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Business News/ Opinion / Running the right way
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Running the right way

How yoga and pilates can help improve your breathing, strengthen the core and ultimately help you to become a better runner

Side plank: This exercise strengthens the core muscles, which is important for runners. Do three sets of 30-60 seconds each. Photographs: Priyanka Parashar/MintPremium
Side plank: This exercise strengthens the core muscles, which is important for runners. Do three sets of 30-60 seconds each. Photographs: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Is there an ideal way to run? I have been asked this question many times during my training sessions with recreational and professional runners. Running can be as unique as your DNA and fingerprint. Some people are born with the glide, ride and flight and some have to work on their technique. Exasperated with the endless debates of mid-foot strike versus barefoot running, I can only say that ultimately it all boils down to how efficient you are as a runner. Running efficiency is not only dependent on the ability of the body to use oxygen to fuel a run, also referred to as VO2max, but also on the least obvious reason—economy of motion. Maximum oxygen consumption was often considered a good marker of performance. Economy of motion is defined as the relationship between how much energy you expend with how “you" run.

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The Warrior (Virabhadra):This asana strengthens the quadriceps (thigh muscles) and stabilizes the ankles. Hold for 60 seconds and try to complete two sets

Economy could rely on many things. It seems to be more physiological, but it is not clear what exactly is involved. Running economy seems to rely on muscles working together in perfect harmony and their ability to use energy efficiently as well as the ability of the nervous system to instruct some muscles to work while the others relax.

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Single-leg stretch: A dynamic movement which strengthens the core and promotes pelvic stability. Do 10 sets on each leg

Yoga

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Downward dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana: This asana stretches the glutes, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendon, all of which tend to be tight in runners. Hold for 30-60 seconds

The Downward Dog pose not only keeps your spine in great alignment but also stretches the glutes, hamstrings and calves, all of which tend to be tight in runners. The Warrior helps build the strength of the quadriceps and opens up the hip and the pelvis. Tight hip flexors and adductors (muscles of the inner thigh) can alter your stride. Another great pose is the Butterfly pose, this opens the hips and the groin area, both of which are important for an efficient stride. Running is about the breathing. Pranayam or breathing exercises in yoga can support your run.

Try the Bandhs where you have to inhale and hold your breath for as long as you can or the basic Anulum Velom. This technique (breathing exercises) can improve your oxygen intake capacity. The composure and sense of calm that the discipline of yoga demands is the same that runners need—at the end it is all about the mind.

Pilates

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V-Sit: This exercise strengthens the core and keeps the legs strong and supple. Hold for 30-60 seconds and do two to three sets at a time

Though these are gentler forms of exercise, their contribution toward the puzzle (running economy and efficiency, how to work toward it) cannot be ignored. Aim to add these as a part of you training programme at least twice a week. Make sure you give equal importance to strength training, power drills, agility training and plyometrics.

Sumaya Dalmia is a wellness consultant, fitness expert and owner of Sumaya, a personal training studio in New Delhi.

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Published: 26 Aug 2013, 09:16 PM IST
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