The importance of yoga for runners
When I was self-coached, I focused on running. After all to get better as a runner, one has to, well, run. Right?
I didn’t fully understand the value of cross-training, whether that is yoga, core work, biking, swimming or other exercise that supports and supplements the actual running part of the overall training. That all changed when I hired my first coach.
She immediately put yoga on my training schedule two times a week. Through that, I gained flexibility, increased my recovery time and built in some much-needed meditation time. All of those elements combine to make yoga a dynamic cross-training tool.
And now that I am a certified running coach, all of my athletes receive weekly yoga sessions as part of their training plans.
Paying the price
Following a suggestion from my first coach, I aligned with a new coach at the beginning of this year. The new coach was more experienced with endurance athletes like myself seeking to go longer distances. It made sense as I was aiming for my first 100K.
His training plan prepared my legs and cardiovascular system to handle the distance. It did not, however, prepare my body to fully recover from the weeks of pounding from the running.
Yoga sessions were literally never included in the plan. And core work was minimized. Once in a while I added yoga and additional core work to my plan. But the lack of regular yoga was having a negative impact over the 20 weeks heading into the 100K.
As I was asking more of my glutes to handle 50- to 60-mile weeks, they were weakening from the lack of supportive cross-training they needed. It was a recipe for injury. And I paid the price.
New coach, new PT, new me
Throughout the training cycle for my 100K, I booked monthly massages. While they provided temporary relief, the underlying issues were not being properly addressed. I did not make the connection at the time.
After the 100K, I made two significant changes: I switched coaches and opted for a physical therapist rather than my massage therapist. Both have worked out splendidly.
David Roche, my new coach, demonstrates a better, more mature understanding of what a masters ultra runner requires to be healthy, happy and successful. In fact, David assigned yoga to me on my very first day of his training plan. And it has continued to be a staple each week.
Meanwhile, my PT has worked to identify the issue, given me exercises to rehab it and helped me understand the causes. While the initial pain was in my hip, we soon figured out that a weakening of my glute was the cause.
While the pain was never severe, it lingered to the point where I decided to forego a race in July so that I could be fully healthy as I turned my attention to training for my first 100-miler this November. After a 10-day layoff from running, I was absolutely stoked to get back out this morning in New York City and do a very easy 30-minute run.
It was slow. It was pain-free. It was joyous.
Customized training plans
I don’t want any of my coaching clients to be sidelined due to injury. That’s why my customized training plans call for cross training, including yoga. The amount of cross-training varies for each runner, depending on variables such as their ages, experience levels, goals and more.
Anyone can create a training plan that spits out mileage building toward the athlete’s goal. But I value a holistic approach that sets up my athletes to succeed in their goals while ensuring that their bodies can handle the physical demands placed on them.
If this approach to training interests you, I’d be happy to talk with you about my coaching philosophy more in depth in a no-commitment phone call. Whether you are motivated to run a half-marathon PR, complete your first 5K or qualify for Boston, please check out the coaching page on my website and feel free to email me directly.