For a long time, even the word yoga made me roll my eyes. I’m not exactly sure why I had such a negative reaction to it. I guess I really did not believe that doing an impression of a tree in a church hall was in any way comparable to my speed session.
I did give it a go a few years ago. It wasn’t a church hall, but an old school gymnasium. I was the youngest person there by a century and pleased to see I looked like the fittest too. I got the giggles within a few minutes as we were indeed doing tree impressions.
But instead of finding the whole thing beneath me, it was quickly apparent that I was absolutely useless. The older ladies in baggy tracksuits touched their toes and stood like solid ancient trees. I wobbled and swayed before collapsing. The ladies smiled sympathetically at the young runner in her Sweaty Betty outfit struggling to touch her knees.
I got home, and when Tom asked how it had gone, I replied “It was rubbish”. And that was that.
For another few years. Until I found myself as a newly qualified vet, struggling with burn out. Running was my saviour. But it was tough balancing the tiredness at the end of the working day, with the energy required for a hardcore cardio session.
A vet friend introduced me to Hot Pod Yoga and invited me to go along. I was sceptical. But this a totally different experience.
I’ve written a whole blog about Hot Pod Yoga here, but to summarise – it is as far away as standing like a tree in a cold school gymnasium as you can imagine. It’s a type of yoga called ‘Vinyasa Flow’, inside an inflatable pod which is heated to 37 degrees and dimly lit with purple lighting. You step in and leave the whole world behind.
I saw Hot Pod Yoga as more of a mental health class than a physical one. But I began to feel huge benefits and realise how weak my core strength was, despite running marathons. Gradually, I let go of my negativities around yoga.
Like many runners, I am massively inflexible and terrible at stretching and warming up or down after runs. I suspect that these statements might be linked!
I pledged loads of great intentions about fitting yoga into my already hectic schedule, because I could see how beneficial it was. But predictably I struggled to prioritise it when I was already struggling to fit running in.
So I invented a new routine: yoga after running.
Erratic attendance at Hot Pod Yoga had given me a grasp of the main postures in Vinyasa yoga, and what felt really good for my stiff runner’s body. I also knew that I enjoyed the mental escapism just as much as the physical effects.
After a run, I began going upstairs to a quiet room, shutting the door, turning off the lights, and putting on some relaxing music. I would then do a yoga cool down, either from my head or a Youtube video. This might only be for 10 minutes, or much longer if it felt good.
In Winter I’ve started having a hot bath straight after my run and doing my yoga after the bath, while I’m still warm and relaxed. It has been a strategy to ‘fit it all in’, but also feels like I’ve elevated a simple run to an entire well-being package. Cardio, stretching and mindfulness all in the space of an hour!
So, should runners do yoga? Absolutely yes. There’s no need to dismiss it as ‘not a real work out’ because it isn’t there to replace your running. It will enhance it. If we’re honest, most of us lack core, strength, and flexibility. Fitting yoga into my routine has been the easiest way to improve all of those things. Also, it is actually super hard and will show up all your weaknesses in about 5 minutes. You just have to put your ego aside and want to do something about it.
I’ve been lucky to have a little help along the way, from my friend Chloe at Vet Yogi. Chloe is a vet, and a yoga teacher, and travels around the country teaching yoga exclusively to veterinary professionals – sometimes on mats in reception at the end of clinic! We both wanted to share yoga with runners, and so we teamed up to make a video of the postures that can be most beneficial.
I was super nervous being the demonstrator, as I feel like yoga is something I’m still really bad at. Chloe would say there is no bad in yoga, but my perfectionist brain isn’t quite there yet! However, we both felt it was important that the video was real and relatable. So, you have me: a real-life stiff as a board runner.
My legs aren’t straight in downward dog, and my heels don’t touch the floor. Chloe helped me realise that is absolutely fine, it’s a flat back that we’re aiming for. I struggle to sit up straight on the floor, so we used a strap to help me do the stretches. There’s a whole ton of air in my child’s pose – but it feels great.
So if you’re inspired to give yoga a go, and maybe try using it in your (currently non-existent) cool down routine, have a look at our little video. I’d love to hear what you think.
Top from Flare Clothing, Leggings from Sweaty Betty x