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Yoga for Runners

20 Tips to Run Smarter

Take these cues from yoga and Ayurveda to nourish, restore, and unwind.

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You’ve heard it in yoga class a million times: You have to take care of yourself if you want to have energy left over for your family, career, and social life. That goes for athletic pursuits, too. If you want to be a runner for years (even decades!) to come, you have to make sure you eat healthy foods, get adequate rest, and even take time for pampering from time to time. So, go ahead—eat a nourishing meal, take a bubble bath, and put your feet up. You deserve it!

RECOVER

Take an Ayurvedic bath. Sore from a hard-core haul? Try this natural approach to pain management from Michele Khalef, a yoga therapist at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque: Add 2/3 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of ginger powder (yep, straight from the spice cabinet!) to a bath of hot water. The heating properties of ginger will boost blood flow to your muscles, while baking soda helps coax toxins from the skin’s pores.

RECOVER

Ayurvedic muscle massage. For faster relief of muscle soreness, Michele Khalef, a yoga therapist at the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque suggests this: Gently rub a tablespoon of massage oil into the muscle, cover it with a towel, and place a hot water bottle on top. The oil will loosen tight muscle fibers and the heat helps encourage the muscles to relax.

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NOURISH

woman washing face

Ayurvedic A.M. aids. If the hardest part of your early morning run is getting out of bed, try adding a few simple Ayurvedic rituals to your morning. Skip the coffee and drink a glass of lukewarm water with a fresh slice of lemon or lime instead. Rinse your face upon waking to disperse heat and prepare the skin. And fuel yourself with a light, healthy breakfast of fruit, vegetable juice, nonfat yogurt, or grains.

UNWIND

Calm race nerves on the spot. Here’s how: Take just 2 minutes to focus on your breathing. Gradually lengthen your exhale until it is twice as long as your inhale. This simple breathing technique will help calm your nervous system, so you can focus on reaching your goal.

UNWIND

Treat your feet. Runners, you know they deserve it. DIY: Fill a basin with hot water, Epsom salts, and a few drops of peppermint or tea tree oil to increase the tingle factor. Soak for at least 15 minutes, then exfoliate with a foot scrub or pumice stone, giving particular care to the heels and other callused areas.

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NOURISH

Carbo-load right. Pasta used to be to runners what spinach was to Popeye. But since what you eat can make or break your workout, update your go-to grain-based fuel: Go for quinoa. The high-protein, low-cal grain also contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs to build lean muscle and recover from tough workouts.

NOURISH

hydrating after workout

Sip on soreness prevention. Look for a sports drink that replaces minerals that are lost through sweat and contribute to muscle soreness and cramping. Look for calcium, magnesium, and potassium especially.

hiking with water bottle

NOURISH

DIY your hydration. Better yet, make your own sports drink. This simple recipe by Carrie Demers, MD, director of the Himalayan Institute Total Health Center in Honesdale, PA, hydrates, replenishes electrolytes, and reenergizes your body with quick-acting carbs. Here’s how to make it: Combine 1 tsp honey, 1 cup hot water, juice from 1/4 of a lemon, and a pinch of salt. Stir and chill the drink in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

RECOVER

Get z’s for strength. Muscle tissue heals and rebuilds during sleep. So don’t skimp on the shuteye, especially on hard training days.

UNWIND

woman in bath

Take a salt soak. Slipping into a warm bath of Epsom salt after exercise relaxes tired muscles and restores magnesium sulfate, which can help alleviate soreness.

NOURISH

Make mineral-rich meals. Post-workout, refuel with foods high in the minerals lost through sweat. Try magnesium- and potassium-rich chard, kale, and cantaloupe.

NOURISH

Eat for energy. While training, maintain a healthy, balanced diet with enough calories to supply your body with energy. This might mean adding a 200-to-500-calorie snack each training day. Make sure you’re also eating 2 1/2 to 3 grams of protein for every pound of body weight each day to help rebuild muscle.

NOURISH

Power up with plants. It is possible for a competitive distance runner to get all the necessary nutrients to support their active lifestyle from a vegetarian or vegan diet. “As long as athletes obtain adequate nutrients, they will be healthy and perform well,” says Cynthia Sass, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of SASS Yourself Slim. “Those nutrients don’t have to come from meat.” With a little preparation, athletes can embrace a plant-based diet with great success.

NOURISH

Fuel your final push. Adding a few smart superfoods to your meals can provide an extra nutritional boost to help you make it to the finish line.

  • Apples have an antioxidant that can up your endurance.
  • Beets include nitrates that help blood vessels dilate, delivering more oxygen to muscles.
  • Lentils are packed with iron and were found by Cornell University researchers to be essential to athletic performance.

UNWIND

warrior III oudoors

Practice these poses post-run. Try these four post-run poses to help you cool down, stretch and strengthen running muscles, and release tension after a long run: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III), Malasana (Garland Pose), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose).

UNWIND

Tap your parasympathetic nervous system. Breath awareness is key to reducing tension. Conscious breathing and pranayama exercises soothe the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and relax the entire body.

UNWIND

Never skip this post-run stretch. Running can put pressure on your legs and back. Afterward, come into Downward-Facing Dog to lengthen your spine and stretch your shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. To get even more leverage and length, place your hands on a table, tree, or fence.

UNWIND

Apply yoga as needed. There is a time and place for each of the many approaches to yoga—from vigorous group classes to gentle, restorative poses at home. Consider where you are in your training cycle and choose a practice that supports you instead of loading more stress onto an already tired body.

RECOVER

Restore on your mat. If you’re sore after a long run, it’s tempting to spend your off day lounging on the couch instead of at your local yoga studio. But as long as your soreness hasn’t left you hobbling—or altered your movement in another way that could cause injury—spending some time on your yoga mat can actually relieve some soreness. On these days, choose a gentle but flowing practice to feel better.

RECOVER

Take a well-deserved break. Most runners, especially long-distance runners, have to contend with tired, achy legs and feet fairly often. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) is a perfect pose to soothe aches and pains and calm your mind, too.

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