Yoga and Pilates are both great for cross training. They have many common benefits that appeal to runners. Each incorporates breathing techniques that strengthen muscles of respiration to deliver oxygen to the tissues more efficiently. Both help you develop long lean musculature to address the muscle tightness that often plagues runners.
But which is better for your body and mind?
YOGA for Runners:
People often say: “I can’t do yoga, my muscles and joints are too tight.” This is precisely the body that could benefit from yoga! Yoga can make tight muscles supple and increase range of motion across joints.
Another huge benefit of yoga is developing greater awareness. A good instructor teaches students to tune in, go inside, and feel the stretch as they hold a pose. As awareness of bodily sensations increases, practitioners gradually learn how to find the sweet spot between not enough and too much intensity. That internal awareness is key to achieving peak running performance without injury.
Balance: Yoga improves balance. Holding a pose fosters not only improved general balance, but also balance between different muscle groups – hamstrings and quads for example. As you increase awareness of your own body’s asymmetries, you’ll be able to open up tight lines through your body to create the symmetry that makes running an elegant endeavour.
Yoga helps calm the nervous system following the spike in cortisol after a tough run (or any stressful event). The meditation aspects of yoga have stress relieving qualities that go well beyond the mat. A study in Biological Psychology demonstrated decreased cortisol levels and a self reported decrease in stress after just 8 weeks of yoga.
Pilates for Runners:
Pilates is wonderfully suited for those who are more flexible and need to develop the stability behind their mobility. Pilates students strive for complete and focused muscle control. A study of 40 runners showed marked improvements in functional movement patterns after just 6 weeks of Pilates compared with the control group.
Pilates builds mental strength – a necessary attribute for athletes of all kinds, but particularly distance runners. If you are an aerobic junkie, but abhor the words core strength, join a Pilates class. Who knew there were so many ways to activate the core without doing a single sit up? And when we say core, we mean hips, abdominals, spinal stabilizers – the whole enchilada.
In a reformer class, tension can be adjusted to assist or resist a given movement as needed. The focus is on clean form and activating the intended muscles. The precise, controlled technique combined with rhythmic breathing fosters graceful movement. An hour zips by before you even know it.
Running is wonderful exercise. If you want to start running or continue running without injuries, cross training is a must. ALTA has both Yoga and Pilates classes and privates. Ask your therapist what’s best for you, and start training now. 2018 can be your healthiest year yet, and we’re here to help make it happen.