The Benefits of Yoga from a Runner’s Perspective
My Story: Robin Zwilling
Massage Therapist, Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor and Athlete
When I was training for my first marathon, I didn’t do any type of cross training. My mind was solely set on following the running routine my coaches suggested. It left no time except for the one day of rest. Of course, all I really wanted to do on that day was actually rest! I finished my first marathon and then did a second with the beginning stages of plantar fasciitis. Running through it—which is what we do as runners—the pain in my feet got worse, but I continued to train. Some days my body was just too tired to complete a full 6-8 mile run. The long runs were manageable, but it wasn’t until my third mile in that my body finally started feeling warmed up.
After having completed my second marathon and then a triathlon, my feet were a mess. I had to have laser surgery on both my feet. Physical therapy (obviously not at Finish Line PT) and orthopedics didn’t resolve the issue. I was sleeping with a boot on my foot and would alternate feet every other night. After the laser surgery, the doctor who performed the procedure recommended I never run again. You can’t tell a runner that!
I started to run again… but this time, I ran less and started doing yoga along with it. I wasn’t training for a marathon and was really looking to accomplish a 5K without any pain. I found the yoga to be helpful. In fact, there were times that if I hadn’t done yoga throughout my week of training, I would feel my calves tightening up. I slowly started to realize the benefit of yoga for my tight calves and hamstrings. I also felt like my breathing had become calmer and broader. I was taking longer, deeper breaths. My race became effortless. Had I known about including yoga into my weekly runs, the course of treatment may have been different. I am no longer running, but I have found that yoga has helped chronic pain in my lower back and other areas from normal activities of daily life. I try to take a class at least 2-3 times a week.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga can be beneficial for endurance athletes on so many levels. The practice is not just about stretching—it’s also about strengthening and lengthening. The activities we engage in on a daily basis—running, cycling, and swimming in particular—are repetitive motion sports that place excessive undue stress on muscles, joints, and bones. By improving the balance of strength and flexibility in muscle groups, athletes can ultimately hope to achieve optimum performance without overly stressing the body.
Yoga is also about learning to use muscles to help you deepen a stretch. The body is working as you are moving into a “pose”. Your breath is working as you move “deeper” into the pose. With every exhale the body learns to let go just a bit, while still remaining present and focusing on the work you are trying to accomplish. The mind and body always come out of a class feeling refined, stronger, calmer.
People oftentimes ask, how do I fit even more activity in to an already packed training schedule? Consider yoga a cross training tool. It’s best to start under the guidance of an experienced yoga instructor, but once you become more comfortable with the poses and breathing, incorporate yoga into your home stretching sessions after a long run, or schedule your run to finish at the yoga studio. Your body will thank you.
Robin Zwilling graduated from the Swedish Institute in 2005 and has worked as a personal trainer and massage therapist. She has enjoyed doing yoga since 2000 and was certified through Sankalpah Yoga in 2008. She previously owned Sangha House Yoga Studio.