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Marsh column: Yoga can benefit runners

Q. What can yoga do for my running?
A. As most of you know, I have been an athlete since I was young. From about age 16 to 21, I was competing at a top level of judo, which is throwing your opponent on the mat and if needed, holding him or her down, or doing arm “breaking” techniques (opponent will “tap out”ó hopefully) and strangulations (again, until they tap out or pass out).
Flexibility was important, and I regularly stretched to stay flexible. As I’ve gotten older and am no longer involved in a sport where flexibility is important, I have gotten stiffer. Along with many runners and cyclists, I do not put enough emphasis on stretching, flexibility, balance and strength. When I have consultations with athletes to find a well-rounded workout program, mostly I find out that they are lacking in the flexibility department, not putting enough time into lengthening the muscles or just plain being tight.
I have made the commitment to myself , at least twice a week, to take an hour to work on flexibility.
“Yoga improves strength and balance, but one of the best things it can do for runners is increase flexibility,” says Dr. Bruce Dick,a partner of Orthopedic Associates of Saratoga in Saratoga Springs N.Y. (see www.runnersworld.com, “Strike a Pose”).
The most common style of yoga is hatha yoga. It is the style that many people associate with the word “yoga” today. Because its emphasis is on the body, many western students are satisfied with the physical health and vitality it develops and are not interested in the other seven limbs of the raja tradition. (That would be another complete column or page to fill up so I won’t go any deeper on that subject.)
Basically, yogis (people who do yoga) do it for strength and balance and flexibility, and I am one of them. The yoga article in runnersworld.com talks about a runner who couldn’t run longer then 40 minutes at a time because of iliotibial band (ITB) pain. The outside of her legs would hurt to the point that she would have to sit down.
Understand that she was used to running 40-50 miles a week. For six months, she tried all the usual remedies like icing, stretching, physical therapy, self massaging with a foam roller, but nothing worked.
Finally she tried yoga. And after two months of doing yoga five times a week, her ITB syndrome disappeared. After only doing five classes of Bodyflow (a Les Mills program incorporating yoga, tai chi and pilates) and yoga, I can already tell a difference in my flexibility and balance.
I need it badly. Because of all my many injuries, my body seems to get tighter by the minute. So in addition to my cardio like Zumba and my strength workouts, I promised myself to spend at least two hours a week doing yoga or Bodyflow.
Get a different mindset. You are not wasting your time. Instead, you will be amazed how a noncompetitive and calming method provides you with athletic benefits.
Contact Ester Marsh at 704-636-0111 or emarsh@rowanymca.com.

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