Yoga or weights? Weights or yoga?
Can you incorporate both? Are you better doing one than the other? Will one result in better sculpting your arms, legs, back?
And most importantly for those of you reading a website dedicated to running (and to me!)…will one make me a better runner than the other because I only have so much time to dedicate to cross training!
For years, I waffled between the two. Some weeks I’d include both, other weeks I’d do one…and let’s be honest as a runner there were too many weeks were I did none. I wanted to see results to decide which to do, but as you might know…you gotta be consistent in anything for results.But I was conflicted!
Because don’t we all have one friend who got shredded doing CrossFit and cut time off their PR…and another who went to yoga got lean, toned and yeah cut time off their PR. Both are positive only their way is right and we find ourselves trying a little of both, but committed to none.
Which as always leads me back to the one thing I do know: we are all an experiment of one.
But even an experiment of one wants to know how to spend her time.
I don’t need anyone to push me with running, but the gym is a different story! Tell me the benefits to my running and I’m far more likely to stick with it. After all, the second I realized PT worked to keep any IT Band issues at bay, I’ve done my moves religiously for years!
All right so what are some of the arguments for and against each…
Improving performance is all about balancing stress and recovery, both of which are controlled by the Nervous System.
I know that yoga is portrayed as calm and serene and I do often get that feeling…but let’s be honest if you’re doing a serious class it’s a sweaty nasty mess with lots of loud breathing and thoughts of kill me now.
However, most importantly is that when you are in certain poses your muscles relax and this creates more room for blood to flow, thus attracting more oxygen to your muscles. Yoga also puts a great deal of focus on breathing which seems to naturally elicit a relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system), something runners need to combat the physical stress of running.
Both of these result in healing and injury prevention. I also think you can’t overlook the community and connection that is often found in yoga.
Weights are going to further stress the body, which is great for strength and muscle building, but maybe not ideal if you’re trying to train for a marathon and need a workout to deload.
Yoga is better in this case for runners because we often have high cortisol from stressing our bodies. Yoga will allow you to bring that back down and get calm in order to prevent burnout and over training.
“fatigue does seem to ‘travel’ from one muscle group to another, and mainly, from upper to lower body” from School of Human Kinetics and Recreation at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada. Which goes to say, work that upper body to run longer!
Yoga improves stamina through a combination of physical and mental benefits. Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes believes the increased utilization of oxygen and better breathing through learning to use the diaphragm has benefited his running. Additionally, holding yoga poses allows us to work on our stabilizing muscles that might be neglected in running and strength to hold a better posture, which means better running form.
Surprise, weight lifting can also improve your running stamina and maybe not just in the way you think. You can do light weights with high reps on your upper body to build endurance for arm swing and posture, but going heavy on your lower body is actually the biggest benefit.
A study of elite Danish cyclists showed that lifting 70-90% of their 1 rep maximum improved strength, speed and movement economy (less fatigue), while also losing body fat.
Tie, unless losing body fat is your goal in which case weights might work faster.
However it should be noted that a recent study showed stretching after lifting weights can increase your power by up to 30% in the coming sessions
Combining Both In Your Routine
Personally, I still believe that I can benefit from both. Now it is a matter of determining how to enjoy both activities in a way that benefits my body. After doing some research I found what makes the most sense to me…since yoga is often about more static poses and longer contractions, weight lifting sessions should be about quicker movements. It should also include movements that you do not get from the yoga practice itself, which would largely be pulling movements such as pull ups, lat pulls, rows or deadlifts.
What type of yoga?
If you’re doing heavy lifting then maybe a restorative or easy flow class is more ideal to keep your total body balanced. If you’re doing high rep light weights for stamina, then maybe you’d enjoy the push of a power yoga class.What about same day?
If you’re trying to fit all your cross training in on the same day, it’s definitely possible to incorporate both. Use the yoga session as a warm up prior to your lifting and you’ll find it ensures the shoulder joints are lubricated and working correctly. Then try a short cool down after lifting.
Yoga with weights?
Ideally…no. Barre classes do a light version of this, but really the two are meant to be different and provide different benefits.
Many yogi’s also love to tout the philosophy that “Yoga helps everything, but nothing helps yoga”.
Which is true is some respects, but I can’t say that I fully agree. My good cardio allows me to move through the poses without being winded and I know my weight lifting has helped my arms become less resistant to fatigue in many poses…but yes yoga has also improved every area of my fitness.
My Personal Results?
With this knee injury, I wasn’t able to do a lot of the normal yoga poses for quite awhile (or run obviously post surgery) which turned out to be a good thing because it forced me to re-examine my weight lifting routine. I committed to a coach, who would ensure that I did more than my normal couple sets here and there, who would push me to do more than I wanted and try new exercises.
I’ve seen more strength progress from my lifting which has actually helped me achieve some of the yoga poses I previously struggled with. I’ll keep you posted on the running benefits as I return from knee surgery…but pre-surgery yoga certainly helped open up my stride, prevent hip and knee pain.
So you want to do it all and train for a half marathon? Here’s how that could work:
Monday: REST or restorative yoga
Tuesday: 5 mile easy run
Wednesday: 10 min sun salutations, 30 min full body weights, 10 min floor work
Thursday: 5 miles with speed work
Friday: 10 min sun salutations, 30 min full body weights, 10 min floor work
Saturday: 3 miles easy or biking
Sunday: 10 mile Long Run
Floor work refers to doing twists, core work, pigeon pose and other moves to open hips.
Where do you stand on yoga vs weightlifting? Do you incorporate both?
Have I convinced you yet to try yoga or at least not spend 100% of your time running?
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