Friday, June 18, 2010

Balance: Running and Yoga

     I am a big fan of fitness.  I try to work out about six days a week with one rest day...maybe two! I alternate between doing cardio days and strength training days, an important balance in any exercise routine.  My gym has an amazing class called Fit Camp (bootcamp based) which I have been doing for a few months now.  If you have access to this type of class, you should definitely go and give yourself a challenge; it will kick your butt, but you will love it!  But too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.  Variety in your exercise routine is essential for maximum benefits, so I'm moving on.
     Lately, I've been really into doing things I've never done before.  In this case, I am now training for my first 10K (6.2 miles for the mathematically challenged).  I am mostly following this training plan.  I actually had to jump in on week 4 because I want to do the Freedom Run on July 3 in my hometown.  I have continuously ran the longest in my life (4.25 miles in 42 minutes) and tomorrow I will be running 4.75 miles.  So far, I'm still alive-even in this awful humidity in the South!

     I also decided to get back into practicing yoga on my "rest" days and I truly believe this has kept me going and surviving! It turns out that yoga and running are a good marriage of strength and flexibility!  Yoga means "yoke" to unite the mind, body, and spirit. It has been around for 3,000 years and is an ancient form of healing.  It truly is about breath control, linking your breath with your body movements and quieting your mind.  This practice reduces anxiety and stress, improves mental clarity, and helps you sleep better.  Who doesn't need that?!  It helps build flexibility, strength, concentration, and stamina.  Can you see the ties to running yet?
     Running, on the other hand, is typically an injury-inducing activity.  The repetitiveness of your feet pounding the surface can cause compression in the joints of knees, ankles, hips, and the lower back as well as imbalances between major muscles.  With some minor pain already in my knees prior to running, I knew I had to do something to balance the stress.
     The poses in yoga help lengthen the muscles while restoring blood, oxygen, and fuel.   Balance, symmetry, and alignment, which can be compromised in running can be brought back into the body through yoga.  These benefits help prevent injuries, speed recovery, and even improve speed for runners.  Personally, I have noticed less pain in my knees and better control of my breathing while running just by practicing yoga three times a week.  I am able to stay out of my thoughts (of wanting to quit) and have managed to skip any soreness typical in starting a new exercise routine.  And speed?  Well, we'll work on that one later.  If you're a runner, you should give yoga a try and see how it benefits your training!  And if you're not a runner, you should give yoga a try anyway!  It really is a great form of exercise and a wonderful proactive approach to your health!

     Wherever you are in leading an active lifestyle, I encourage you to do more!  If you can't even walk a mile, then start there and DO IT!  What do you have to lose?... besides pounds, high cholesterol, depression, and excess medications!  If you have been doing the same 30 minutes on the same elliptical for years, then it's time to get off and give your body some variety and a challenge!  You will see results much faster!  Get your office together and enter a 5K for a great cause!  Go hiking, swimming or whatever, just do something!  I've always liked the motto "more than before."  Get after it and you'll feel better and look better!

     Ok, I can't leave you without this, which I just found.  If you don't want to believe me and think you're too old, too sick, too out of shape, check this out...

     Yes, that's right, that is an 83-year-old woman in a mean peacock pose!  Read her story here and stop your lame excuses!