THOUGH YOU’D NEVER GUESS
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.