Loppet Foundation

Yoga for Endurance Athletes: Fact vs. Alternative Fact

This article was posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2018

By Jamie Peters M.D. – Sports Medicine Specialist, Family Physician & Yoga Instructor

Whether you’re a runner, biker, skier, or a regular yogi looking to break into one of the silent sports, you should know that the benefits of regular yoga practice just might be the secret sauce for upping your game and dominating your craft this coming season. Here are five facts (and two myths) about the effects of yoga on endurance sports.

Five Reasons to Practice Yoga

1. Reduces Risk of Injury

Cross-country skiing, biking, running are fantastic fitness activities and each uses specific muscles repetitively and other muscles are minimally activated leading to muscle imbalance and potential increased risk of injury. Most yoga practices incorporate muscles throughout the body in each plane of action leading to overall balance of strengthening thereby decreasing overall injury risk.

2. Strengthens Your Core

Abdominal and hip core strength is especially important for best physical function and injury prevention. Having a regular yoga practice helps to maintain a strong core, which can give you the extra ‘umph’ you need to take your sport to the next level on the trails this season.

3. Improved Muscle Movement

Yoga stresses the combination of coordinated breathing with movement, which enhances overall function and improves focus. The parallel with skate skiing is the pattern of inhaling during the arm and chest rising and exhaling with arm thrust and kick. Yoga incorporates the use of core locks (bandhas), which can enhance overall performance when used in sport activities.

4. Increased Balance

When beginning to practice sports like mountain biking and cross-country skiing, maintaining balance can be a challenge — but it doesn’t have to be like that forever. Most yoga practices incorporate balance training, which is helpful for performance in all active sports (and life!).

5. Better Spinal and Back Health

Yoga incorporates multi-directional spine movements, which aids in maintaining smooth movement in the facet and other articulations of the spine. High level research published top medical journals have shown yoga to be very effective in maintaining spine health over time thereby reducing chronic low back issues and the occurrence of acute back injuries.

Common Myths About Yoga

“I’m too stiff to do yoga”

With proper accommodations and assists (use of blocks when needed), yoga can be done by anyone! And because aging leads to increases in stiffness in joints and muscles, you must do something to maintain flexibility (like yoga) or your body will continue to stiffen.

“Yoga doesn’t give me a big enough work out”

Under the umbrella of yoga there is a whole spectrum of classes ranging from meditative stretching (Yin) to very vigorous flow (Vin Yasa). Many athletes new to yoga are pleasantly surprised that the classes can actually be very challenging. Get in where you fit in!

With all of the fitness benefits that yoga can unleash, from the fiercely competitive racer to the everyday endurance enthusiast, there’s so many ways that yoga can help you up your game. Consider joining one of the ongoing group fitness classes at The Trailhead, and learn how you can take your workout regimen to the next level with regular yoga practice!

See all Club Trailhead fitness classes here.

Jamie Peters is a family physician and sports medicine specialist (board certified in both) in addition to being a yoga teacher. His goal is to make yoga available to a broad Twin Cities Community. Learn more about Jamie and the class here.