Cross training is important for runners. ItIt can help strengthen the muscles that support your runs, so you don't get hurt. But if you do get a running injury, it can also help you train while you rest. So that, when you're ready to get back to runs, you won't have lost too much fitness stamina.

Either way, cross training for runners is a big deal. And it doesn't have to mean hitting the elliptical, or grabbing some free weights. In fact, there are lots of fun ways to cross train and boost your abilities as a runner. Which is why, today, I want to review why it works. And why yoga for runners can be so helpful.

Cross Training for Injured Runners 

Yoga is helpful for runners to treat and prevent injury

In my podiatry practice, I know runners hate to miss training. That's why, even if you see me for a running injury, I'll do my best to keep you active. (Without making your injury worse.)

But how can I do thatm you ask? Well, the answer lies with cross training! Because, when you're too hurt to run, you can still work out other parts of your body. And those work outs can take on one of two forms. Training for strength or for endurance. And they can both ultimately make you a better runner.

Endurance is really important for runners. After all, going hard with the cardio can help you increase your miles and your speed. But how can you

 mimic the aerobic edurance workouts without putting weight on your feet?

That answer lies in the pool. I love sending injured runners (or anyone) to try running in the water. Because it keeps up your endurance. And, thanks to the weight of the water on your body, it also builds strength. In short, it's the best of both worlds!

In fact, if you get hurt while training for a race, try taking your scheduled runs in the pool. (With my permission and supervision, of course.) You might find your race day performance is even better than if you'd completed your training on land!

Of course, with some injuries, even running in the pool could put too much stress on your feet. But don't worry. This Houston running podiatrist has a plan for that, as well. And it involves (you probably guessed it from the blog title) yoga for runners!

Injured runners can cross train in the pool or try yoga for runners

Cross Train with Runner's Yoga

Back when I trained for a half-marathon, I gained first hand experience of how easy it is to get a running-related injury. I chose the right shows. I learned the best warm ups and cool downs. I even learned that something simple, like an airplane trip, could send me reaching for my heels in pain.

Back then, I decided to embrace yoga poses that could help prevent running injuries. Especially my old 'favorites,' such as Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. You see, both those injuries may occur when the stronger side of your body compensates for your weaker side. The result would be overuse injuries that cause pain and inflammation.

That's where yoga for runners becomes the perfect way to cross train for strength. Because yoga can help balance your body’s strength. And that lets you distribute your weight evenly when you run. In turn, this lessens the impact on your delicate feet, muscles and tendons. So you're less likely to develop pain, inflammation or injury. Check out these 3 yoga moves for runners. I found them thanks to Dana Santas for CNN. And she called them out because of their importance for runners:

Step-forward/step-back lunges

From standing, inhale and raise your arms as you step forward with your right leg into a lunge. Exhale to hold. Inhale as you step back to standing; lower  arms. Repeat on left side the same way. Once back to center, repeat on both legs, but exhale as you raise your arms and step forward, inhale on the hold and exhale to return back to standing.

Next, switch to step-back lunges. And make sure to incorporate the same breathing pattern. You begin by stepping back on the inhalation. Then, you do the second set while stepping back on the exhalation.

When lunging, avoid rolling your foot in out and maintain knee alignment above the ankle. Be sure both hips point forward.

Flowing bridge

Begin on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor hip-distance apart. Be sure you point your feet forward, aligning them horizontally. Position yourself to place your hips, knees and feet in alignment. Exhale and lift your hips. Inhale and release to the floor. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Pay attention to weight distribution in your feet, and whether your hips lift evenly. Since you're doing this pose to even out your body strength, you shouldn't rely on one side more than on the other.

Windshield wipers

Start in a bridge position, placing arms out to the side and feet wider than hip distance with knees dropped inward. Exhale and allow both knees and legs to drop to the right, coming as close to the floor as comfortable without pain. Inhale and bring the knees together. Exhale and take knees left. Repeat 10 times (five on each side).

Yoga Stretches for Heel Pain

The exercises I just mentioned are great for preventing problems. But yoga can also help if you've got heel pain, something too many runners experience. And the famous Cleveland Clinic recommends the following yoga stretches to relieve tension (and inflammation) in your plantar fascia.

Seated Straight Leg Hamstring Stretch

Sit in a chair with a tall spine, relaxed shoulders and feet flat on the ground. Now, lengthen your back, and lean forward until you feel a gentle back of leg stretch. (You should feel this in your back as well.) Stay put while slowly taking three to five breaths, and repeat at least 10 times. Done regularly, this stretch will loosen the connective tissue in your legs. And that could prevent tugging on your plantar fascia.

Calf and Achilles Stretch

Stand up tall with your feet facing forward in parallel. Move your right leg behind you (but keep your feet paralell) and bend your left knee a bit. Now, keep your right leg straight, amd lower your right heel until it's flat on the floor, with toes pointing straight ahead. To really stretch your Achilles tendon and calves, bending the left knee further. Hold and repeat on your left side.

Of course, yoga and water workouts can help support runners. But even with the best cross training program, injuries still happen. So, what's the real secret to stayin g on top of your runs, even if you're hurt? If you notice any pain during or after a run, schedule an appointment immediately with your Houston podiatrist. That's the only way to rule out a potential injury. And to stop you from getting sidelined for weeks or months to come.


Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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