On Yoga for Runners

Most of you are long-time readers, and if you’ve been reading my training posts lately, you’ve noticed something new: Lots of yoga.

In 2012, I started attending Teresa’s Wednesday night yoga class at McLeod Health and Fitness in Florence. At the time, I was dealing with a hip issue (probably piriformis related) and yoga seemed to help the niggles.

I coached Florence Track Club as a volunteer and ran three times a week, focusing on cross training and yoga to fill in the gaps. Since I was coaching, Clay was going to school and working full time, and I wasn’t 100% healthy, I didn’t focus so much on improving as a runner and ran for fun and fellowship.

Through yoga, I found relief from my hip and back pain, but I also found so much more- a supportive community of Florence yogis. They even threw a goodbye party for me when I moved to Charleston.

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Seeing the different yoga made for me, I kept practicing when I moved to Charleston. I found a few classes and teachers I liked and attended class every week. However, with teachers leaving and going to other gyms or studios, studios closing, and local gyms phasing yoga classes out, I frequently took yoga breaks. Every time I found a teacher I liked and stuck with a class for a few months, that teacher would move on to another studio or the globo-gym would cancel the class.

I also amped up my running, and when you only have so many hours in a day, something has to go. Often, that was yoga.

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When I injured my knee in November, I knew my immediate race plans for the Lexington Half Marathon and Charleston Marathon were out of the picture. Since I couldn’t run, I cross trained and got back to yoga. It helped that a new studio, Soul Yoga and Wellness, opened near my home, and that Clay’s BJJ/MMA gym opened a small yoga studio, Ashley River Yoga. Clay does yoga as well, and it’s great to share a hobby with him.

I also met Kelly through Charleston Beer Runners and started attending her BodyFlow class at my gym. While BodyFlow is not yoga (it’s a blend of yoga, pilates, and tai chi), I found similar cross training benefits, including open hips, flexible ankles, and a stronger core. Kelly is proof that you can be an excellent yoga and barre teacher while balancing running.

Many runners ignore yoga. You might not sweat a lot, and your heart rate probably won’t go out the roof. While it’s not a cardiovascular activity, I find the classes like Yin yoga, which involve little moving and holding poses for minutes at a time, are the hardest ones.

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The mental toughness I get from holding pigeon pose for 3 minutes will pay off in the end of a race when I need that mental edge. Yoga’s helped my ITBS pain, allowed me to visualize my races (and race success), and gave me the freedom to chill. When I couldn’t run, I loved experiencing those little successful moments in yoga- such as my heels finally touching the ground in downward facing dog.

As a runner, I concede that yoga and cross training are no substitute for mileage, and for running success, you have to put in the work on the roads. I believe in the trial of miles, but I cannot train to be a successful runner without yoga. For me, it’s here to stay!

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19 Responses to On Yoga for Runners

  1. I keep going through phases with really sticking to it and letting it go. Right now I’m trying not to feel like it must be a one hour practice and just doing a few moves each day, which at least I know is still working my hips!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It can definitely be hard to fit in classes. The hardest part for me is honestly driving to the class. Even the closest yoga studio is a 15-20 minute drive, so I have to factor travel time in there. I try to get some stretching and strengthening in on my own if I can’t make it to a class.

  2. I’ve been loving yoga lately. With school I haven’t had as much time to run (though in part that is poor time management on my part), but it has been easy to squeeze in a quick 20 minute yoga break while studying. There has been a really nice sense of accomplishment as I have been getting stronger and more flexible. I’m working on rebuilding my mileage now, and I am really hoping I can keep up with yoga as well.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It’s really amazing what you can accomplish in 20 minutes if that’s all you have, too. Sometimes I think 20 minutes of PT exercises or yoga, for me, serves my body better than spending that time running extra miles.

  3. Michelle says:

    Yoga is saving my running life right now. I made it a “new years goal” to vow to hit a yoga class twice a week. I’m not disciplined enough to do yoga at home, I need an instructor to tell me what to do. I like to go to hot yoga. There is just something so cleansing about sweating it all out on my mat. I think Yoga + Running are best friends. I don’t know if it is the reason my ITBS is gone but I’m sure not going to test the theory out by stopping my yoga practice.

    Glad you’re ITBS is better too! We’re going to crush our goals this year, happy & healthy!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I too am kind of scared to stop doing yoga since it’s done so much for me. Two classes a week is doing a lot more for my body than just one did. The BodyFlow class is more movement based and the mid-week class is more deep stretch, so I get the best of both worlds when I do both of those.

      I can’t wait to crush my April half marathon :).

  4. Kate Gatsby says:

    I’ve been trying to facilitate a yoga for runners class for weeks now!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Charleston Running Club did one back in September, which was really nice (one of the pictures in this post is from that event). I hope they will do it again, because it was the best event they hosted all year, in my opinion. We did a 3.1 mile run downtown on a beautiful route, then 45 minutes of yoga, then ate snacks from Whole Foods. It was a great night all around.

  5. KrisLawrence says:

    I love this. After doing yoga sporadically for years, I’ve committed to doing 5-45 minute videos daily. It’s been wonderful and I’m hoping to see results in my flexibility and recovery times. Glad you enjoy it!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’m glad you’re seeing results too, Kris! Hopefully yoga keeps us both injury-free this year and we can run races that represent our training well (I read your blog post, and have the same goal).

  6. I’m glad yoga is helping you so much and that you found a supportive community!

  7. Love, love, love this! When I ran a lot in the past, I wasn’t into yoga and I so wish I would have given it the time it deserved! Now, I try to practice a few days a week and I just love it for so many reasons!

  8. Elizabeth C. says:

    That’s awesome that you have started doing more yoga and that you enjoy it so much. I know it’s really good to do, but it simply bores me to tears. I am too ADD! That’s precisely why it would be great for me, but every time I try, I just don’t enjoy it. It’s awesome that Clay does yoga as well and you have a nice group of friends that do it too!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I always thought that too, but I think maybe that gives me a little mental edge that translates to running? In Savasana, I try to visualize my race success… I also try to stay mentally engaged with making sure I am doing poses correctly and the best I can. It is not easy- but neither is running and racing, so I guess yoga is mentally taxing in another way.

  9. Angela says:

    I have tried so hard so many times to go to yoga regularly but like you teachers I liked moved, my gym changed class times but I said this year I’d definitely find regular yoga class!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      The gyms here make it tough. I tried a new class at mine on Tuesday nights. Turns out they got rid of the Monday and Wednesday night classes and just now have one on Tuesday nights. Okay, I understand instructor availability and I’m fine with the change, but what if someone else could ONLY go on M/W? The classes are packed so I’m not sure why they don’t add more.

  10. laurenweiner says:

    I LOVE yoga, but like you, its usually the first thing to go when I run out of time. It has had immense benefits for me…both physically and mentally. Our gym has very consistently been able to keep at least one, if not two yoga classes a day on the schedule. I’m also a fan of Body Flow. Not as meditative for me (which often I need), but the physical benefits are great.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      BodyFlow is definitely more of a workout/movement oriented class, and some tracks are more yoga-esque than others. I try to make it twice a week- to one class that is restorative and to BodyFlow- for a nice balance.

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