The Top 11 Benefits Of Yoga For Trail Runners

The Top 11 Benefits Of Yoga For Trail Runners

The first yoga pose I did was to sit on my knees…WOW, that sure hurt.

The second yoga pose was to rest on the back of my feet, OUCH, that hurt even more.

Crossing my legs was the third pose, and here is where I came to a realization. I realized that my body was NOT built the way I thought it was.

Sure, as an ultra-runner I could run on my feet for 24 hours…. but I couldn’t even sit on my knees for 24 seconds.

Since I race most ultramarathons on trails I began to question, “Was yoga for trail runners or not?”

Well, my first day of yoga taught me A LOT. I learned that my legs were stiff, sore, and worst of all…prone to injury! But fortunately, there was a solution to my problem. The solution…YOGA.

So, after day 1 of a 30-day yoga challenge, I knew it was worth following through on the next 29 days. I mean, what did I have to lose?

It was time to try something new. So, I completed the entire 30 days of instructional do-it-at-home yoga videos.

And you know what?

It was a perfect time to give it a shot. That’s because I wasn’t preparing for one of my longer races. But still, it was a respectable 50k out in the mountains of Arizona. And it was my first ultramarathon on a real set of mountains. No, not just a trail with a lot of rolling hills, this was an actual mountain.

You see, I was traveling to Arizona for a work convention. So, while the rest of the company played golf and drank beer on their day off, I had other plans. Instead, I strapped on a pair of gaiters, hopped in a rental car, and headed south with just enough time to sneak in a 50k.

For me, dirt hills and coconut water sounded much more appealing than golf balls and Miller Lite.

RELATED: 12 Practical Trail Running Tips For Beginners

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

So, after completing 30 days of a progressive yoga plan, I hit the trails, and surprisingly, there were some noticeable benefits of yoga for trail runners. No, yoga wasn’t some magical solution to make trail running super easy.  However, I did notice a difference. And even better, I could tell if I continued with yoga, it would only benefit my trail and ultra-running even more.

Please note—my yoga practice was not what solely contributed to these benefits. Nothing can replace the time spent on your feet to better your running.

But I did discover some advantages that are worth discussing. So, know that I’m no yogi, and I’m not saying yoga is the only way.  But I can tell you that the benefits of yoga for trail runners did stand out.

So read on and learn how 30 days of yoga for trail runners will improve your performance. I will lay out 11 benefits that had a positive effect on my running. And maybe…just maybe… you will test it out for yourself. Because remember–what do you have to lose?

1. Running Uphill Becomes Easier

Yoga strengthens your core which allows you to use your whole body when running uphill.

After 30 days of yoga, this new strength stood out the most. Simply put, I felt stronger when running uphill. I could literally feel my entire core engage as my legs tired from those long and steep inclines.

But a stronger core came as no surprise. That’s because during every pose of every yoga session the instructor emphasized to ENGAGE the CORE. And when I say EVERY pose… I mean EVERY pose.

On race day after the first few climbs I remember thinking “Wow, I feel strong.” Instead of feeling weak and forcing myself up the hill, I felt more CENTERED and climbed it with a new strength.

Sure, I only did 30 days of yoga, and no it wasn’t a deal breaker, but the difference was CLEAR.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga strengthens the core which makes running uphill easier.

Try a PLANK pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

2. Avoid Painful Ankle Rolls From Technical Trails

Did you ever roll your foot or ankle on a rock when running a trail? Did it hurt? Does it happen a lot?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you may have a recurring foot pain.  You see, If I roll my left foot off a rock or root, it can HURT for the remainder of the race. That’s because I injured my foot as a kid and it never heeled 100%.

Well, yoga can help with foot and ankle rolls. By practicing yoga in between training runs, you will increase your flexibility which prevents aches and pains.

I didn’t realize how inflexible I was until trying yoga. And foot flexibility was never even a consideration.

When I sat on the back of my feet for the first time, it HURT. But after a few days, the pain dissipated. I bet runners who deal with an overuse foot injury like plantar fasciitis would benefit significantly from a pose like this.

Here’s the bottom line: 30 days a yoga brought a better range of motion to my feet and legs.

Rolling my foot awkwardly off rocks did not cause the type of pain it usually does. And even better, I could change up the length of my stride without pulling any muscles.

As you can imagine, I was able to run up and down those mountains CONFIDENTLY all day. The terrain had many direction and elevation changes, but with a better range of motion, I didn’t hesitate. I ran with a higher level of assertiveness and confidence. I didn’t have to hold back as much.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga prevents stiffness, lessens aches and pains, and even promotes a quicker recovery.

Try a DIAMOND pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

3. Run Faster With Less Effort

After 30 days of yoga, I was able to run with better form for longer.

So how does this help you run faster?

Well, the longer you run with proper form, the more efficient your run becomes. And if you compare two runs at the same distance, but you run the second one with an increase in efficiency, then naturally you will run a faster time.

Now I didn’t run my fastest 50k on race day. I’ve run some pretty flat courses in the past.  So, I didn’t set a new PR. However, being a runner who does not track his time and runs on feel, I can tell you this: I felt faster than normal. Basically, I felt light on my feet.

When you perform yoga poses you strengthen your core, hips, lower back, and abdominal muscles. This combination stabilizes your body and helps improve your running form. But most importantly, yoga enables you to keep proper form even when you’re TIRED.

So by running with proper form, even when fatigued, you will increase efficiency. And as you know by now, this will allow you to run faster with less effort.

Running on top of those mountains was blissful. My feet were light, my body was stable, I was floating on clouds, and my running held up much better than it has in the past. Sure, this wasn’t entirely because of 30 days of yoga, but it sure had a part

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga improves your form for longer distance thus allowing you to run a faster with far less effort.

 Try a LOW LUNGE pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

4. Improves Stability To Run Further Distances

Here’s the fact: yoga strengthens your WHOLE body, not just your running muscles. And when your entire body is stable, you can run further distances.

As runners, we tend not to think about the overall balance of our bodies. If our running muscles are strong, and we can run far, then there’s no problem.

Right?

Well, to become a long distance runner you must run long. And this practice strengthens your long distance muscles without a doubt. But what I learned from yoga was a balance in strength will support those long distance muscles when they tire. And the combination will help you run further with less wear and tear.

I felt fuller, stronger, and healthier during training. And when race day came, I ran on top of those mountains with a better sense of aliveness.

Yes, I weight train throughout the week, but yoga was different… it was BALANCED.

Performing a full body yoga workout during the week will strengthen other muscles that help stabilize you when running.

And that’s what yoga did. I became more stable and other muscles compensated when fatigue settled in.

No, it wasn’t the cure-all from fatigue, but I definitely noticed a difference. And from experience, I can tell you this: when running ultra-distances on the trails, every advantage helps.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga strengthens your entire body which provides the type of stability you need to run LONG distances on the trails.

 Try a TREE pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

5. Prevents Pain and Injury From Tight and Weak Muscles

The increase in stability, flexibility, and core strength from yoga also prevents injury.

If you just run, without any other forms of exercise, you are most likely unbalanced. YOU may have the strength to get your run done; however, not ALL runners do. Unfortunately, some runners are taken out by chronic pain and injury.

So, if you are one of those runners with pain, then give yoga a try.

You could be experiencing tightening and shortening of your muscles while running. Naturally, this inflexibility makes you prone to injury. But with yoga, you can elongate and loosen your muscles which provides a greater range of motion thus reducing the risk.

Pretty awesome, right? 

20-30 minutes of yoga a day has the chance to eliminate the cause of your pain and injury.

Now your body will not have to compensate for any weak spots. You will be BALANCED, and your body’s efforts will go towards running the race…not preventing injury. 

Remember this: tight muscles get tighter and weak muscles get weaker. And since muscles are a natural shock absorber, if they are tight and weak, you will become prone to injury.

And that’s only one way that yoga will prevent pain and injury. Injury prevention may be its best benefit of all. 

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga provides you with flexibility and balance thus elongating your muscles to prevent pain and injury.

Try a WARRIOR pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

6. Gain More Energy From Opening Your Chest

You see, yoga emphasizes opening up your chest and puts awareness on your breath. In turn, when you run, breathing can be used as a tool to provide more oxygen to your working muscles for energy. And when trail running, that’s more oxygen to your legs.

So, next to engaging the core, the instructor of my 30-day yoga challenge CONSTANTLY said to OPEN your chest.

Developing a fuller chest helped on race day. I noticed a more natural and easy flow of breathing. With an open chest, I was able to take fuller deliberate breaths when fatigued.

Also, when breathing became difficult, like running up a steep incline, I was able to use it to help with the new energy demands. My breathing began to transfer from a sharp and forced breath to a more deep and relaxed one.

When you begin to put awareness on your breath, you can deliberately ease the discomfort of long distance.

Not a bad tool to have for running long distances on the trails.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga opens up your chest providing more air to your working muscles for energy.

Try an UPWARD FACING DOG pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

7. Shifts Your Focus Away From The Finish Line

Yoga makes you much more mindful. Being more mindful makes it easier to keep your thoughts in the present moment. And when you are able to stay in the present, you can run longer distances.

You can run further because you stop focusing on the finish line and only focus on the act of running itself.

When running an ultramarathon, if you focus on the finish line, then you can find yourself in trouble. It’s one thing when you’re running 10 miles with 3 miles to go. But when you’re running, say 100 miles, and have 30 miles left, the thought alone can be exhausting.

I remember the time I ran 116 miles and found out I reached mile 107. Sounds like some great news, right? 

NO WAY! At the time when I heard I was on mile 107, I thought I was going to lose my mind!

 That’s why it’s important to stay in the present moment. When you do so, it’s one foot in front of the other, and one way or another, the finish line will come. It always does.

Well, although I considered mindfulness as one of my strengths before I even tried yoga, I still noticed a slight difference after 30 days of yoga. So, I’d guess if it’s a new skill for you, then yoga will help a lot… a WHOLE lot.

And here’s the good news: as you develop a better understanding of how the body works through yoga, you become more in-tune with your body. So now you respond much better to what it is telling you.

As I said in Run Further With These 17 Uncommon Principles: “the most powerful tool you have to run long distance is your mind, and when you master it, the boundaries of your endurance disintegrate.”

Remember–running an ultramarathon is much more mental than it is physical. Your body doesn’t keep you moving forward when those thoughts arise that scream to STOP. It’s your mind that’s reaching for something far beyond what makes rational sense. It’s your mind that would rather do something punishing than relaxing, something that takes struggle than comfort, something that causes misery than contentment.

Because deep down you know there’s a direct path to ALL your running goals through struggle, discomfort, and growth. That’s because it’s YOUR path, one you pave yourself.

What yoga does is develop a mind of better focus and concentration. With this, you can focus more on the sensations of your body and the beautiful environment around you. Now when those race-ending thoughts creep in, there’s no emotional response, and you can keep running forward. You shift from focusing on the finish line, to what’s happening in the NOW. Running goes from a buildup and release process to a meditative one of mindfulness and gratitude.

NOW lace up those shoes and run that trail and tell me how you feel.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga keeps your mind in the present moment which is the ULTIMATE advantage for running long distance.

Try a LOTUS pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

8. You Won’t Burn Out and Use Up All Your Energy

Yoga helps you dial into what your body is trying to tell you.

When running a trail race, especially an ultramarathon, it’s not always easy to determine when you’ve been running too fast for too long. And in like manner, it’s not always clear when you’ve been running too slow for too long.

Unless you follow a very analytical approach to running, you are most likely only monitoring a fixed pace. Or like me, you just run on feel and stay on your edge.

But even if you’re a numbers runner, there’s still moments of uncertainty that arise.  There are still times when you find yourself eager to run quicker, and you’re unsure if you can pull it off.

Well, what yoga can do is help you dial into what your body is trying to tell you. Yoga builds awareness, and this benefits you in these uncertain situations. You now are better aware of your energy reserves and can monitor them accordingly.

You see, energy during a run fluctuates. So, when you are aware of your energy reserves, you no longer run as fast as you can for as long as you can. You become more mindful and respect your bodies limitations enough to understand them. So, then you push forward strategically to pass that limitation and become a better runner.

On race day I was more observant, and when I felt it was time to speed up, I did, and when it was time to slow down, I did. Ultimately, I made it through my first mountain race in one piece…and yoga made it easier.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga brings a heightened awareness to your body which prevents energy depletion on race day.

Try a DOWNWARD DOG pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

9. Eliminates Hesitations When Running On Trails

Have you ever second-guessed something in your life? Like something inside of you was telling you NO, but…. you did it anyway. Only afterward to realize it was the wrong decision and you should have gone with your gut.

That’s INTUITION, and some even call it our “sixth sense.”

So, you might be wondering… “how does intuition relate to running?”

You see, when running on a technical trail, intuition will help you run fast without tripping, slowing down, or falling.

What do I mean exactly?

Well, have you ever run down a trail only to second guess your steps? You try to make a decision on what rock to run on or which side of the ditch to run around. If you’ve noticed, this makes you only run heavier and timid.

Then, on the contrary, have you ever sored down a trail? Where you just let go, and every step just happened. It was a natural flow, and it felt like you instinctively knew which action to take with no effort or thought at all?

Well, if you’ve ever experienced the ladder than you’ve experienced running INTUITIVELY. And yoga helps you develop more of your sixth sense.

You then may find yourself shifting in the right direction, stopping short of the next rock, or dodging the hanging branch without a thought. That’s because instead of using your HEAD while running, you begin to run with your HEART. That is, you start to run with INTUITION.

I noticed my heart was making more decisions after 30-days of yoga, and that made a noticeable difference on race day.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga enhances your intuition, so you can run faster without hesitation slowing you down.

Try a WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD BEND pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

10. Prevents Injuries From Fatigue

When running deep into a LONG trail run, have you ever found yourself hunching over? Have you ever noticed that the more tired you become, the more your form suffers?

Heal striking, hunching over, forgetting to breathe, not using your arms, angling your feet outwards, and letting your feet drag are only a few negative changes in your form that can happen when you’re tired.

You see, when you become fatigued during a trail race, your form can become sloppy. As mentioned before, this slows you down. But that’s not the only negative impact poor form has on your running.

When you’re tired and your form gets sloppy you are more likely to trip, fall down, or injure yourself.

Well, on race day, I noticed later in the race, my form stayed much more aligned than in prior races. Instead of hunching over, I kept my back straight, and instead of falling into a deadly heel strike, I was able to land mid-foot for longer.

You see, as you develop a stronger core from yoga, as discussed earlier, you are able to activate other muscles for support. Also, I didn’t use this method personally, but some runners use specific yoga mantras to help with form when fatigue settles in.

For example, try reciting “long and strong” during your yoga practice. Then on race day, you can recite this mantra when you begin to get tired.

This may also help prevent low hanging feet that as you might know already, like to clip rocks and take you to the ground.

Little things can go a long way, especially in a LONG run on the trails.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga promotes better form later in a race to keep you on your feet and prevent injuries.

Try a KNEE-TO-ARM PLANK pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

11. You Experience A New Sense Of Freedom

Personally, I LOVE the freedom of running. All you need is a pair of shoes, and you can run out your front door and go anywhere. You can run for as long as you’d like, start when you want, stop when you want, turn where you want; it’s a freedom unlike no other.

But yoga provides another sense of freedom. Allow me to explain.

When you can stand up without using your arms, bend in unusual ways, lift yourself up with pure strength and feel a new sense of energy and vitality…well… you feel FREE. You feel like you’re no longer a prisoner of your own body.

This is similar to when you learn how to master the long run with fat adaptation. When I wake up and run 31 miles with no food or water, I’m not thinking “no pain no gain” No! Far from it!

I’m thinking, this is what freedom REALLY feels like. Not only can I run on this open road for 31 miles, but not even hunger can hold me down.

Sort of like people who go on lengthy water fasts. They look starvation right in the eyes and say, “NOTHING will chain me down…not even starvation!”

You can even relate this FREEDOM to breaking free of an addiction or even the first time you run a marathon. It’s about reaching past the self-created limitations in your life and the growth you achieve in the process.

Well, inflexibility and weaknesses are also limitations. And here is where yoga comes in. When you’re able to start bending in new ways and have the strength to hold a pose for an unusually long period of time, you feel FREE.

 So, yoga will add to the freedom felt by running, which only helps you feel more alive when you run. And on race day being able to run with no food, high up in those mountain tops, with a new sense of strength and balance was the ultimate freedom.

And if FREEDOM motivates you, then you will be pleased by the results of yoga for trail runners. The combination is unlike no other.

So why is yoga for trail runners?

Yoga provides a new sense of freedom that motivates you to run better.

Try a KING PIGEON pose to help.

Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

Let’s Take It Home

It was early morning, the sun was rising, and I turned on the last yoga video of my 30-day challenge. After 20 minutes of doing different poses to elongate my back…I DID IT, I couldn’t believe it, I actually DID IT.

What did I do?

I dropped back, curled my arms, pushed up, and for the first time in my LIFE…I held a backbend!

Yes, after 30-days I went from barely able to sit on my knees to bending my spine backward in the shape of a bridge. Remember–just like running long distance, yoga can be done by ANYONE. Just simply follow a proven process and don’t stop until you see results (my new book A Runner’s Secret shows my proven process for running long distance).

Currently, I’m not practicing yoga every day, but I do work in some of my favorite poses after weight training. In the future, I hope to continue yoga and take it to a deeper level.

But overall, I can say I’m happy with the progress I made and the benefits it has created when running on trails.

So… “Was yoga for trail runners?”

I’d say so. It helped with my trail running without a doubt, and if you’re up for it, yoga can benefit your trail running too! Just grab a 30-day plan for beginners and get started. It’s that simple. But make sure you follow it at your own pace and ease into each pose. All of our bodies are different. Rushing can cause injury so just relax…and have fun.

So, enjoy the journey, stay long and strong, and most importantly above on… LIVE ON THE RUN.

REMEMBER…there’s a direct path to ALL your running goals through struggle, discomfort, and growth. That’s because it’s YOUR path, one you pave yourself.

And don’t forget to grab a copy of my new book. I teach you how to run ANY distance by running only ONCE per week. You will receive training programs for the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, 50k, 50-mile, 100k, and 100-mile distances. Feel free to Grab Your Copy Here On Amazon and start training TODAY.

Run Further With These 17 Uncommon Principles // Long Run Living

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The Top 11 Benefits Of Yoga For Trail Runners // Long Run Living

One Comment
    • Karen Kline
    • August 2, 2018

    I’m not a runner and I rarely do yoga, but this is a great article. My 15 year old son loves running. I will share this with him. It’s all about the here and now. Great ideas!

    Reply

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