THOUGH YOU’D NEVER GUESS

Runner's World (UK) - - YOGA FOR RUNNERS -

it from her per­fectly arched wheel pose (im­pos­si­ble-look­ing back bend), Ann Mazur wasn’t al­ways bendy. She grew up run­ning and swim­ming, while her sis­ter ap­peared to in­herit her mother’s flex­i­ble genes (both were com­pet­i­tive gym­nasts). Mid­way through Mazur’s time run­ning for the Univer­sity of Notre Dame, US, she de­vel­oped se­vere IT band pain. In search of a cure, she tried prac­tis­ing yoga more con­sis­tently, which im­proved her in­jury – and her per­for­mance. Mazur dropped her 5K time from 20:16 to 17:11 and was, un­der­stand­ably, sold on the ben­e­fits of reg­u­lar bend­ing. ‘That ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally so­lid­i­fied it for me,’ she says. ‘Yoga will help you run bet­ter and faster.’

Ten years later Mazur has built a mini-em­pire around the phrase ‘Do Yoga, Run Faster,’ the tag line for her web­site, run­ner­sloveyoga.com, and Instagram feed (@run­ner­sloveyoga), where she of­fers video rou­tines for run­ners and her line of ac­tivewear, in­clud­ing T-shirts with the words ‘Marathon then Savasana.’

All this is not slow­ing Mazur down, though. In fact, she’s still speed­ing up, de­spite log­ging a rel­a­tively low 20-40 weekly miles, com­pared with the 60 she ran dur­ing her time at col­lege. Last year, Mazur set per­sonal bests in dis­tances from the mile (5:13) to the half marathon (1:21:39). She can’t re­mem­ber the last time she had a run­ning in­jury. For that she cred­its the hour of yoga she av­er­ages each day.

Phys­io­ther­a­pist Diana Zo­tos agrees that run­ners who prac­tise yoga reg­u­larly tend to stay healthy and per­form bet­ter. A half-marathoner her­self, Zo­tos blends some yoga into her treat­ments for run­ning injuries. ‘Run­ning is such a repet­i­tive mo­tion and mostly in one plane,’ she says. ‘Yoga can help you main­tain healthy joints, it re­bal­ances your con­nec­tive tis­sue and it strength­ens mus­cles in places you don’t tar­get through run­ning.’

What’s more, yoga re­boots your brain and ner­vous sys­tem. By align­ing your breath with your move­ments and stay­ing in the present mo­ment on your mat, you’ll train your body to flip from ‘fight-or-flight’ mode into a more re­laxed state. This trans­lates into eas­ier, more en­joy­able run­ning, says Zo­tos. (See Your Body on Yoga, left, for a full roundup of its ben­e­fits.)

In­te­grat­ing yoga into the rest of your ex­er­cise regime does, of course, re­quire some plan­ning. How­ever, with reg­u­lar prac­tice, the stress re­lief and mind­ful­ness train­ing that yoga of­fers will carry over into other ar­eas of life, help­ing you bet­ter bal­ance run­ning, work and all those other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties life thought­lessly throws at you. Mazur cites her own life as proof: along with ev­ery­thing else, she’s a univer­sity lec­turer. ‘It’s kind of crazy to be teach­ing, run­ning a com­pany, teach­ing yoga and run­ning semi-pro­fes­sion­ally on the side,’ she says. ‘But all the pieces bal­ance each other out. There’s al­ways some­thing to give you a boost.’

Yoga in­struc­tor Traci Copeland stretches her hips and glutes in the pi­geon pose.

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