Runners are advised to incorporate cross-training into their exercise routines for enhanced joint and muscle recovery, increased fitness and motivation, and rehabilitation or prevention of injuries, to name a few.
When you think of cross-training, you likely envision squats, lunges, and plyometrics, but you may not think of yoga and meditation. Yoga and mindful breathing are the most effective complements to running. They strengthen the body, core power, breath, and discipline.
If you’re a runner who’s never tried yoga or meditation, here are four reasons to integrate these practices into your cross-training schedule.
Improve Your Range-of-Motion with Yoga
Some of the most common running injuries happen because of stiffness in the muscles and joints. Yoga helps warm up the body, alleviate tension and increase mobility. As you flow through each posture, your muscles will lengthen and stretch. You will experience a greater range-of-motion which in turn optimizes your running—without having to spend more time pounding the pavement.
“By increasing flexibility, runners can enhance performance without increasing their mileage or spending more time on the track,” suggest Jim and Phil Wharton, musculoskeletal therapists to Olympic athletes.
Open and Deepen Your Breath with Meditation
The idea of conscious breathing is a cornerstone of mindfulness that can also be applied to running. Harmonizing breath to movement enhances the body’s respiration, giving muscles the oxygen needed to expand and contract. In meditation, the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling is welcomed as a therapeutic exercise that keeps you attuned to self-care. The same perspective can be applied when you hit the road for a run.
“Controlling your breathing, but also syncing your breathing to your movement may prove to be beneficial, improve the feeling of your training session and help to maintain a suitable pace, as well as posture,” according to, Breathing While Running: A Step-by-Step Guide.
The guide also cites that improved breathing benefits “physiological function, such as preventing respiratory muscle fatigue, improving respiratory efficiency and causing the ventilator muscles to work less.”
Boost Stability and Strength with Yoga
When the body is strong and stable in the core, its center of gravity can support endurance, realign posture, cushion vital organs and decrease the risk of injury. Running and yoga are both forms of movement that activate a full range of muscles, especially the core. Adding both to your training schedule will help you truly reap the benefits.
“Because yoga moves you through different places of the body—front, back, top-to-bottom and side-to-side—it strengthens muscles runners need for an efficient and effective gait. This also counteracts pain, rigidity and weakness in the joints,” says Stephanie Creaturo, a certified running coach and founder of Mala Yoga studio.
Boost Discipline with Meditation
Running is an inherently meditative discipline that can ground your focus in the present, release overthinking, and nurture the confidence to push through limitations. Dimitra Panaritis, from The Chopra Center, draws a parallel between movement and meditation as joint “catalysts for self-exploration” because despite one being physical, and the other sedentary, both require “patience, determination, consistency and practice.”
Creating a mental space to unwind from life’s rigors through running can help you become a more balanced person. You can boost your meditative state during running by listening to meditations during the practice. Check out the Simple Habit Mindful Running session that empowers you to “feel more present on your next run.”
Movement and Meditation: Your New Favorite Combo
At first glance, running and meditation could not appear more opposite. Running is aerobic, intense and vigorous, while meditation is soothing, still and restorative. Yet, together, running and meditation allow you to experience a powerhouse of wellness benefits. Next time you head out for a run, skip your running playlist and opt-in for meditation as the boost that can take your performance and competitive edge to the next level.
About The Author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is currently a content consultant, ACE Certified Personal Trainer mental health advocate. She’s the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, and has written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, YogaDownload, Talk Space and more. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.
Share your journey and milestones with us, we care: firstname.lastname@example.org.