Happy weekend, everyone! In the spirit of learning and sharing other people’s fitness journeys, I’ve asked some fabulous people I know to share theirs with all of you. The first in the Guest Blog Series is Kim, a reformed obsessed runner. She wants to share her story and her new perspective on fitness with you. Hope you enjoy!
Hey, Runners! I’m Kim; a runner, fitness fiend and mentee of our coach Abby. She’s kindly given me the mic for a day to talk about how I am learning from her and our vast NYC fitness community how to run stronger every day by mixing up my routine and finding fun, new outlets to become a fitter and more balanced runner.
Like Abby, I have been addicted to running since my ‘tween’ years when my best friend convinced me that cross country would be far more fun than field hockey. Crazy as it sounded (moving from the desirable ‘girls-in-kilts who scored dates with upperclassman’ sport to the ‘girls who sported fartlek t-shirts and talked about the color of their urine’ team), I made the switch. What started on a whim, has turned into thousands of miles of pavement pounding (I can count my treadmill runs on one hand) and time spent with running buddies but mostly myself – reflecting, planning, prioritizing my eternal to-do list and working through all of life’s challenges.
Like many of you, I love running – plain and simple. I love it because it is plain and simple. It is convenient (all I need are shoes, safe-footing and safe surroundings – though I’ve done a few without all of the above), efficient (I’m burning ~90 calories/ mile) and mindless (I completely zone OUT).
Though I love zoning out for an hour while outdoors, inaccessible to the world, I recently found myself in a big running rut. I hadn’t done a crunch, lifted a weight, or stretched for years. In typical type-A style, I thought I had found the most efficient form of exercise for my lifestyle and I had no reason to change. That is until I found myself dreading my daily runs so much that I wouldn’t do them at all. Work became more intense and my social life took precedence, and then I sunk to the point that, as a runner, I never thought I’d hit; the dreaded rut.
When the stress increased and my muscles softened, I decided I had to do something about it. I had gone from running nearly 50 miles a week during peak marathon training to nada. I live in New York City, a virtual playground for exercisers – with everything from a Cirque du Soleil-inspired Jukari workout to an entire class centered on a hula hoop. With unique classes offered at every hour of the day, there is really no excuse for physical inactivity or boredom!
So now that I’ve filled you in on my fitness journey to date, I welcome you to join me for the next chapter. With motivation from my trainer Abby and an island full of fitness classes, I’m on a quest to try as many workouts as possible in order to find what works best for my body, mind and lifestyle. I will moonlight as a blogger when I can and will continue to run so long as it’s fun. I will hope to share lessons and activities I will incorporate into my improved, sustainable fitness lifestyle (notice I did not say “routine”).
First stop: Vinyasa Yoga at Yamuna with Nahdi Devi
I know I may be in the minority of runners, but I have not given yoga a fair chance. I used to think that if you weren’t dripping with sweat after an hour-long workout, it may not be worth it. But with the amazing press that yoga receives in medical journals touting benefits like stress relief, improved strength and flexibility, and mood enhancement, and the fact that I haven’t stretched since high school, I decided to try it.
The instructor, Nahdi, greeted each of us, and took the time to ask our names and if we were new to yoga. As a newbie, I appreciated her explanation of Vinyasa flow, which is the synchronization of breath with movement, and her assurance that she would always provide an option if a particular pose was challenging or uncomfortable.
Nahdi began the “practice” by playing a harmonium and using a melodic, low chant thanking us for attending and asking us to thank our body, which according to the principles of yoga, is the most important tool humans have & should be treated with the utmost care and respect. A perfect mantra since I have fallen out of touch with my body’s potential.
I wasn’t sweating yet but I felt good and not too awkward as I moved from downward dog into warrior one and back again (I quickly picked up these movements by keeping one eye on my fellow yogis or Nahdi). Nahdi kept reminding us to take long, deep breaths (“fiiiill it up.. empty it ouuuut”) with each movement. I wasn’t exactly moving gracefully from pose to pose, but I remained focused on my breath and didn’t draw too much attention to my amateur status. At one point we were in a triangle pose or “trikonasana” (legs wide, arms outstretched leaning to one side – see pic) and when Nahdi asked us to look up at our hand (toward the ceiling), I completely lost my balance and nearly face-planted right in the middle of the lovely, tranquil yoga class. Trying to reign in my giggles and regain composure on my hands & knees, I returned to the triangle pose.
Awhile into the class (without a clock I wasn’t able to concern myself with the passing minutes), I started to sweat. The sweat came from a place of focus; every bit of concentration I could muster to hold stretches for muscles that were only used to moving one way (pounding the pavement). I had an idea of why my muscles felt strained because I did some research before class and found that most runners have very rigid muscles that yoga helps stretch and strengthen. Muscle rigidity occurs when muscles perform the same action over and over again and then become brittle, hard, and inflexible. Through consistent yoga, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all core muscle groups, which support and stabilize the entire skeletal system. So these are the muscles that I’ve neglected all these years?? They shook and as I grew tired, my motions became less fluid. By the end of class, when others were doing headstands, I was just chilling in downward dog, recognizing I have a long way to go to strengthen and stretch my poor neglected muscles (hips, abdominals, hamstrings, oh my).
Overall I enjoyed my Vinyasa yoga experience, and I definitely want to continue this practice. I can understand why these once-neglected muscles need some attention, and why yoga will be a good way to enhance them and treat my body like my most valuable tool.
As Abby says, “now go out and run” and I say “na-ma-ste!”