3 reasons you should really add yoga to your race training plan

The things most runners really need (besides sneakers and mileage), you can get from adding yoga to your training plan, says Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland.
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(Photo: Nike)

Dailyresolutionsfinal Daily Resolutions Tip of the Day: Commit to cross-training: If you’re a runner, book a yoga class once this month. If you’re a yogi, try logging a few miles in your sneakers or getting in some strength training.

Yogis and runners are overlapping more and more these days, but there are still plenty of pavement pounders for whom rolling out a mat instead of getting in some extra miles seems like a waste of time (and who aren’t keen on the idea of IT-band torture).

But especially if you’re logging lots of mileage to prep for a race, there are more than a few reasons you should add some sun salutations to your training plan, says Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland, who leads many of the Nike+ NYC run clubs and fitness classes.

Copeland is a life-long athlete—from a young gymnast to a college track-and-field star—and she initially found yoga because of an ACL injury that led to three knee surgeries. “Yoga’s the only thing that’s been able to maintain my body and at least strengthen the muscles around my knee,” she says. She was so wow-ed, she got certified to teach.

Of course, now that’s she’s a yoga instructor, Copeland recommends getting a practice in place before injury happens, since it can seriously help prevent common runner ailments. “We can’t just do one thing over and over,” she explains. “If you stick to cardio, eventually your body is going to tap out and you can be more predisposed to injury and overuse in certain muscle groups.”

And injury prevention’s just the tip of the tree pose. Here are three more reasons you should sign up for a yoga class, whether you’re gearing up for the Brooklyn Half or are just inspired to hit the sidewalk more as spring approaches.

1. Building core strength is crucial—it’s not just about your legs. Lots of runners ignore their core, Copeland says, but you have to train your body as a unit, and the core is what holds that unit together. “Think about how many times you lift your left leg up in a mile run. If you don’t have the core strength to do that, it’s putting all that emphasis and weight on your hip flexors,” she explains. “They’re going to get really tight, leading to muscle imbalances.” And you can’t do yoga without developing core strength. Just try holding plank pose for more than a minute, and you’ll get it.

2. Have you ever seen a hunched-over champion? You’ll move way more efficiently with better posture and flexibility. Good posture is the key to so many things, and propelling yourself forward quickly is definitely one of them. (Ever notice the arrow straight bodies of elite runners?) And its counterpart, flexibility, is crucial to running form, too. “If you can have more flexibility, you have more range of motion in your stride,” Copeland says. Of course, don’t go crazy and attempt to achieve the split-ability of a ballet dancer. “You want to be flexible but not hyper-flexible. You want that tension.” You’ll move way more efficiently with better posture and flexibility.

3. You’ll master mental focus. When you’re running, you tend to zone out and think about things like that guy you just swiped on Tinder, the business meeting you’re not quite ready for…or just how much your quads are burning. “Yoga gets you more focused and in the zone,” Copeland says. “You can’t think about anything else when you’re trying to get into Warrior III, you’ll lose your balance.” And we’re thinking this new ability to focus will come in really handy when the finish line is just half a mile away and you feel like your body won’t make it another step. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information or to join a Nike+NYC training session, visit www.nike.com

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