I have just read this article which researches whether running or walking is better for you. The article itself is interesting, but one thing that grabbed my attention was the unsurprising revelation that runners are more prone to injuries than walkers. As a yoga teacher I am often helping runners recover from injury. If I am lucky I get to help prevent injury, improve performance and bring many new thoughts to the whole running experience.
Moving beyond the usual warm up/cool down stretches, I will treat you to a few ideas, based on yogic principles, that may enhance your training and running life.
Listen to your body.
Many runners ignore the little signs that your body gives to warn you to take action in order to prevent a more serious injury. Pay particular attention at the beginning of your run. Exercise produces endorphins, short for endogenous morphine, this is the feel good factor, one of the reasons why exercise can be addictive (the clue is in the name). If your little niggles and aches disappear once you are into your run – beware, endorphins are also natural pain killers, inhibiting the transmission of pain signals.
In my classes we work to develop the ability to detect imbalance in the body. We frequently work one side of the body, stretching, moving the hip etc. We then lie in Shavasana (flat on the back, arms about 15cm away from the side of the body, palms face up) to allow time for the mind to register the difference. The sensation of one leg being longer than the other and of the hip being lower is very powerful. Many students will sit up to check if one leg is actually longer. The feeling of imbalance is quickly followed by an equally powerful urge to rectify the situation by working the other side. Still we wait a bit longer before we move, registering the bodies need to balance itself, indeed to heal itself. As a runner, developing this ability to detect imbalance could be a valuable tool to preventing injury, nipping those little signs in the bud, so to speak.
Some aches and pains will go away of their own accord, they can be run through. However, with your newly tuned body radar you can detect if the painful sensations are getting more intense, perhaps spreading and do something about it before you can no longer run through the pain.
Look out for more blogs about how yoga can add to the running experience.