In the run-up to the London marathon (this year on Sunday 24th April), we receive quite a few enquiries related to incorporating yoga and Pilates into a running training schedule. Here, our Yoga teacher Gita Andrijauskite, a keen runner, shares her experience of how yoga can really be a fantastic aid for running, from a physical perspective, and to enhance the overall enjoyment. We have also given a guideline training schedule for pre-race below.
Gita used to run a minimum of 10-15km per run, a few times a week, for at least the last five years. She felt there was ‘something addictive’ about it. After discovering yoga a few years ago, however, she found that her experience changed and she started running purely for pleasure and enjoyment. She describes running now as a kind of moving meditation. It is an opportunity to be outside, enjoy the park, the trees, the sky, to feel her breath and to feel free.
Why is it exactly that yoga can enhance our experience of running?
Yoga practice involves using muscles in a variety of planes, something that running just doesn’t do. Leg muscles get shorter and some other muscles are underused when running, which can contribute to increased muscular imbalances and injury over time, so to prevent that, Gita tries to incorporate a balanced yoga practice, working into a range of muscles after a run, stretching the hamstrings, the adductors, the glutes, the quads, psoas, IT band and open the chest and shoulders.
Gita says: “My little routine starts with some reclined asanas: dead pigeon, happy baby, reclined gomukhasana holding onto the shins. I then do some high and low lunges crossing at the thumbs to get more leverage through the central axis, to lengthen and open across the front body, followed by a low lunge catching the back foot to stretch the quads then down dog, gentle at first with bent knees, then crossing at the feet. This is then followed by forward bends to lengthen the backs of the legs and soothe the mind – uttanasana and prasarita padottanasana always feel good. I then do a twist, usually ardha matsyendrasana and finish in setu bandha”.
Gita emphasises, overall it is all about what feels good to her, and on some days she may do different poses, but what she tries to keep constant is the attitude of treating her body with kindness and respect, and sometimes that means all she does after a run is a long savasana (lying on the ground!).
How can yoga training be applied to marathons specifically?
In terms of training for marathons or longer races, as well as your running schedule, there will be days each week to focus on core, balance work, strength training, breath control and mental focus. All of these elements are to be found within a yoga practice.
While training for a longer race, a typical schedule would involve 3-4 days of running, 2-3 days of yoga, and at least one rest day. Make sure also that you are eating well, drinking lots of water and getting adequate sleep. Quite soon after a long race, yoga can be continued 2-3 times a week to help again with recovery: stave off injuries, rehab tired muscles and prepare for the next run!
All of the Klinik yoga classes offer a relatively slow and focused, alignment-based method which is perfect for complementing a running practice, and for rehabilitation of injury, both pre and post race.
Gita teaches on Friday evenings, at 5:30 and 6:30pm.