How Yoga And Running Work Together to Make You a Better Athlete

How Yoga And Running Work Together to Make You a Better Athlete

You won’t believe how much stronger you feel.

By Lucy MaherUpdated November 6, 2020


In addition to biking, swimming and running, Mollie Morgan, a marathoner and triathlete in Los Altos, California, also makes time each week for yoga.

“Yoga is great for runners and triathletes,” she says. “It has helped me address some imbalances, and the core work helps us with swimming, biking and running. Runners can be very inflexible and yoga helps us work on improved flexibility. I also love the mindfulness aspect of a yoga class and the emphasis on balancing ease and effort, which is a great message for both training and life. I often need that reminder.”

Turns out she’s onto something. A 2016 study of athletes that took part in bi-weekly yoga sessions over 10 weeks found that their flexibility and balance had improved during that time, and that implementing yoga as part of athletic training improved performance.

“Yoga helps runners with recovery; boosts performance; strengthens their mental game; helps with breathing more efficiently; builds upper-body strength (which some runners neglect); opens up tight hips, quads and hamstrings; and builds core strength,” says Peloton instructor Kristin McGee.

Even the most self-aware runners can fall into the “hamster wheel” trap of logging mile upon mile in an effort to best a PR or train for an upcoming race. This kind of singular focus on running can be detrimental, resulting in muscle and joint imbalance—and in some cases, injury.

For these folks, yoga can act as a way to effectively cross-train and stay active on recovery days. Rather than thinking about the miles you’re missing out on when practicing yoga, focus on how it enables you to be a better runner. “I love how yoga strengthens the upper body via moves like downdog and chaturanaga,” Kristin says. “After all, our arms are an extension of our legs, which can help us when we are sprinting or going up hills.”

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Many runners have trouble controlling their breathing when running. Thankfully, yoga can help there too. “The way you breathe on the yoga mat can be carried into the way you breathe and focus on a run,” Kristin says. “When the discomfort hits, you can learn to breathe into it, and move through the discomfort. I personally have relied on my yoga breathing plenty of times on my runs.”

So you’re thinking about adding some yoga into your exercise routine. Great! You can do it anywhere, anytime. Slow flow classes are ideal for beginners who need time to master the different poses. And in restorative yoga classes, you’ll hold your poses longer and use props to make the effort a bit easier. Up for more movement? Choose a workout that focuses on faster repetitions, such as flow or power yoga. You’ll also find Peloton classes that focus on specific body parts that often tighten up on runners, such as hamstrings and hips.

Doing yoga two to three days a week is ideal, Kristin says. She recommends two 20- to 30- minute sessions and one longer 45-minute class if possible, but even a smaller amount of yoga can still help runners stay flexible and avoid injury.

Once you start working yoga into your routine, you may find that your life—both on and off the Tread—moves smoother. Member Ashley Herd of Atlanta, for example, runs about five times a week and takes Peloton yoga classes two evenings a week. It’s made all the difference. “It helps my flexibility, endurance and recovery,” she says. “It also helps me sleep better at night or recharge in the morning.”

Ready to get started? Read more about why slow flow classes are perfect for beginners.

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