#RunningYogi T-minus 10 weeks

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I have ten weeks until the Great North Run on Sept 13th… I swore to myself weeks ago that I would start a blog tracking my running journey, yet like many things this has not materialised until now. My training hasn’t been going as well as I wanted, or expected it to if I’m to be entirely honest. It’s been tough – or rather I have been tough on myself I guess – part of me thinks I’m too old to be doing this, I’m not the 26-year-old long distance runner I used to be, it’s never going to be like it used to be so why bother? The other part of me says – stop making excuses, it’s not just about the race it’s about the motivation behind it – to raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer UK – stop finding excuses as to why you can’t train – cancer certainly doesn’t procrastinate and find excuses…

I wanted to start running to train for this race and raise money and awareness for Prostate Cancer – that was one of the motivations for me. The other was that I woke up one day and wondered why on earth I stopped running when I loved it so much? The answer was that my Bikram teacher told me to… and I just did what I was told. This was also the same person who let me to do a standing straddle forward bend with my feet mat distance (the narrow width) apart, my head on the floor and all with raging sciatica….I realised it was definitely time to give running a try again for sure. (And, if you have sciatica and are reading this – no the pose I just described it certainly not a helpful pose for you to be doing if you have shooting pain in your butt and leg!)

The other element to this journey is what I call “dirty love” – I used to run 5 times a week, I could run a 10km in 44 mins and a half in 1hr 46 – I was a bit of a running bad ass if I say so myself. The dirty love bit is how I got that far – I trained like a fiend – everyone was in awe of how often I went to the gym and how long I could run on a treadmill for – I was the fit and healthy one. Which all sounds very nice, but the truth was this – I actually consistently over trained and looking back I would say I had a problem with over exercising and obsessive calorie watching. I was super skinny – but only because I would run on a treadmill until the calories counter threw itself back to zero again. I would eat more salad than a rabbit and although I wasn’t starving myself I knew damn well that I had burned off the majority of my food intake. Yoga helped to rectify this for sure – so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that I stopped running to do more yoga.

Putting my running shoes on also puts me in this place of instant comparison with the way it “used to be” – and it’s certainly a great “not good enough” trigger that’s for sure. I cottoned onto this pretty soon in though – I figured I had 2 choices – chuck the running shoes back in the cupboard and pretend I had never even bothered, or get the running shoes on, get out there and figure out how to do it differently this time. How might it be to run and take the pressure off so it was actually fun? Not as easy as it sounds but I’m not one to admit defeat!

It’s funny – about the eating thing – I’m not sure if my running app lies to me (it has no idea my height or weight so I guess it probably is!) , but I’m pretty astounded at how much you  burn off running. The difference this time is I find myself thinking – “I really need to make sure I’m eating enough for this!” rather than the pretty much opposite as before. It makes me realise that you can avoid a problem and ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist, but actually you need to grab it by the horns and face it head on if you are going to beat it. The nice thing about this race is, I really don’t care about doing some amazingly impressive time – I just want to finish it and not be completely destroyed, and raise awareness of Prostate cancer along the way.

Back to the training – it’s been an injury-fest – first runners knee – although it was never diagnosed as that. I was shocked to discover that despite all the yoga I have ridiculously tight IT bands and my glut medius thinks it’s on vacation and is doing absolutely nada! The foam roller has revolutionised my post run tension (despite nearly making me cry the first time I used it, we are now firm friends I’m pleased to report!)

I tripped running in San Francisco in February – over a massive tree root in the park, and yes, it would have made a great cartoon character sketch! No blood but I pulled a muscle in my left butt which was painful to say the least – I think I may actually have torn something in there actually and now have scar tissue as this just keeps on playing up. The upside of this is I have realised that I need to warm up properly – that this is absolutely essential before running and it needs to not be a half-assed effort! It’s also led to me getting really interested in how I can use my yoga as an effective warm down. I’m finding at the moment that practising yoga before running doesn’t help so much – not least because handstands and arm balances are way more tantalising than the idea of running and so it can become another procrastination or excuse to not go out! I have a warm up that my physio (who thankfully is also a runner) gave me, which mobilises my legs and gives me time to drink my coffee before going out first thing. When I come back, I have a great Forrest Yoga standing pose series I’ve developed that helps sort me out and stretch out what needs to be stretched. Or I may do a full practice but making sure that I work with the hips, hammies and shoulders (how much tension do runners acquire in their shoulders – seriously?! It’s going to be mega sets of shoulder shrugs after the race I tell you!)

The training plans – I was following a plan I found online, but I didn’t quite like its focus on training and running for an amount of time – I feel like the mileage is also important. I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I have decided to switch back to the plan I have from my old faithful “Running from Start to Finish book by John Stanton – it’s not a flashy, trendy looking book but the training plans always served me well. I’m adapting the 2 hour plan so I will run slightly less sessions per week and see how I go from there. The key is to listen to my body and do what feels right for me, without finding excuses to not train because my mind thinks so!

I’ve been enjoying running outside (except, as my family will testify, on our recent holiday in Florida, where running at 8am meant running in 30 degrees celsius and was a KILLER! Sweaty doesn’t even come close to describing my post run appearance!!) I think I am going to sign up to the gym though so I have a treadmill to do hill training on – Peterborough is pretty flat and I think that on a running machine I can’t pretend I am running up hills when I’m not! In short – on a treadmill you get to control your hills but it makes you do them at the same time! It will be good to have an indoor option if the weather gets miserable too – once again – no excuses!

Yesterday was a 5k easy run – I was at a Yoga festival all weekend and had massively tight quads but running felt great and after my yoga session after it I felt invigorated and strong rather than knackered and a quivering mess – always a good sign! Here’s a post run lunge – felt great in the hip flexors! Lunges used to be my nemesis pose but lunges up the wall are fast becoming a runner’s fave at camp Ros! I will endeavour to update the #runningyogi blog on a weekly basis from now on – I figure it will be a great motivator and it’s good to share tips and experiences to help others too.

Running in Beauty!

Ros

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Change a small habit, make a big difference (or Why changing my hand clasp in ostrich has rocked my world!)

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Habits – be they good or bad, whether we like to admit it or not, we’ve all got them! They’re funny things when you think about it – a real double-edged sword. On one hand habitual tendencies and routines are like a child’s security blanket – they make us feel safe and reassured; we know where we’re at because it’s what we “always do” so it must be ok – right? The flip side though is that they also blind us from seeing what really is, and if truth be told ultimately actually stop us from evolving.

Often we have a tendency to think changing habits has to happen on a massive scale – that it will be a major maybe life-altering change we have to make. And sometimes it is – and if you have the power and strength to carry this through then that’s fantastic! But, that’s not always so readily achievable, so at the same time we mustn’t forget that the small changes count just as much. Whilst it’s not as easy to notice our more subtle habits, making a change at this level can bring about an equally if not more significant shift.

I’ve had a sore right shoulder for what feels like an eternity, although truth be told it’s only been about a month and a half. My pec minor and trapezius muscles fell out with me big time in January and boy do those muscles know how to tweak out! I felt upset, it hurt to push a door open and my practice was clearly suffering too. Doing sun salutations was painful after too short a while, and my newly ‘conquered’ arm balance was threatened with going down the pan before I’d barely had time to relish the pleasure of doing it free-standing. I drastically reduced my suns, avoided archer arms and forced myself to lay off forearm balances; I resorted to opening doors with my left hand rather right. I guess these weren’t even major changes, but they just left me feeling frustrated and the shoulder continued to niggle. Then recently I was doing ostrich one day; as I interlaced my fingers I quite frankly felt like burying my head in the sand as I knew the minute I lifted my arms up, my shoulder would be screaming. Whilst I’m big into getting my students to interlace their fingers their ‘most unusual way’ for abs, I’d never considered using this alternative grip elsewhere. Until now…so I swapped to my non-habitual grip (having the opposite index finger on top is starting to feel less funky these days I’m glad to report!) and tentatively lifted my hands away from my sacrum. My shoulder merely whispered to me, the tension significantly reduced…changing my hand clasp in ostrich had literally rocked my practice! I incorporated this grip into boat pose and forward bends with hands clasped too, accompanying this with a renewed effort to breathe into and relax my pec muscles. In a way these changes aren’t really anything new, but I’d got so sidetracked by the bigger picture that I’d forgotten to look at the smaller details I could fine tune.

“As we free ourselves from habitual patterns of the past we can learn how to walk through this life as our spirit dictates” Ana Forrest.

Whilst it can be a bit scary cutting ties to habits and patterns in our everyday lives, the good news is it’s much easier to experiment with this in our yoga practice. The yoga mat offers a safe place to start noticing small habits and play around with changing them. And the best news of all  – we can take the confidence we gain from this off our mats and out into making changes in the rest of our lives. 🙂

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 The small change that made the big difference!