You know how much we love running but, well, a change is as good as a rest and all that. We do like to treat ourselves to a bit of cross training too. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s hard to keep pounding out the miles in depths of winter and, while it hasn’t been particularly cold here in the UK, it’s been wet at times – very, very wet indeed.
We all know that cross training is great for runners anyway and if there’s half a chance to stay indoors now and again and not get sodden, we’re all for it! Cross training is a wonderful thing that can improve your overall fitness, with the added benefit of stopping you from having legs like Popeye but arms like Olive Oyl. Bibi’s already told you how much she’s enjoying swimming, now yoga gets our nod too.
Bibi’s all lotus legs and total zen while I’m more of a knees-near-my-ears, buzzing-brained yogic wannabe. As the yogis say though, what matters is being mindful and accepting how you feel on the day. For me, that’s a good enough reason to do it. Here are four more though, just in case you’re not convinced yet.
Ditch the data
We runners are obsessed with data. I’ve been chatting with my good friend and tech guru, Imran Ali, about the ‘quantified self’ lately, about how apps have us measuring every aspect of our fitness life – how fast, how far, how long, how do we compare to others…? Yoga helps counterbalance that. It’s good to have goals, of course, but it’s good to let them go sometimes too. The only way to ‘measure’ yoga is to observe how you feel when you do it. Try it – it’s wonderfully liberating.
Get to know your body better
Apart from stretching out the muscles that running makes so tight, yoga helps you to focus on tiny movements in your body, adjusting and aligning as you go. This helps with your running form – the better you know your body, the easier it is to adjust your posture when you’re running and prevent injury.
Ask any physio and they’ll tell you that hardly anyone stretches as much as they should after running. As soon as the run’s over, we’re in a hurry, need a shower, have things that absolutely must be done that very minute or the universe will implode etc. More often than not, we do some half-assed stretching and leave it at that. Yoga’s great because it makes you really stretch. A good yoga teacher will often encourage you to hold poses that are just a teensy bit outside of your comfort zone, which you’d never do alone. The payoff, in terms of flexibility and releasing tension, is worth every second of a slightly uncomfortable downward facing dog!
Get a good workout
Don’t be fooled into thinking yoga is an easy workout. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll be surprised how much hard work you can put in on a 6-foot long mat! You’ll strengthen your core and upper body as well, which will do your running the world of good. Depending on the kind you do you’ll find an hour’s yoga can be just a demanding as a brisk run. Even the slower, more gentle approaches like hatha and Iyengar place demands on your muscles and energy levels. In a good way.
Recently I’ve added aerial yoga to my repertoire of cross training things that I’m not all that good at. It’s great fun and you fly like a bird in no time. Plus nobody gives a monkey’s where your knees are, possibly because it’s hard to work out anyway when you’re upside down, back to front and swinging. You have to give this a go. It’s really easy and you get to do things you’d never dreamed off (see previous upside down, back to front comment).
I went to Aerial Yoga Leeds – check for classes in your area too. They seem to be doing it all over the place these days. That’s me all over – spectacularly on trend, as ever. Um, not really. The person on the right in the photo is triathlete Jenny Latham of Tri Training Harder (great team name, huh?), btw. If it’s good enough for her…
There are loads of different kinds of yoga – ashtanga, hatha, Iyengar, vinyasa, nidra, rocket, hot and probably some other cool new ones that I haven’t heard of. If you don’t do yoga already, check out your nearest class and give it a go. If you’re already a yogi-in-waiting, maybe try a different kind – as I said earlier, a change is as good as a rest and all that.