Runners: use yoga and meditation to improve your mental game

Runners: use yoga and meditation to improve your mental game

Yoga and meditation are powerful practices that can enhance a runner’s focus and mental toughness during a race. Anyone who’s tried tackling a 5K PB or reached a marathon finish line knows just how important mental resilience is to performance. By incorporating yoga and meditation into your routine, you can cultivate a calm and focused mind, improve your ability to cope with discomfort and reduce the effects of nerves on race day.

Runner and yoga instructor Katherine Moore explains that the practice of deep breathing while moving through challenging yoga postures teaches runners how to remain calm during difficult workouts and races.

“When you get into challenging poses, it’s not easy. You have to relax your mind, deepen your breath and stay calm,” she says. “There’s always a point in a race when your brain says ‘Get me out of here, I’m done!’ If you can get comfortable in the discomfort, you can start to move through that.”

Not convinced? Here are four ways yoga and meditation can improve your mental toughness on race day.

Cultivating mental focus

Yoga and meditation promote mindfulness, which is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment. By practicing mindfulness, runners learn to focus on their breath, body sensations, and thoughts without judgment. This heightened awareness helps runners stay present during a race, preventing their minds from wandering and enabling them to concentrate on their performance and strategy.

runner stretching Unsplash Shawn Levie
Photo: Unsplash/Shawn Levie

managing discomfort

Pushing through intense efforts during a run or race is just as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging. Yoga and meditation teach runners to develop a better relationship with discomfort. Through breathing exercises and body awareness techniques, runners can learn to observe sensations of discomfort without becoming overwhelmed or consumed by them. This mental resilience allows runners to endure physical challenges with a greater sense of calm and control.

stress reduction

Many runners struggle with pre-race jitters and anxiety. Yoga and meditation are well-known for their stress-reducing benefits. These practices activate the relaxation response in the body, which helps reduce stress hormones and promotes a sense of calm and well-being. By incorporating regular yoga and meditation sessions into your training, you can mitigate race-related stress and approach races with a clearer and more focused mindset.

butterfly pose yoga for runners
Photo: Unsplash/Lauren

Visualization and positive affirmations

Yoga and meditation provide an ideal platform for runners to visualize their race success and cultivate positive affirmations. During meditation, you can visualize yourself crossing the strong finish line, overcoming challenges and achieving your goals. Positive affirmations, such as repeating motivational statements, can help boost self-belief and mental toughness, empowering runners to stay determined and focused even in the face of adversity.

Incorporating yoga and meditation into your training routine is beneficial for physical performance and mental well-being. By cultivating focus, managing discomfort, reducing stress and visualizing success, these practices provide you with valuable tools to improve your mental toughness in workouts and races.

Katherine Short wins the 50K at Quebec Mega Trail, July 2, 2022. Photo: Anne Francis

Meet Katherine Moore

Moore got into running when she was 18, after moving to Vancouver, and ran her first marathon in New York City in 2005. She progressed in the sport, eventually running a 2:47 marathon, crossing the finish line of the 2010 Toronto Waterfront Marathon as the first Canadian female. Having been a yoga instructor for several years already, Moore eventually combined her two passions and created the KM Run Club in Vancouver, where runners meet for workouts and yoga classes.

To learn more about Moore, her run club, and her yoga teaching, head to her website at runningintoyoga.ca or check out her YouTube channel for daily yoga and pilates workouts.

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