Yoga for Runners

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Yoga and running are considered two very different activities but when practiced together they can power the ultimate human machine to achieve optimum performance. If you want pain free running, you must have increased strength and flexibility. If you want to prevent injuries you need good posture and body awareness.

For many, running equates to meditation in motion. The body is set on a repetitive cycle that allows the mind to tune into the present moment through the senses. The warm air brushing up against the skin, the visual of sunlight peaking through the trees, the smells of new life, or even the sound of silence. As our senses are heightened, our awareness begins to shift from the head and into the body. We start to become embodied. This expression of embodiment can be a key component in calming anxiety, reducing stress and capturing a moment in the present. 

The use of yoga has recently gained popularity in preparing athletes for competition. Yoga is an important and often times missing piece in many individuals workout routine but especially a runner’s world. Research shows that yoga positively effects flexibility, ventilation, breathing regulation and relaxation. 

The Problem With Short Duration Stretching 

The reason a quick stretch session after a run isn’t enough is because the muscles need to learn how to lengthen and that isn’t possible when you hold a stretch for only 20 seconds. When a muscle is lengthened, nerve signals increase to the brain. The brain sends a signal back, causing muscle fibers to contract and resist the stretch. This is a protective mechanism to prevent a muscle from being pulled. When holding a pose for 3-5 minutes the brain understands that the stretch is intentional and safe. The muscles can then relax and the body can deepen into a pose.

Below are a few yoga poses that strengthen and lengthen specific muscles that attain to runners. One hour of yoga a week can improve the quality of your runs significantly (but the more the better!)

Extended Triangle

While Standing, slide right foot 3-4 feet back. Turn right foot 30-90 degrees right. 
Place left hand on shin or the ground. Keep thighs firm, buttocks relaxed and knees soft. 
Reach right arm forwards, then up.
Extend spine on inhales, rotate spine on exhales
Take 6-10 breaths, then switch sides. 

Standing Forward Fold

Place feet 6-12 inches apart, keep feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Hang over the legs. 
Extend hands for the ground and relax the neck by tucking the chin.
Inhale the chest away from the belly towards the knees. Extend the spine.
Exhale and hang. Keep big toes, pinky toes and heels down. 
Hand for 6-10 slow, long breaths. 


From Downward Dog or plank move left knee to left wrist and right leg back as far as possible.
Move left heel towards right hip. Rest left shin on floor then lower hip.
Place forearms on the ground with elbows under the shoulders. Move hips gently left and right to release hips and rear end.
Raise upper body by pressing down through palms. Relax the elbows and settle hands and shoulders. 
Maintain for 6-10 breaths, then switch sides. 

Differences in Motivation: Outdoor Running Vs. Indoor Running

Does participating in outdoor versus indoor physical activity have any benefits on overall well being?

This topic is relevant and important because there are health benefits to engaging in outdoor physical activity. When people attend to outdoor habitats, gardens and other forms of nature, they are more likely to engage in physical activity and other behaviors that improve health.
Many people spend money to become a member of a gym, when in reality the outdoors can motivate people to engage in physical activity more then at a gym. In today’s society, being a member of a gym is common and certainly well accepted, but according to studies, the motivation to continue physical activity is greater when the outdoors are involved.  

When the external environment was lacking in information, individuals were more likely to encode internal information and report more fatigue; conversely, when the environment was salient (preferable or distinguishing), internal sensations became less important. These experiments and others have provided interesting insight into some of the environmental and sensory cues affecting the selective monitoring of physical sensations by demonstrating that the perception of physical symptoms and effort may be manipulated by cues that direct and focus attention either internally or externally. 

A research study looking at outdoor versus indoor running showed that the subjects who run outdoors feel less anxious, less depressed, less angry and hostile, less fatigued, and more invigorated while the indoor runners reported feeling more tense, more depressed, more angry and hostile, and more fatigued. The rate of perceived levels of exertion were higher following all running conditions as compared with the control condition.

The results generally indicate that vigorous exercise can have beneficial effect on mood, but the environment and setting in which it occurs and the focused attention seem to exert a mediating effect.

This implies that the activity of exercising is not automatically beneficial, but exercisers need positive environmental stimulation to gain the full beneficial effects from their activity. These findings are particularly relevant for the design of exercise programs, whether for therapeutic or training purposes. 

Positive environmental stimulation may be even more important to enhance compliance with and adherence to therapeutic exercise programs for persons whose motivation may not be as high as that of dedicated athletes.

Engaging with nature to promote health: new directions for nursing research.
PubMed. Seheier, Carver, & Gibbons, 1979.