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Is Yoga Good Cross-Training for Running?

BY Hal Higdon

I don’t consider yoga cross-training, but I am talking only about my limited definition for that activity. Cross-training should be something that gets you out of breath and gets your heart rate up to 65-75% of max.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


Looking at your training programs, I see that you prescribe cross-training for one of your workout days. Would that include Yoga?


No, when I prescribe training plans, I don’t consider yoga cross-training, but I am talking only about my limited definition for that activity. When runners access one of my programs and see “cross,” that is short-speak for what might be called “aerobic” cross training: cycling, swimming, walking or maybe cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Something that gets you out of breath. Something that gets you up to 65-75% of max.

Yes, yoga is great for developing flexibility. Yes, yoga is a marvelous way to develop core strength. Yes, yoga can work up a good sweat after an hour session in the gym. Nevertheless, when you see “cross” in one of my schedules, jump on a bike or jump on a pool and get aerobic. Do you still want to do yoga? Consider it an add-on to the rest of your training.

During a sometimes heated discussion on Facebook related to this subject, Jewel Cowart offered what I considered the most reasoned comment about the discipline: “I incorporate yoga into my workout routine for stretching mostly. There are some wonderful ‘poses’ that help runners with problem areas such as hip flexors, hammies, IT bands, plantar fascia, glutes. Plus, yoga is great for core strengthening. After a long run, I love it for a great overall stretch. But you don’t want to be over zealous in yoga, because you can become too flexible, and that could be bad for the joints. So, like weights, I add yoga to cross training a couple days a week and also take yoga classes. That plus use of a foam roller keeps me injury free.”

This article further explains how yoga can benefit endurance athletes.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.