We all know we should stretch—especially runners—but sometimes it's hard to know where to focus our attention.
Well, we have good news! Local runner and yogi Kristin Smart has recently started a class just for runners. We sat down with her and chatted about yoga and what poses are most beneficial for us to add to our routines for improving performance, strength, and flexibility.
What came first for you? The running or the yoga?
Running was my first love. I quickly became an elite distance runner, but it was consuming my life in a high-energy, high-strung kind of way. I soon found I needed a bit more of a balance and turned to yoga to train both my body and my brain to find more calm, stillness and of course to reap the benefits of stretching out my over-used and extremely tight running muscles! I practised yoga for several years before I took my yoga teacher training (which was not so long ago) when I quit my full-time job and moved over to the island from Vancouver.
How has yoga changed your running?
I wouldn't say it necessarily changed my running, but it made it feel easier. By improving flexibility and range of motion, I was able to take bigger, better strides while running fast, with less risk of injury or tearing tight muscles. It has also helped with focus: being present in the moment and able to slow the breath, and just being really in tune with my body and how it is feeling.
In general, what areas of a runner's body benefit most from yoga?
Honestly, all of it! It works the upper body which is so often neglected entirely by runners while stretching the tight spots, strengthening the core, the glutes, and even works the small stabilising muscles in the feet and ankles which running alone doesn't target. All of this combined makes for a stronger and less injury-prone runner!
When we think of yoga, we mainly think about stretching, but it also takes a lot of strength. What is your favourite strengthening pose for runners?
Oh, that's tough. I have a few favourites, but if I had to pick one, I'd have to say single leg bridges. That REALLY gets into those weaker glute muscles while still working the core and legs!
And your favourite stretching pose?
Favourite stretch is definitely the low-lunge dragon pose. There are a few variations I like, and all of them can get deep into the hips and thighs.
How many times a week should a runner do a yoga sequence? Can it be done the same day as a run workout?
I have always found that two times a week is plenty when trying to keep up a regular run schedule and life! You would see the most progress with two or three times a week, but it's still worthwhile if you can only make it out once!
As for if it can be done the same day as a run, I think you have to listen to your own body. For myself, I will still go after a hard run workout because yoga is the opposite thing to me. I don't go there to compete with the person next to me. If I'm tired I'll take the easy version of a pose and I don't care if I can't bend as far as anybody else. You should do whatever you feel is most beneficial to your own body. If you feel way too tired after running, then, of course, don't go! Often though, you will find that going to yoga will re-energise your body—even if you thought you wouldn't make it through.
Finally, when and where is your Yoga for Runners class? Do I have to register in advance?
Yoga for Runners is every Monday at 7 PM at the Cowichan Wellness Center: #204-225 Canada Ave, Duncan, BC. There is no advance registration required—just show up a few minutes early to sign in when you arrive! Your first class is free, and after that it's $10 per session (cash only).
Anything else we should know?
If you have a mat and props, please bring them, but there are a couple of mats that can be borrowed and blocks to use. Also, bring a water bottle!
See you Monday at 7 PM!