I am the typical type A personality. I’m organized, proactive, and ambitious. But also stubborn, impatient, and way too hard on myself. If I’m going to do something, I’m doing it 110 percent. This includes running.
I’ve been running consistently since I was 17. Track, cross-country, 5ks, 10ks, half marathons. I’ve run in snow, freezing temperatures, blazing heat, fierce winds. I’ve run through colds, fatigue ,and minor to major injuries. Running when I didn’t really want to or when I knew I shouldn’t be, all to be part of some hardcore club that I’d made up in my head. The cost of admission was high: a broken foot, an exhausted body, and 8 weeks off running.
It was then I knew something about my running needed to change. It was also then that I took a serious look at yoga.
I had been a part-time yogi for many of my running years. I took an elective class or two in college, went to a few classes at my gym, even tried a few studios with friends. But, it was too slow, too long, and it wasn’t running.
However, this time, I didn’t really have an alternative. I was bored with spinning and the elliptical so I decided this was as good a time as any to give yoga one more shot. I threw myself in head first (that type A coming out once again) hoping for a speedy recovery back into my running shoes. What I got was so much more than that.
Over the next six weeks I felt a major shift in my body, my mind, and my overall approach to fitness. The physical changes were easy to see and feel. Yoga worked muscles I didn’t even know I had. My hamstrings loosened, the ache in my hip diminished and my foot slowly began to heal. I felt a spaciousness and lightness I had never experienced before. Not to mention that I was getting into some crazy arm balances and twists I didn’t know I was capable of. The practice was actually fun!
But for all my physical shifts, it was the changes to my mind that really amazed me. I tapped into a patience I didn’t know I possessed, patience toward others and myself. I found myself pausing and backing off instead of constantly pushing up against my limits. I began to soften in the way I spoke to and treated my body. My self-talk was kinder, less judgmental. I really listened to my body, becoming aware of what it was trying to tell me, instead of ignoring it and moving on.
What was once a monologue became a conversation and in this conversation I realized that I didn’t need to deplete myself every time I came to my mat (or later to my runs). It was okay to have off days, days when I felt exhausted, days when I needed a slower pace, days of rest to recharge, reboot and come back stronger. In fact, the off days brought the good days into a different light as well. When I was feeling really good, I went for it. I came to understand the balance between good days and bad and what I could ask of my body in those times.
What I learned in those 8 weeks changed my running for the better. Pushing limits and digging deeper still have their place in my life, and in my running. I still have PRs I’m trying to break and goals I’m trying to accomplish. But instead of fighting my body every step of the way, we work together. I take rest days, I eat better, and I hit the yoga mat at least twice a week to reconnect with my body. I don’t struggle so hard against myself and conversely my body has rewarded me with less injuries and better race times.
As odd as it sounds, it was through the yoga mat that my runs became sweeter and more enjoyable.
Written by Lisa Horvath.
Related: Guide to Yoga for Runners