This morning, a fellow mom friend in one of my healthy living Facebook groups posed a question. She is about to start training for her first half marathon and was wondering what sort of activities those of us who had already gone that distance and farther used as a cross train while we prepared for our own races. I was tagged in the post by a couple of different people, not because I’m some sort of half marathon training super-guru, but because yoga came up and I’m the biggest yoga-holic that many of my friends know. My answer to pretty much everything is always “yoga”. Something hurts? Do yoga. You have anxiety? Yoga. Digestive issues? Yoga. Your toddler just drew on the television and the wall with her crayons? YOGA YOGA YOGA.
But it’s true.
I have been practicing yoga since 2008. I started out with a regular hatha class offered by my gym and quickly branched out to Bikram and any other kind of hot class I could get myself into. The hotter the better because I love to sweat. Is that gross? Maybe a little.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I kept going with my regular practice until my belly started to really get in the way and even the modifications weren’t helping. Then I switched over to prenatal, which I LOVED and still sing the praises of to every pregnant woman I know. I had a c-section and was back to doing gentle yoga 3 weeks later. Obviously I do not recommend that everyone do this. I had the blessing of my OB.
I credit yoga with helping me bounce back from a pregnancy where…let’s be honest here…I became terrifyingly huge. I had a laundry list of aches and pains in my back and hips as my body readjusted post-pregnancy and I saw a chiropractor for awhile and made very little – if any – progress. I did not start to feel any real relief until I went back to Bikram class.
Fast forward to earlier this year and I decided I wanted to run. In the beginning I didn’t know what a cross train was or that some of the injuries runners sustain could possibly be avoided by adding more cross training to their routine. I didn’t even realize at the time how much all the yoga I was doing was helping me. All I knew is that even as my distances became longer, I was rarely sore. The day after my first half marathon I went to my hot vinyasa class and the day after that I ran a 10K. I’ve never iced my legs. I have a foam roller that was collecting dust until my toddler claimed it as her own. She likes to kick it around the living room like a soccer ball, yelling “I KICK!”
I credit yoga with all of this. Think about it:
When your feet pound the pavement (or treadmill or trail or whatever), your muscles are going to tighten and shorten up. So doesn’t it make really good sense to work on elongating and loosening up those same muscles? A regular yoga practice can improve your balance, range of motion, and even affect the way that you breathe when you go out for a run. This is probably why I don’t feel like I’m going to keel over from lack of oxygen now whereas every attempt at running I made prior to 2008 had me diagnosing myself with non-existent asthma. I also use it for my strength training. I am not a fan of lifting weights and prefer to use my own body weight. All those planks and chaturangas that I do in a yoga class have done wonders for my core and arm strength. And there is not a better upper body workout around than aerial yoga. I could never climb the rope in gym class as a kid, but I bet I could now.
Those are trapeze silks and if it looks fun to you, it’s because IT IS. About half the class is spent inverted and I always feel taller when I leave. If you can find a class to attend, I highly recommend it.
Sometimes I feel like I might be a little yoga-obnoxious, but of all the people I have suggested it to I have never had someone come back to me saying that it hasn’t helped them in some way. It is (in my humble opinion) the most well-rounded cross train that a runner can try and with the added bonus of INNER PEACE as well. You can’t get that just anywhere.
What is your favorite way to cross train?