We pretty much all grew up with the adorable (and, at moments, terrifying) fairy tale depicting the beauty, Belle, and her unlikely relationship with the big scary Beast. Essentially, a story about two people that you might not put together at first glance, but upon further inspection, clearly fit well with one another.
Now, this might seem like a strange analogy for the way that I view the relationship between yoga and running…but that really is what it is like. If you look at it from an over-simplified “10,000 foot view”…yoga is Beauty, and running is the Beast. Some people might not think that they would form a great mutualistic relationship, but they do. Oh, how they totally and completely do!
I have been running off and on since my sophomore year in college. Prior to that, I firmly believed that I didn’t have more than a forced-gym-class mile in me. I pretty much forever hated running as a sport and thought it was for crazy people. As a matter of fact, I really felt that way up until probably 10 years ago. (Wait, am I dating myself here??? Yeah, I’m kind of old.) Even after I stopped thinking that running was for those who were certifiable, I still envisioned that it was for a special brand of people who were probably close to superhero status. Why? Because every time I took to lacing up and hitting the pavement, the novelty of it all would last for a few months, and then it would fizzle out. Let’s face it. Getting off the couch is hard. Finding motivation to do something beyond that? Well, HARD x 10. So, the people who ran obviously had the super power of stick-to-it-iveness that most do not. And, it seems I was better at quitting than I was at continuing or committing.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I actually caught the running “bug”. This time, for real. I don’t know how exactly that it happened, but it did. Maybe it was because I stumbled upon the realization that running was a cheaper form of therapy for a first time mom than prescription drugs or “real” therapy. Maybe it was because I actually got time to myself, and I wasn’t about to stop indulging in that guilty little pleasure. Maybe because I discovered it was a way of giving in and letting go and coming out stronger at the end…and, well, that just feels good. Just for the record, I’m all for feeling good.
At the same time, though, I was starting to realize that my body wasn’t as into running as my head was. My body was viewing running as the Beast that it can be for some. See, I have an ever-growing list of injuries / aches / pains that often hinder my want or ability to open up that front door to my outdoor gym. I would often wake up the morning after a run, step out of bed, and limp my way through the rest of my day, courtesy of: sesamoiditis, a newly forming bunion, an uncooperative and often angry heel and ankle, IT bands tighter than my husband’s grip on the bank account when I go out purse shopping, etc. Well, you get the idea. I’m sort of a mess (and my husband is stingy when it comes to purse shopping). Enough of a mess at a few turns that I was starting to cut back and contemplate stopping my running activity YET AGAIN.
Until, I sort of accidentally met yoga. Ah, enter, Beauty.
I say that I accidentally met yoga because I really had no intention of being a yogi. (Sort of like I never really intended or expected to be a runner.) I had taken some prenatal yoga classes, and they were “fine”. Outside of that, I had unwarranted opinions about the practice, and I just didn’t think yoga would be for me. But, life works in mysterious and awesome ways…and, so it happened.
I decided that I needed to do something else besides JUST running. Something that would break up the monotony of my routine, challenge me, and get me another form of exercise all while still allowing my body to recover from my running Beast. I was searching out a unicorn of sorts.
Another mom friend had mentioned the prospect of us trying out an all-levels Vinyasa class at a local studio while our kiddos were at preschool. I swallowed all of my group exercise, “oh, I look like an idiot and have no idea what I am doing while you all look amazing in your Lululemon everything” insecurities, rolled out a mat, and took the class. And, I almost died. Turns out, yoga can be seriously HARD, y’all! I like a good challenge, though, so I stuck with it. And, I learned a whole bunch of things in the process: yoga IS exercise. It can be intense. Or restorative. It works every part of your mind and body. It can energize you and calm you, all at the same time. And, it really, really, really helps to loosen up your muscles and stretch you back out after a run (see: pigeon pose, double pigeon pose, lizard pose, forward folds, downward dogs, legs up the wall, etc). Hallelujah! Beautiful, wonderful, magical unicorn found!
Working yoga into my weekly routine, and limiting my weekly running to 3 or 4 days at the most, has made it possible for my body to be “ok” with the beatings that it takes when I’m out hitting the roads. The pairing of both exercises, in turn, has allowed me to run longer distances than I ever imagined and to improve my pace (without even consciously working on it). I actually ran a half marathon in September, and that is something that I never even imagined being remotely possible. So, I might be old, achy, and held together by KT Tape, but I am now also officially one of those certifiable superhero-y sorts of people that I used to emulate…all thanks to introducing Beauty to the Beast.
So, what do you do besides run? Is there anything that makes it more enjoyable or more possible for you to run or for you to be a “better” runner? Please share!
Happy Running! Shanti, Shanti, Shanti! And, Namaste!
Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.