Yoga for runners –
From elite to grass roots

Elite athletes yoga to local cross country race in 30 minutes

Earlier this year I, Tim, completed the “Yoga for Athletes” course, as part of my ongoing learning and development as a yoga teacher. Due to the restrictions, the 5 weekends evolved, unsurprisingly, into an online yoga course – however hard it can be spending long periods on zoom, it was certainly time well spent.

This weekend I had the pleasure of being involved at two ends of the sporting spectrum.

Yoga for athletes – elite

Up bright and breezy on Saturday morning, I had my first yoga class of the day – with the Swiss National Orienteering team. It was great to be approached by the High Performance Director and asked to provide a 30 minute Yoga for Runners class, as part of a virtual training day that had been organised for their elite and age group athletes. Our yoga for runners package, and recent training, meant that I seemed to fit the bill of what they were looking for.

It had been thought that having a male yoga teacher, may help convince some of the male athletes of the benefits of yoga. (I have also completed in similar type events such as SwimRuns, Tough Mudder, Ironman triathlons and a few ultra marathons- but nowhere near their level – my map reading is questionable).

Increasingly athletes from many sports are turning to yoga for both the mental health benefits as well as the physical benefits for athletes – our yoga for sports page provides numerous examples of different sports / athletes that are including yoga stretches into their training programmes.

For orienteering, athletes need to maintain focus not only for map reading but also for covering uneven undulating terrain. A good sense of balance and stability is important to help stay injury free.

There was the added complication that my French, German and Italian are pretty non existent so I would need to be mindful that English was a second (or 9th in one case) language of the athletes.

With the mixed levels of experience, it was important to offer a yoga class that offered yoga for beginners whilst also focusing on yoga poses for the lower body and the core to help flexibility and balance. My yoga class was split into 3 sections, the warm up to activate the key muscle groups (glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings). The second section offered deeper yoga stretches for runners with a series of low lunges and modifications. Lastly, I included balancing poses to build focus, engage the core and stretch the glutes before heading to Savasana (resting meditation pose).

Having provided a recording the class, several of the athletes have mentioned that they will use the yoga sequence either as a pre run warm up or as part of there post running stretching routine.

It was great that the team enjoyed the class and will continue to use the yoga video in the future. I look forward to following the team’s progress over the next year.

Anyway, needless to say, after the class, and some positive feedback, I was on a real high.

Swiss National Orienteering Team

Grass roots sports

Shortly after the online yoga class it was time to get outside. Max, was asked to compete in a local cross country race for his local running club in Cookham. He’s under 11 but was racing in an under 13 race, with other running clubs, many who are county runners. 

Shannon and I volunteered to marshal. Fortunately it was a bright and dry day (see photo)– though wind chillingly cold.

It was so wonderful to see boys and girls from 11 up to 20 being outside, active and doing something they so obviously enjoyed – particularly after the various lockdowns and restrictions as to what clubs can offer by way of group training. As runners, we have been fortunate as we can all get out and about and train – it is however harder when you can’t train as a club.

Each race was socially distanced with pods going off with short intervals in between. The most important thing was that there was some racing.

At one point, I’m sure there were more marshals on the course than runners – but it didn’t matter – everyone was supporting each other on. You could tell we had all missed these kind of events.

In between races, Shannon and I were also able to make sure we got our 5km as part of December Daily Dash charity challenge to raise money for Sue Ryder Hospice care. Yes, it looked a bit random: 2 marshals running in their high vis jackets around a short loop between waves – 5K, any way!

A final word

Let’s round back to the start of this blog. It’s great that increasingly yoga is being adopted by clubs, national sporting organisations to help give athletes a marginal gain, be it to build strength, balance and flexibility or to aid recovery. However, to get to an elite level you need to start somewhere, most likely at a grass root level. Supporting both grass root sports and elite athletes in the same day seemed to connect the dots for me both from a yoga and personal perspective.

If you’d like to discuss how I can tailor yoga classes for your sport, athletes please do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

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