Two in One: Yoga and Run
How Integrating Yoga and Running Workouts Benefits Your Body
I had not been able to exercise as much as I liked during this past winter season. While I looked forward to taking my nightly walks, I soon decided to stop my frequent running workouts once the weather turned cold and icy. With the shorter days, I found I had less time — or at least less daylight — to practice running in my neighborhood. I had even cancelled my gym membership since I was trying to better balance my work, home, and personal life, so I couldn’t even crank out a few miles indoors on a treadmill.
Soon, I asked myself, “How can I keep active indoors at my own place? What’s something that I can do to keep my body — and mind — engaged and moving without taking too much preparation, cost, or time out of my busy day?
The answer soon revealed itself to me: yoga.
I therefore made a vow in January to practice yoga throughout the colder seasons and switch back to my running routine in the warmer seasons. However, I had never done yoga before, so like any good modern day citizen, I went to Youtube, typed “beginner yoga practice” into the search bar, and clicked on the first link I saw.
It’s been four months and not only have I stuck with the practice, but I now love yoga. It’s tough, for sure, and sometimes unexpectedly so, but it’s become part of my daily routine — something I look forward to, something beyond a simple activity I check off the to-do list.
Once the Spring season arrived in full bloom, it was time for me to uphold my vow and begin running again. Returning to my running practice, however, didn’t mean that I gave up yoga, despite my initial intention to switch between the two exercises according to the respective seasons I designated. In fact, the two have become one — a single activity I blend together into one daily session that restores and energizes my body.
I absolutely recommend trying out cross-training two different kinds of exercises, incorporating both workouts into one another. Doing so provides a unique experience, and invites you to approach and practice both activities in a new way.
If you think about it, yoga and running are quite complimentary to each other. Consider these three major facets they both share: Strength, flexibility, and breath. In terms of strength, Runner’s World explains how “movement on the [yoga] mat develops strength in the core, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors which will help runners to stay injury free.” On top of that, yoga also helps to exercise muscles that aren’t used as frequently while running, providing support to the full body and treating underused muscles in your workout.
Flexibility is an obvious aspect to yoga, but is equally important to runners as well. Countless of experts recommend stretching before a run, not only to prevent injuries, but to help increase your speed and foot stride. Yoga helps you find flexibility in a healthy manner, so as not to overstretch the muscles. Overstretching can be dangerous for runners, as this article from Aaptiv warns. To combat overstretching, Aaptiv recommends doing a post-yoga run. I’ve always done my yoga practice after my running workout because it helps me cool down from the high energy I exerted. Plus, running gets my heart rate up and blood pumping, which I like to take advantage of by going straight into a yoga session in order to translate that active energy into strength, focus, and (of course) breath control.
Ah, the breath — the end-all be-all for both yogis and runners to master. When I first started practicing, I learned that the breath is a powerful tool to help control your attention to the present moment and to help work your way through the postures and movements, especially for the crazy twisty poses. When I began running again in Spring after spending the Winter months practicing mindful yoga breathing, I found I took more notice of my breathe as I ran. Running really does wonders in opening your airways, so by adding an extra layer of conscious breathwork to your run, you allow less tension to seize your body, invite further awareness to your movement, and develop a drive to keep going. Breathing works to guide and push you through the practice in both of these exercises.
As the seasons turn, and as I explore and keep up with each of these activities further, I’m sure I’ll be making more adjustments to my exercise routine. But for now, I’m simply happy to be able to get outside, move my body, and find my center — all within one refreshing workout.
Julia Collucci writes big thoughts about the things she sees on her walks in both local neighborhoods and far-away places. Follow her Medium account Little Walks, Big Thoughts to read more of her articles.