When I first started running about four years ago I thought that all you had to do to get better at it was run. It seems obvious doesn’t it? Just run as far as you can as often as you can. But as I began to learn more about it I realised I was wrong. For a start, I learned it’s better to have some structure to your running – train smarter not harder and all that. I learned about things like intervals and how not to do your long run too fast and how to fuel your running properly – and it all worked. At my age I’m never going to trouble the elites, but I did gradually improve.
But the thing that surprised me most in my running research was the importance of core conditioning. I saw this on my first marathon training schedule and wondered how stuff like yoga and Pilates could help me to run better. The answer is that it does this in two ways: by strengthening key muscles that help you to run stronger for longer and also by helping to prevent injury. When you run a long way you start to get tired at some point; when you get tired your posture changes and you tend to slump forward, so it’s much harder to keep running. If you have strong core muscles, glutes and quads you can hold yourself upright more easily, which is a much more efficient running position. Plus, the flexibility you develop helps with recovery, making you less susceptible to injury – and nobody wants their training schedule interrupted by injury!
So off I went to hatha yoga at York Yoga Studio. You can always spot the runners at a yoga class – they’re strong but not very flexible! Hamstrings are the main problem, because doing running and nothing else makes them very short. Ask most experienced runners to touch their toes and you might be surprised by how hard they find it – if they can! Fortunately Laurie at YYS is a great teacher – friendly, encouraging and attentive, and managing to cater for all abilities in the same class.
Although I haven’t managed to get my legs around my head yet (just kidding, we don’t do anything like that!) I do always feel better after a yoga class – stretched out and relaxed, which is a good antidote to running. Before the Manchester Marathon I also attended some specific core training classes, with lots of lunges, squats, press-ups etc, which were hard work but well worth it! I’m convinced this helped me to become a stronger runner, meaning I was able to enjoy my first marathon without feeling like I was dying!
For my Yorkshire Marathon training schedule I’ve just started attending the flow yoga class at York Yoga Studio on a Tuesday evening. This is slightly more energetic than the more traditional hatha class and feels challenging, so must be doing me some good. With Laurie’s help I surprise myself in yoga sometimes. I didn’t think I’d make the plough, but she helped me through it!
For those who are marathon training at the moment I can’t recommend highly enough that you do some kind of strength/flexibility work as well as running, whether it be yoga, Pilates, body pump, kettlebells or whatever. Your body will thank you for it on race day!