Yoga and running compliment each other like coffee and beer…bear with me here.
I began practicing yoga regularly about a year ago, after acquiring yet another running injury- so cliché! I had plantar fasciitis, a pulled tendon under the arch of my foot, that couldn’t be ignored it and run off like all my other injuries. Every morning, I would hobble out the bedroom door like Igor, dragging my foot, not being able to withstand any type of pressure. I also had residual pain from iliopsoas tendinitis, front hip injury, mostly due to continuing to run and ignoring the issue.
Runners generally have a high threshold for pain due to the fact they are always injured in some way. However, barely being able to walk, with the slightest pressure causing tears, and about to tackle garden bed construction, I reluctantly turned to heated yoga.
I had tried yoga at various studios before, but never stuck with it because it hurt and took up too much time. I could barely touch my toes, I couldn’t open my legs wide enough for a proper Warrior 2, and I didn’t have the attention span to hold balancing poses- I just wanted to keep moving. It was all half assed on my part to tell the truth. But I had the feeling that if I went into the practice whole heartedly, intending to reap the benefits I might find, yoga could help me get back on my feet and running again.
I chose heated yoga for two reasons: #1, I found a studio five minutes away from home, and #2, I knew my fascia, tendons, and the rest of my muscle parts needed some melting in order to relax into the poses- or at least get my finger tips to the floor when bending at the waist! When I pulled up to the yoga studio, I was barely able to walk from my car to the smiling yogi behind the front desk. In my first class, which happened to be an intense yoga session with weights, I had to put all my pressure on one foot. Yet, afterword, eyes blurred from dripping sweat and clothing plastered to my body, I felt alive and accomplished. For a runner, it was like hitting that certain mile when you feel like you could just cruise on forever.
After one day at this particular studio, my body felt different- it began healing. Although I was still hobbling about, I felt emotionally invigorated more than physically, which torpedoed the healing process. I eagerly signed up for a studio membership after my second class. After two weeks, and ten classes later, I was limping slightly, but able to build planter boxes in the backyard, carrying eight foot pieces of wood, and running barefoot on the sand. After a month, I was running my normal routes and back on track with my marathon training schedule.
Runners truly do have a high pain tolerance due to the multiple inevitable injuries incurred during the constant pounding force against mostly hard surfaces for miles on end. Often, knees get blown out, tendons tighten so much that they rip apart, and ankles roll stumbling over uneven surfaces. There’s always something. Runners also have this tendency to revert to holistic healing practices rather than medication. We see sports doctors who refer us to physical therapists, who make us endure more pain by working our butts off to strengthen other areas in our bodies that will promote healing in the battered parts. They also act as our therapists, dealing with our anxiety and listening to our endless woes about not being able to run for weeks or months- although we never listen to that absurd prescription.
Like coffee, running gets a runner all pumped up. It’s an adrenaline rush, endorphin enhancer, wake up call at any time of the day. Too much though can be a headache, cause anxiety, and act as a hindrance to optimal performance, which often means listening to what the body needs, and giving it an active rest. Yoga, like beer, counteracts coffee’s ultra caffeine boost, by grounding the body and the mind, and focusing on the needs of both. Ah, but there also needs to be balance. Too much beer will make a person sloppy, not just as a runner, but in life. A cup or two of coffee, to one good pint of IPA, or Belgian. There’s the balance. Example: Run 4, 6, 8 miles four times a week, do a full yoga class 3 times a week, and your own mini yoga sessions all of the other days. Run, run, run, and nothing else…too much coffee. Yoga, yoga, yoga, and nothing else…well, for a runner, that’s too much beer.
The moral of my experience is: If you’re a runner (and you like coffee and beer), do yoga- it help creates balance in strength, mind and body, and skill. Yoga helps keep a runner grounded and running- hopefully for life!