How Yoga Fixed my Long Runs

My long-time training nemisis has always been the long run.

Well, and long tempos. And repeats longer than 1600m. And strength training and remembering to stretch…

But mostly, the weekend long run.

There’s just something about the early Saturday wake up, quietly sitting around with my coffee and toast, wrestling with compression socks and asking myself “should I try to pee again?” ten times. It’s a routine that instead of stability and comfort over time, provokes a sense of panic and dread. Like I know what’s coming, and don’t even give the run a chance to be anything but painful. There’s a line where “expect the worst” goes from a precautionary defense mechanism to a paralyzing fear tactic, and it’s about three city blocks from where my pre-long run ritual is.

HEADCASE. WE’RE WORKING ON IT.

Last week I tried to outsmart my stupid head game and ran my eight miler at night. It was just enough change that it didn’t feel like a “long run” – probably because it wasn’t very long – but it’s not very sustainable or the easiest on the stomach. Plus, races are in the morning so hello I better be able to run in the AM hours. Valiant effort, though.

So this week, driving out to the 10 mile Back Bay loop where I’ve done probably 50 long runs over the last few years, I started feeling those same feelings of ‘ughhhhghhrhhhrhrhgh what if it sucks or I get sick or hurt did I drink enough water oh shit my ipod is dead… is it over yet?’

And I gave myself a big fat fucking smack in the face.

“Nobody’s making you do this! You’re doing it because you want to! What would you rather be doing for this 90 minutes? Sitting at home, watching tv, feeling bad about not running? That sounds awful. It’ll be great. Just get out there.”

I tied my shoes and started going before the pep talk could get a rebuttal from the other shoulder demon. It was a beautiful day, my legs felt pretty good, and everyone else on the path seemed so happy! I’ve never had more runner nods reciprocated or walkers yell, “looking good!” at my back as I ran past them.

(twice. that happened twice. either had a big spring in my step or underwear hanging out of my shorts)

backbay

A few miles in when the initial wow-factor of, “hey I’m out here long running, and actually enjoying it!” started fading, I thought back to the yoga class I went to the night before. It was my first time on the mat it a LONG time, so when the instructor told us to “be gentle” and “work with what you have TODAY,” I took extra meaning to it. Not comparing to others, my past self, or what I “should” do, just focusing on what my body needed at that time.

At the beginning of every class, your first order of business is typically to “set your intention” for the practice. What you hope to gain or accomplish. Your next goal is to “be present” throughout, not letting your mind drift away from your mat. And lastly, you’re to “appreciate the time you’re giving to your practice.” The time that you’re carving out of your day for yoga is a gift you’re giving your body, and your body thanks you for it.

I realized on my run that all that hippie sanskrit Ommmm’y talk (which I not-so-secretly love, in a very anti-granola way) is applicable to so many things other than tree pose and vinyasa flows.

I was out here, putting the time in for my run – why not make the most of it instead of wishing it away, or cursing it? If I focused on what my goal for the run was (get stronger, acclimate to long-duration efforts) then the miles and pain seemed more worthwhile. I’d be proud and thankful afterwards for the time I dedicated to it now.

“Intention, present. appreciate. Intention, present, appreciate…”

yogarunning

And I’ll be damned, it worked. I had a great fucking run. High five, Buddha.

Yoga is not for everyone, but the concepts of intention and being present can (and should!) be applied to many parts of our lives. Long runs, work projects, relationships, a really really delicious dessert… focus and give it all the effort it deserves!

Sarah OUaL

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18 thoughts on “How Yoga Fixed my Long Runs

  1. I totally agree! Yoga has really helped my running. Besides strength, flexibility, and breathing, like you it has also helped me remember to stay in the moment. If you’re faced with running a 20 mile long run, you don’t want to be thinking how far you have to go, it’s much better just to focus on where you are!

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  2. There is totally something to the whole be present and breath thing! I’m not a huge yoga fan, but I will say it totally helps me stay calm during long runs/races. There is a point in every race that I think why the F am I doing this. I’m going to just stop and walk and hang up the shoes, I’m done. But, thanks to yoga, I’m always able to refocus, get my breathing under control, enjoy the surroundings and just be in the moment. Haven’t hung up the running shoes yet!

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  3. Amen sister! I first began doing yoga purely for stretching and some strength but now have come to love it for all the crunchy granola that used to make me so uncomfortable. I love the meditation, breathing and being in touch with my body during my time on the mat. And as with all of life, I definitely agree that every experience is what you make it and every run can be changed into what you want it to be just using your mind ( ok maybe not always). Sounds like you are on your way to some epic long runs!

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  4. I love this! I’ve never really gotten into the ohmmmm part of yoga, but I do love the idea of making the most of the time you are dedicating to practice. My long runs this cycle have had a few low points, but in general, I’ve just been happy to be out running, uninjured, enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with my husband. So, I’ve been enjoying that time, instead of just wanting it done and over with. Good times!

    I’m also incredibly jealous of the gorgeous place you were running. I miss the beach. :(

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  5. As much as I find it hard to get into yoga and feel like a complete failure when it comes to zen- yoga helps me find peace in stressful situations, daily things that usually bother me and other workouts. I’m glad you were able to apply what you learned in yoga to your long runs!!! You’re going to concur them!

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  6. Thank you Sarah for posting this! I struggle with my long runs so much but you are so right, no one is making us do it and we are only doing it because we want to. Just get up and do it! I also like the fact that you have a goal in practicing yoga, that definitely can relate to running, I am going to keep that in mind this weekend when I tackle my long run.

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  7. love it! when I’m dreading a run, i have to remember that I LOVE TO RUN and I get to run and some people don’t and can’t. Also i have goals which won’t be met if i hate the long run or tempos or whatever is on the schedule. I constantly tell myself to be present constantly OM to that :)

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  8. Tot totally agree, my best runs occur when I have been practicing yoga consistently and use the breathing techniques and thought processes they teach in class. I used to secretly laugh at the whole set your intention bit but now I think there just might be something to it :)

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  9. Yoga rocks! I went back to yoga last weekend after a long time away and my body was like “I’m not that flexible anymore..” It needs to be a regular event in my life, I feel better when I do it.

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  10. I repeat things to myself during runs all the time (you’re doing this bc you want to, bad runs make good runs, just keep running). It really helps keep me focused and not curse the run.

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  11. Pingback: This is becoming No(running)vember | amy (up north) runs

  12. Thanks. Just what I needed to be reminded of before my 7 miler tomorrow with 4 X 7:18 repeats. I swear….I will make yoga a part of my life…..soon.

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