I am very proud of myself – I went to a yoga class this morning, for the third week in a row.

That might not sound like a big deal, but yoga is one of those things that I always say I’m going to do, but then never actually end up doing. The classes are either hard to fit into my running schedule (which is quite full, when I’m training for something specific) and/or I decide I’d rather be doing something that really makes me sweat (and thus feel like I’ve exercised), such as a spin class. When I’m in that mood (which is pretty much all the time), Bikram or hot yoga is perfect, because you leave the studio soaking wet and feel so energized afterwards. Unfortunately, most of the studios in London are not conveniently located to where I live and are pretty expensive, so I don’t go very often.

And so over the past eight years, I’ve done enough yoga of various types to be familiar with the poses (ie blend into a class and pretend like I know what I’m doing), but not enough that I’m particularly good at any of them or truly experience the benefits of regular practice.

How can yoga help my running? Or, how can running help my yoga?

Cross training and strength training are crucial to becoming a better runner, and more generally speaking, it’s important to challenge your body in new ways on a regular basis to stay fit and avoid getting into an exercise rut. Cycling and swimming are excellent cross-training choices, but running and yoga also compliment one another very well.

In yoga (as I have experienced it, at least), you focus on your breathing; try to clear your mind in order to enter a more meditative state; pay attention to every detail of your form; call upon your strength and endurance to hold challenging poses; stretch your tired muscles; and finish feeling re-energized.

Sound familiar, runners?

During a run, I do much of the same, but in a different context. I focus on my breath and how it changes depending on my level of exertion; let my thoughts wander and ultimately fade away in order to get “in the zone;” pay attention to my technique and to the rhythm of my feet (known as cadence) to get the most out of my session; call upon my strong legs and core to get me through to the end; stretch my tired muscles post-run; and finish feeling awesome, otherwise known as “runner’s high.”

So, as you can see, running and yoga go hand-in-hand – the endurance and strength that you build through running help you hold those yoga poses longer, while the flexibility and focus you gain through yoga help you train your mind and body for competition and better running, generally.

Will yoga become a more permanent fixture of my training schedule? Well, after my first class, the instructor learned that I was a runner and told me that “running is bad for you.” Oh is that so? (Perhaps best not to tell an avid runner that running is bad for you, just a thought…) “But yoga will help.” So I guess I better stick with it!!