple (read: not a stu­dio full of ex­pert yo­gis do­ing ad­vanced poses), but these classes usu­ally tar­get spe­cific mus­cles that need to be stretched or opened (you know, the hips and the ham­strings), says Nurse. “More restora­tive or stretch­ing-fo­cused yoga also works as a great al­ter­na­tive to strength train­ing or an off day.”

The good news is that with on­line work­outs and IRL stu­dios, you have more op­tions now than ever to find a class that works for you. Once you find some­thing you like, try to make it habit for a month so you can “click” with the work­out and start to see some of the re­wards be­low.

Strengthen Mus­cles Cru­cial for Run­ning

Run­ners are a group that can be guilty of do­ing lit­tle more than, well, run­ning. But both yoga and barre of­fer some phys­i­cal perks that pay off down the road.

For one: “Barre classes are can­tered around the core,” says Becca Lu­cas, owner of Barre & An­chor, a barre stu­dio in We­ston, MA. “You work your abs from the very be­gin­ning of class to the very end.”

This is key as a stronger core is ar­guably the most im­por­tant mus­cle groups for strong run­ning, notes Nurse. Take a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Biome­chan­ics, which found that deep core mus­cles work to more evenly dis­trib­ute the load of a run, likely al­low­ing for bet­ter per­for­mance and en­durance. Yoga— full of core-fo­cused moves (boat pose, war­rior III, and planks)—is full of ab-fo­cused ex­er­cises, as well.

Bal­anc­ing poses can also help strengthen small, yet im­por­tant mus­cles in the an­kles, legs, and core that run­ners need to move fast and ef­fi­ciently, ex­plains Nurse. And while you might not think of run­ning as a sin­gle-leg sport, in many ways, it is. You land on one foot at a time. Work­ing through one-legged ex­er­cises can help train the body for those move­ments on the road. More gen­er­ally, though, yoga with its body­weight com­po­nent and barre by way of the light­weight dumb­bells you use in class can both serve as a strength-train­ing for many run­ners. Pre­vent Run­ning In­juries

A focus on stretch­ing (some­thing you prob­a­bly of­ten skip!) works to im­prove flex­i­bil­ity, pre­vent in­jury, and pro­mote re­cov­ery, notes Lu­cas. “Many run­ners come to us with sim­i­lar mus­cle im­bal­ances that

we help them work through,” adds Lin­coln. “We help them open up their hip flex­ors and chest, and strengthen their core, glutes, and ham­strings for im­proved pos­ture and align­ment.” (Not sure where to start? As both yoga and barre are low-im­pact, they also give run­ners’ joints a much-needed break, ex­plains Lu­cas.

Yet, while a focus on pre­vent­ing in­juries is hugely im­por­tant, Lin­coln adds that these kinds of stu­dio classes of­fer up another im­por­tant ben­e­fit. “Equally im­por­tant for run­ners is hav­ing an in­spir­ing place to work out when they do have an in­jury. “Since both work­outs are eas­ily mod­i­fi­able, you can still get a good work­out in if you have a tweak that’s keep­ing you from your usual mileage. “It’s some­thing that’s well-re­ceived by the high-per­form­ing run­ning com­mu­nity,” says Lin­coln.

Build Men­tal Strength

“As a marathon run­ner, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to be men­tally strong dur­ing a race. When the body starts to hurt, you need to be able to uti­lize breath­ing tech­niques or mantras to get you through,” says Nurse. And while yoga’s men­tal benefits seem pretty ob­vi­ous (read: a chance to fi­nally re­lax in Savasana where you’re en­cour­aged to do lit­tle more than chill out and breathe), barre pushes you men­tally out of your com­fort zone, says Lu­cas. “Classes are un­com­fort­able from the be­gin­ning un­til the very end, which can be sim­i­lar to a run. Your body benefits phys­i­cally from the ex­er­cises, but you ben­e­fit men­tally as well.” A focus on form and breath­ing helps you con­nect in­ward, too.

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