Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

Can yoga improve your running and cycling performance?

The arrival of spring signals the start of the season for runners and cyclists. It’s the time of registering for races and outlining a training schedule. It’s the time to take the bike off the trainer and onto the road. It’s the time to start ramping up the number of miles logged each week.

Make this season one of your best when you incorporate yoga into your training schedule. Yoga has many benefits for runners and cyclists. By increasing strength, flexibility and mental focus, yoga can help you recover faster, prevent injuries and improve your performance.

Increasing strength for runners

Whether you are a competitive runner or a run-for-fun type, you know how the constant pounding on the pavement takes a toll on your body. The unfortunate result can be pain, often in the knees and back, that makes running less enjoyable and can prevent you from reaching your goals.

By practicing yoga, all of the large and small muscle groups are worked and strengthened in a balanced approach. Where running can create tightness in the quadriceps, yoga builds strength and flexibility through the quadriceps, hamstrings and hips to stabilize the legs. Yoga poses also build strength through the core, which is key for runners as the core generates power for your stride. A strong core also enables you to maintain proper posture and balance while running.

Increasing strength for cyclists

Once on-the-road training begins, a cyclist logs many hours in the saddle. Similar to runners, the repetitive motion of cycling puts continuous demands on the same muscle groups, which may lead to pain and overuse injuries.

In contrast, yoga focuses on all muscles equally. While leg strength, and quad strength in particular, is critical for cyclists, failing to strengthen the hamstrings, hips, back and core can result in fatigue and loss of power. Utilizing yoga to build strength through these underdeveloped muscles will improve endurance and performance. A strong core will also do the work to balance you on the bike so the legs can focus on delivering power to the pedals instead of balancing the body.

Increasing flexibility

For both runners and cyclists, the stretching aspect of yoga helps your muscles and joints stay healthy and injury-free. Tight muscles and joints are stiffer and more brittle, which makes them more prone to soreness and injuries.

Of particular concern are the hamstrings and hips for both runners and cyclists. An inversion like Legs-Up-The-Wall, a pose that involves elevating your feet above your head, gently stretches the hamstrings, legs and lower back. Increasing flexibility through yoga poses decreases stiffness and pain, results in greater ease of movement, shortens recovery time and decreases your chance of future injuries.

Increasing mental focus

Besides the physical benefits, yoga provides mental benefits for runners and cyclists, too. As the initial excitement and anticipation of starting the season give way to the stresses and demands of training and performing in races, you need mental toughness to reach your goals.

Yoga teaches mental focus and tenacity through the practice of holding difficult poses. In Tree pose, you balance on one foot with your arms extended above your head. Your mind and body must be connected and focused on maintaining your balance or you’ll tip over. Learning to listen to your body and center your attention allows runners and cyclists to block out distractions and nervousness before a race. It also provides the concentration required to keep you going through the intense times in training and competitions.

When adding yoga to your training schedule, the intensity of your training should dictate the intensity of your yoga practice. If you’re a competitive athlete who logs a lot of miles, a more relaxed yoga class like Restorative Yoga will be good for an active recovery day. If your training is less intense or if you utilize cross-training days, go for a more intense yoga class like Yoga Body Bootcamp or PiYo. Don’t be afraid to try different classes until you find the one that’s right for you. And, when the season ends, your yoga practice doesn’t have to. Use yoga year-round to build and maintain strength, flexibility and mental focus.


 

Lauren Quella and Jayne Lang

Lauren Quella teaches yoga at Advanced Movement Studio in the new Yoga Loft. Lauren holds a 200-hour Yoga Instructor certification and is a NETA-certified Personal Trainer. Jayne Lang is the Studio’s marketing director. Advanced Movement Studio is locally-owned and located along the Fox River in Appleton’s historic Edison Center. The Studio’s mission is to bring every aspect of health and fitness together for every client. The Yoga Loft is an extension of this mission. It is an inspirational space where the benefits of yoga can be integrated with other important aspects of health and wellness. For more information, call (920) 209-1662 or visit www.AdvancedMovementStudio.com or www.YogaLoftatAMS.com.

Website: www.YogaLoftatAMS.com
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