I’m going to be honest: I don’t really like yoga.
Of course there are some classes that I’ve attended that I’ve loved, like a class with my family on the beach in Sri Lanka, or sunrise yoga on a rooftop in Central London, or a pre-Chicago Marathon class I did last year after a long haul flight that felt like heaven on my aching limbs.
But the weekly local yoga class, I watch the clock the whole way through them, willing time to move faster; knowing they’re good for me, but struggling to get my mind and body to co-operate.
Funny enough, this dislike of yoga has taught me a few things about myself and—also importantly—about running.
Often it’s the things we’re worst at that we need to work on most.
It’s all lovely lacing up for your 6-mile easy run with friends, but it’s the hard tempo runs, the track sessions, the long long runs, the core workouts and the strength training, the runs that you might be less chirpy about when they pop up on your training plan, that can make the real difference. Personally I enjoy a vomit-inducing speed workout, but core work? Yeah, no. So it gets pushed to the end of the list and I don’t do it and then during a marathon the first thing I can feel is my stomach and lower back aching. Coincidence? I think not. I am not flexible. I’m also not fast. Both of those are things I can improve if I put the time, effort and work in.
Concentrate on your breath.
How do you know when you’re working hard? Your breathing becomes labored, or if you’re anything like me, you hold your breath. Focusing on controlling your breathing and continuing to count your breath during tough moves on the mat has translated into counting my inhalations and exhalations during the hardest of speed workouts, or in the final stages of a race where you want of think of anything but how much pain you’re in.
It’s not just physical.
On the mat you’re taught to concentrate on the mind-body connection—the same should be done in running. We know that completing a marathon requires an enormous amount of mental strength; heck, training for a marathon, dragging yourself out of bed for your long runs, missing out on family fun, substituting nights out for mornings on the track takes a lot of mental strength. Often we overlook this part of the marathon build-up, even though we require it so desperately on race day. Let’s build it into training, as we do in our yoga practice.
Focus on you.
Spending time staring at the girl in front of you who has nimbly kicked up into a headstand will not increase your own flexibility, nor will liking someone’s sub-3 marathon help you run that sub-1.45 marathon you’re after. Stick to your own goals. Use other’s achievements as inspiration and motivation but focus on doing your own thing and working on the skills you want to improve.
Be kind to yourself.
Missed your track workout paces? Needed to take an extra rest day instead of the scheduled easy run? Yoga, running and life shouldn’t be about beating yourself up over mini ‘failures;’ we need to celebrate mini successes instead. We need to be kind to ourselves.