The whole running thing has grown on me over the last few weeks more than I ever imagined it would. And for the first time, I am starting to really understand the quote above.
But if you are not careful, running could come at a price: a host of unpleasant injuries resulting from bad technique, poor nutrition, skimping on a warm up before and/or a stretch after a run.
On that note, I would like to introduce to you my wonderful friend and today's guest blogger, Eva of EveJuniper Yoga. Eva is a fellow yoga teacher and a yoga sports coach. She is also a runner herself (we're talking ultramarathons, impressive lady!) and knows all about keeping well and healthy through the training process.
Let's get started with part one of the running series, over to Eva!
EVA'S GUIDE TO RUNNING BETTER
Who doesn't want to feel great leaving all the common pains and niggles behind that a running training so often brings with it? Few are lucky enough to not feel the soreness of stiff muscles that often start seizing up the moment we stop running, especially after hard training sessions or long weekend runs.
If you are a runner, you have most likely experienced it all. You may even have had your share of some of the more common running injuries: patellafemoral pain syndrome, painful knee joint during exercise, for example. Or tibial stress syndrome, better known as shin splint, i.e. this intense pain along the front of your shin or the inner side of your lower leg. And then there’s also the famous ITB pain, the illiotibial band friction; apart from feeling the tightness in the outside of your thigh, you may feel a sharp pain on the outside of your knee joint, maybe even a catching sensation as the band slides over the bony part in the thigh bone.
All pretty painful. But the great thing is that there are ways to avoid these injuries completely, or to support the healing process if you have not quite managed to prevent them from happening. The principles of physiotherapy and prevention somewhat overlap with what I do within my work as a Yoga Sports Coach.
By practicing yoga in general, but even better by using more focused running-specific techniques, you can support yourself on your journey to become stronger, faster, healthier and, hence, a happier runner.
Yoga helps develop greater body awareness, it deepens our understanding of how our bodies work. We become more atuned to the messages our bodies send and then better able to act accordingly.
But how exactly can yoga make you a better runner you’re asking?
Bare with me, I’ll get there.
Inhale. Exhale. Easy right? Well, for some it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Without even knowing, we hold our breath in stressful situations.
We breathe very shallowly through the tops of our lungs and not make full use of the huge capacity we have on offer. After all, most of us have never really learned to breathe consciously. And even when we run -– the usual method of exercise breathing is currently: inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth -– we often run with our mouths wide open, gasping for air, rather than working with and consciously controlling the breath to our advantage.
Did you know that in the upper lobes of the lungs you’ll find sympathetic nervous system receptors that are triggered in certain emergency fight-or-flight, i.e. stressful situations? Whereas in the lower lungs you’ll find an abundance of parasympathetic nervous system receptors that are responsible for the calming and peaceful response. Interesting, right?
Just some food for thought.
♥ Breathe in and out through the nose
♥ Make each inhalation and exhalation the same length
♥ Find a nice rhythm, gently directing the flow of air into your lower lungs (breathing into your belly)
♥ Then fill up through the sides into your rib cage
♥ And only then into your chest, just underneath the collar bones
♥ Exhale in no particular order
Imagine your lungs to be this three-dimensional balloon, expanding into all directions as you inhale. In every posture you practice, imagine breathing oxygen into the part of your body that you are stretching to find more length, more space and to open up and expand a little more with every breath you take.
Use your breath as a tool to connect your mind, your will and ambition with your body, working as one towards “The Zone” or “Runners High”, this state of composure and calm that will see your performance go through the roof!
By practicing yoga as part of our running training we aim to:
♥ Achieve our normal mobility and range of movement
♥ Stretch connective tissue and muscles to their optimal length
♥ Increase the strength of our muscle tendon attachments
♥ Improve muscle endurance and stability
♥ Improve our coordination and proprioception
Next time, I'll introduce you to my top 3 postures to kick start your journey to become a healthier and happier runner. Stay tuned!
If you happen to be a runner and a Londoner, check out Eva's Sports Yoga class in SW17. A new course is starting this Thursday evening!
And if you are in NW2 or around, come check out my yoga classes in Willesden Green. They are all round classs designed to make your body and mind happy!
Try Eva's breathing exercise, let us know what difference you've noticed and we'll see you on the mat. Happy running!
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