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How Yoga Helped Me Run a 21K

Running is one of my meditative escapes. I might not run as much as I would have liked lately, but the few times that I make it out for a run, the benefits are no less relaxing. I enjoy nature trails with hills, rocks, roots, and all. Being out on the fresh air invigorates lots of my sensory feelings, too.

It has been a way of exercise that has been following me since I was a baby with my dad competing in triathlons, and not many years later, I started the same myself. I always immensely enjoyed it. But it wasn’t until I was well in my 20s that I started to also take it seriously. One day, I was joking with my running buddy saying how we should try running a half-marathon. For a split second, we looked at each other seriously and made a pact that we will. It was exactly what we did.

It was about the same time that I also started to take yoga seriously. So, with the progress I saw from one, I felt how I equally progressed in the other. Performing yoga helped me understand my movement on a deeper level than I ever did before. It gave me the necessary flexibility for relaxing and elongating my muscles. Both forms of exercises, despite being polar opposites, allowed me to enter a state of intrinsic mind that made me understand and feel many of the muscle groups better than ever before. 

Yoga, in my case, played a vital role from the flexibility standpoint–increasing my range of motion. I was able to elongate muscles that in turn made me quicker, bouncier if you would, and moving forward more efficiently. It moreover helped me improve my posture, decreased the chances of me getting injured as well as increased the blood and nutrient supply to the muscles.

Yoga has affected me far beyond its capabilities of making me stronger physically. Being a meditative practice tightly connected to the breath, it additionally deepened my understanding of mindfulness. It gave my body the necessary time to recharge in between running practices, releasing tension from muscles, and in turn, mental blockages, too.

It also, not so expectantly, built up my endurance. It, after all, is a low-impact cardio training, which firstly helps improve core strength and secondly endurance. 

There are a couple of simple exercises that in particular helped me do all those things. The first one is a downward-facing dog for stretching out the calves. There are obviously numerous variations to it; however, I feel that lifting one leg from it helps stretch the standing leg that much deeper. I also think that twisting poses are great additions to any fitness program, not only for runners, because they inspire upright posture. Think of it as you want to lead your body forward with your heart in all areas of your life.

Staying with the athletics for a while, I also believe that if you’re a runner yourself and are able to run a 10K, you are able to run any distance. After a certain distance, all the push comes from the thoughts going through your head. Be supportive of yourself, celebrate your achievement while you are succeeding, recognize the hard work, and be proud of yourself. Those positive little affirmations will help you progress to the finish line–wherever that might be.

I think that there is a stigma around fitness that makes people think they need to profusely sweat and excessively cycle or run to call it fitness. But I feel like fitness is performing exercises that feel best for you, to the level that you can go at a certain point in time regardless of what others do or say. Mat classes, like yoga and pilates, and meditation are obviously great tools to make you quicker on the field, more alert at work and have a better self-image. Plus with the advancements in athleisure clothing, you can surely find time to get that run or workout in. 

Even with you signing up for a marathon or a marathon-like race, you’ve already won by participating.  Whichever higher result is only a cherry on top of the (healthy) cake.

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