Runner’s World always inspires me to train harder and try new things. My August 2016 issue featured a column entitled “Downward-Dog Days” by Peter Sagal. The article spoke to me because Sagal, much like me, always considered yoga to “boring and easy” and all about “inner peace and spirituality.” Things that runners don’t typically seek.
However, as Sagal started to feel signs of aging impacting his training — and when a yoga studio opened near his home offering a free trial week — he decided to finally discover what all the hype was about (many runners boast about the benefits of yoga). He learned that yoga was nothing like what he thought. It was challenging in a rewarding way, much like running; when he could hold a new pose for longer or sink lower into the pose, he felt the same sense of pride one gets from being able to add a mile onto a run or cut down a pace by a few seconds. He also found that the inner peace and spirituality were something enjoyable to have and are often “only laughed at by people who don’t have it.”
So where am I going with all of this?
Sagal’s experience and initial outlook on yoga inspired me to also give it a try. Like him, I never put much stock in the practice. I enjoy pounding cardio and could never imagine being able to relax long enough to make it through an entire yoga class.
With my fiance in tow, I decided it was, however, time to rise to a new challenge: relaxation, balance and inner peace.
Our gym offers free classes with our memberships, so we were able to find a class without a problem. It was an all-levels class, and the instructor was understanding, calming and non-judgemental (a must for one’s first yoga class). While the downward dogs and variations on warrior poses seemed never-ending as the clock ticked slowly to the one-hour mark, I did feel looser with each opening of the hips and chest. The aches and pains from my weekly mileage dulled, and, if only for a second, I felt relaxed — a feeling I almost never experience with my anxiety and type A personality.
I went into the class with some serious tightness, but the next morning I felt looser and more at ease before my morning run.
To my amazement, my fiance also enjoyed the class! As a more casual exerciser, he liked that it got him moving and helped ease the soreness he feels after I drag him on a run, hike or bike ride.
For the time being, we’ve decided to try and make it to a yoga class once a week. I definitely don’t plan on becoming a yogi anytime soon, but it’s nice to take one hour a week to breathe deeply, find some relaxation, and stretch more than usual. I also love that my fiance is willing to come because then we get to spend some extra time together during the busy workweek.
As I hit the peak of my marathon training, my body is starting to carry more tension and stress than ever before, and I can already feel the benefits of yoga.
If you’re a runner in the middle of training for a fall race, I would suggest trying out yoga. Perhaps you have the same mindset Sagal and I did; perhaps it’s a mindset that this blog post isn’t enough to sway. If that’s the case, I’d still tell you to force yourself to go. I know there are days when you force yourself to run, so give yourself that same push with yoga. If you can try it just once, you’ll feel the benefits — I promise! If you don’t have the ability to attend a class, the internet is full of yoga routines for runners!
Don’t take a hard class or pick a difficult routine, though. Start with something labeled beginner or all levels.
And just like with training and racing, focus on YOU instead of those around you.
Remember: When you first started running, you were slow and uneducated. It’ll be the same way with your first yoga class or yoga routine, so start out expecting to learn rather than be the best.
And please, let me know how it goes!