Tag Archives: running

After savasana, a run

I finally made myself take in an easy jog after my hatha yoga class this evening. It’s so easy to talk myself into not running because I have tasks at home (Tuesday: take out the garbage), updates on sites, bills to pay. With temperatures and humidity turn this into a proto-type Washington summer (hot and muggy), there’s an added hurdle to getting out to the high school track. Throw in some rainy evenings, and I have yet to string together enough jogging to get me past the sore-muscles morning after phase.

But I need the cardio work, especially after the slower paced classes, to burn up more calories, control my weight and to build up some stamina.  I need the juice that comes from a good run. So I did it.

Getting back on the track

I missed vinyasa class tonight because of a heavy workload and a boss who’s traveling tomorrow. When I got home, I had a choice: either watch the Trudie Styler DVD to write the review or go running. I choose running. I put in nearly two miles at a slow trod.

I used to run a lot until my knee injury and surgery. A few weeks ago, at the gym working on the stationary bike and elliptical trainer, I felt an impulse and jumped on the treadmill just to see what it was like, maybe just a quick walking pace. I did not feel anything bad. I stepped up the speed. At the end of 15 minutes, I was trotting along without any pain or complications. The following day, I felt no adverse consequences. I started jogging again, gingerly, at the gym and at a high school track near my house, first with a mile, then, adding a quarter of a mile gradually, until I am up to two miles now.

When I was recovering from my surgery, I focused on getting back to yoga because the discipline had a ripple effect throughout my life. I ruled out running because I did not want to overstress my knees. But running had never been the cause of my injury: it was actually yoga, an over-aggressive moment when I put too much weight over my bent knee.

What pushed me back to running was my yoga practice: I’ve been doing one or two sessions a week of hatha yoga with Marylou McNamara at Thrive. She’s trained as a Anusara teacher so she works a lot on alignment — long, repeated holds of fairly simple poses (lunge, Warrior I, II, III). I feel that I am able to access key muscles in my shoulders, back, core, and hips for the first time, and her instruction helps me focus on those areas. But a hatha class does not get much into aerobic conditioning, and I’ve noticed in the vinyasa classes that I’ve been getting winded. If I was going to continue going hatha yoga classes, I needed to add some aerobic exercise, either at the gym, the yoga studio or elsewhere.

So that’s why I started running again. My short-term goal is to get ready for the Brian Kest weekend workshop at Thrive coming up on October 23-25. He teaches an Ashtanga, power yoga style that’s going to test my limits over four two-hour sessions. I knew I had to step up conditioning.

Back in stride


Proof that I was actually in Spain (Segovia in this case), not at a meditation retreat in Nepal. My wife can take credit for this photograph.

This weekend I went to Susan Bowen’s vinyasa class on Saturday and Sunday. I also put in an hour on the elliptical trainer and the treadmill at the gym so I feel that I have gotten back up to speed on my yoga and conditioning after my vacation break. It may be a while before I am up to full strength because I still feel the fatigue in my shoulders from lots of planks, Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana), and Upward-Facing Dogs (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). On Saturday, it was a student’s birthday so Susan made us do 40 vinyasas to honor her.

This 10-day process to get back into my exercise routine drives home a simple lesson: the mature adult’s body takes a long time to adapt to more rigorous and skilled endeavors. I started running nine months ago, but seriously only less than six months ago. I should lower my own expectations about what I can achieve, both in the short and the long term. Instead of thinking about having lost training time due to my break, I should look at the two weeks as an opportunity for my body to relax and chill out. Although I can run three miles, it does not mean that I need to do it, especially given the wear and tear on my muscles after years of inactivity. I need to incorporate ample recovery time so that I don’t stress my body too much. Hints of shin splits are a clear warning in that respect. It’s not like I’m on a training schedule for a half-marathon (or any competition, for that matter).

I think it’s been providential that I got into yoga before running. My gradual learning of yoga allowed me to ramp up the physical demands on my body gradually while enhancing my body awareness. Yoga’s emphasis on breathing gives me a value instrument for measuring exertion while jogging. I’ve been using the ChiRunning technique of Danny Dyer to give me a training method in keeping with my yoga approach. I’ve actually had to teach my legs and core how to run, and that’s included some minor pain as muscle groups have found new uses.

A question of intention — stretching or yoga

New York Times To Stretch or Not to Stretch? The Answer Is Elastic has an intriguing monologue about whether an athlete can get anything out of practicing yoga.

They’re (athletes) like one of my running partners, Claire Brown, a 35-year-old triathlete.

“I always feel like, well, athletes should do yoga,” Claire said. “It’s supposed to be really good for running, and when I do it regularly, it does loosen up my hips and make me feel better for running.”

Yet she puts off going to yoga.

“It shouldn’t feel like an obligation, but it always does,” Claire said. “The good classes are often an hour and a half long, and I’m thinking: ‘I could be running, I could be biking. But here I am, stretching and breathing.’

“Isn’t it funny, though, that something that should be calming can actually cause stress because you think you have to do it?”

The crux of the article is about the lack of scientific evidence about the value of stretching in preventing injury — and in many people’s minds, yoga is synonymous with stretching. Claire obviously attacks yoga with the same vigor as she applies to her sports conditioning. If she’s really after stretching, she would be better off just putting together a routine of exercises that address that need and cut out all the extraneous material that makes yoga more than an Eastern equivalent of calisthenics.

Running on chi

I did five miles of running on the Mall at lunch time, into the cold winds coming off the Potomac. It was the first outside run that I’ve had since before Christmas, though I did make it to the gym for the treadmill several times. I thought I has not lost much strength over the holiday break, but I felt exhausted by the time I got home.

I am still concerned that the pounding of running will erase the benefits of my yoga practice. I remembered an interview that I heard on NPR about chi-running, a concept started by athletic trainer Danny Dreyer. I looked up his website and found his approach to be a technique that melded well with yoga and mindfulness. The technique combines “the inner focus and flow of T’ai Chi with the power and energy of running to create a revolutionary running form and philosophy that takes the pounding, pain, and potential damage out of the sport of running.”

I ordered his book and DVD. Expect reviews shortly after they arrive in the mail. Meanwhile, you can check out what other people think by consulting testimonials or by reading a collection of longer articles. You can get a clear idea about the program by going through a few of these online resources. This NPR story is a good start.