Strength work is important for running…..
You have to stretch and improve mobility…..
Range of motion is integral to an efficient running style….
Have you ever had anyone say these words to you? Probably.
But if you’re anything like me, you might start slowly backing away at this point. And I get it. They are beneficial. But I’m a runner, and I want to run! I don’t want to sit around and stretch in one position for minutes at a time to increase mobility, nor do I want to throw heavy rocks around a room to build strength!
I’m not denying that adding variety into your running training is a bad thing. But you have to be motivated to want to perform such activities.
But here’s the crux.
Recently I found myself at a sticking point with my training. My brain and cardiovascular system were ripe for continuous improvement, but my biomechanics was on the brink of collapse.
All of my imbalances stem from a hip injury early in life. I have a limited range of motion in my right hip, which constantly shifts extra load onto the inside of my knee.
So I had a choice.
- Keep pushing and injuring myself, OR 2. Find a sustainable solution that I wouldn’t resent.
Obviously, I chose the latter, and it came in the form of yoga!
From the 1st December 2021, I decided to complete a yoga session every day for 30 days.
Why every day? It’s all about creating habits.
To form a habit, you have to make it a repeatable process. Think about brushing your teeth, making your morning coffee, or Yerba Mate in my case. You don’t decide to do them every day; you just do them. No negotiation is needed. So I decided to take the same route as brushing my teeth and make yoga a habit.
Life goes on…
I’m no stranger to yoga. I’ve been an on-and-off session goer for years now. It has a great mixture of strength, flexibility, and mobility work, all rolled up into one so you don’t get bored of one aspect of the practice.
I understand there’s much more to yoga than our warped western view, but for the sake of this post, I’m focusing purely on the physical aspects.
If you’re new to yoga and you’ve got it in your head that it’s just gentle stretching aimed at older ladies, you’re entirely wrong. Head over to YouTube and type in Rocket Yoga. Trust me. Yoga can span a wide span of physicality and skills. I like to focus a little more on strength and balance practices, but you can always find what you want with the unlimited resources on YouTube.
You can often move through challenging strength work into heavy dynamic stretching and then a hyper-focused balance practice within a single practice. Combining all these adds to strength building, enhanced flexibility, and range of motion tuning. All the points I was shying away from at the start of the post.
First of all, I learned that Yoga can be uncomfortable… very uncomfortable, just like the strength training I was trying to avoid. Holding single leg balances for 30 seconds at a time sometimes feels like you’re trying to squat with a car on your back.
On the other end, contorting your body in some of the simplest-looking positions is never as easy as it looks. Yes, I’m looking at you, dolphin pose.
Luckily, after around 1-2 weeks of forcing myself every day, I started to settle into my routine. All the aches and pains were known, and now I just had to focus on improvement.
Has it helped my running?
Maybe, maybe not….
The initial impetus behind the 30-day challenge was to sort out my wonky hip, but after 30 days, it’s still wonky. Nothing comes that easily eh?
On day 7, I ended up with even worse symptoms that I had to work out with the massage ball, but luckily it hasn’t happened since.
On a positive note, I have found my running form improving. Around week 3, I noticed a welcomed bounce in my step. Much like some elastic bands had come back to life. My heels were kicking up to my bum, and there was no shuffle in sight.
This may not be solely related to yoga, but I am fairly certain it played a prominent role.
Even on my longer runs, I’m still feeling the spring that’s been missing from my running for a long while now.
That all makes sense when you think about the strengthening aspect of Yoga. Poses like low chair or goddess pose (similar to squats) target the big power muscles like the hamstrings and quads. But then you have poses like airplanes that focus on single leg balances, working the often neglected muscles and tendons. The balances are not just working on one axis, often poses require engagement from many areas of the body at the time.
Am I astonished with my results? No.
If I had put the same amount of time into a strengthening regime, I would have seen faster progression. But that type of workout would neglect the strengthing and mobility side that yoga has covered.
And thinking back to the start of this post, would I have stuck to a strength regime? Maybe, but would I be enthusiastic to carry on with it? Probably not, and that brings me to my last point.
Believe it or not. I’m going to carry on with my daily yoga for now. I’m not in love with it, but there’s a quiet satisfaction knowing that you’ve put in the effort to improve yourself in various ways, and I’m now convinced it’s going to pay off in my future running.
My new morning yoga habit means I’m much less likely to skip a day. I’m sure you already know, but the key to improvement is consistency, and creating that habit leads to consistency. That doesn’t mean that you have to commit to a workout every day (in some cases, that’s detrimental too), but it does mean you have to find hacks in your life to ensure that you keep on coming back to your practice. Only then will you see the results. For more information on habit formation, check out the Huberman Lab podcast.
Now over to you –are you going to try the 30-day challenge?
If you are, I can’t recommend Patrick Beach’s YouTube channel enough. His practices have a beautiful blend of strength and slow, mindful stretching. And he’s got a huge back catalog of videos to choose from, and he still updates every week, so you’ll never bore yourself with the same practice over and over again.