I’ve been practicing yoga for about 12 years now. In fact, I’d say in the past 12 years, the longest break I took from yoga was during the third and “fourth” trimesters of pregnancy. It’s been a constant for me. I typically practice with an instructor once a week. I am not disciplined enough to have a home practice of my own, or I would do more.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t very active. But I can remember “meditation” sessions laying upside down in a chair, with my head hanging over the edge… and inversion if you will. What? Don’t all kids do that? So when I discovered yoga, it was like all that pretending had materialized into a real thing!
Over the years I’ve tried different exercises like Zumba and weight-lifting. I’m completely unable to conform to any sort of rhythm and strength training is pretty much repetitive torture. But I knew that yoga wasn’t a complete exercise regimen for me, at least not at the once-a-week rate I am able to do it.
Then I realized I was daydreaming about running. If I was busy or distracted, that’s where my mind would go to… I’d be running through the forest or down the sidewalk in my mind. Huh? Where is this coming from… I don’t run.
But it kind of made sense with the similarities between yoga and running: the meditative state, practice/training with others but having individual goals, and no requirements for special equipment, weather, or membership. I’m never going to develop a relationship with a dumbbell, but I could sure soothe my soul with the great outdoors.
From the start, I knew it had to be something that filled me up, that brought me joy and health benefits. In my mid-thirties, I was not in a place to become an competitive athlete. I did not need to take on something that would break me down. But I figured if my practice was mindful and balanced with yoga, I could probably continue to run well into old age.
I started running in January. It progressed really well. My running buddy and I decided to train for a half marathon. Training went well until we got up to about 8 miles (about 90 minutes of running). My knees hurt. I could have pushed through the pain. But pain was not the intention I had set for my running life. Running should be building me up, not breaking me down. I managed to run the half marathon that year, but it took nearly 3 months to fully recover and get back to a regular running schedule.
When I got back to running without knee pain, we signed up for another half marathon. I’ve got this, I thought. I know how to avoid the knee pain. But then I noticed that my hips, especially the left hip were feeling the strain of such intense, repetitive training. (I ran more than 60 miles in August, 2012.) I turned to yoga to try to fix myself, knowing that the main problem was over-use, but not willing to give up on running. But it wasn’t until I read a review of a new book by Sage Rountree, The Runner’s Guide to Yoga that I had the epiphany. That article/book review (which I can’t find now- sorry!) highlighted one of the main points in the book: flexibility which is cultivated in a vigorous yoga practice may actually cause problems for runners. Running, the straight-line, single plane, forward motion activity that it is, requires stability in the joints.
Now, armed with that knowledge, I am cultivating a more balance training regimen. I’m learning as I go and listening to my body along the way. As well, I’ve not set my sights on yet another half marathon this year. Instead, I’m aiming to increase speed and stick with shorter runs. There will be some very fast 5ks in 2013 (I hope)! And in the process, I will learn to listen more carefully to my body to avoid further injury.
For more information about blending a yoga and running routine, check out these articles:
John Farah. (September 4, 2012) Hurry up and stand still: Why runners need yoga. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/04/health/runners-need-yoga
Baron Baptiste And Kathleen Finn Mendola. (2013) Yoga for Runners. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/192#
Hillary Gibson. (March 8, 2013) Applying yoga to running. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from http://blogs.yogajournal.com/omchorus/2013/03/applying-yoga-to-running.html