The treadmills:

there they were, all lined up along the front wall of the gym; they stood there like an army of robots made of metal and rubber. Vicious, evil monsters, who like to revel in my humiliation.

I decided to forfeit a Saturday night out so that I could go to the gym while it was relatively empty. Between the Apple Cup and Husky Basketball, I figured most Seattleites would be snuggled on their couches, or slurping a beer at the bar. Thankfully, I was right.

I was being melodramatic before. It really wasn’t that bad, in fact, I kind of liked it. A lot. I learned a lot about myself, like, for example, I can run a ten and a half-minute mile. More precisely, I can run a 10 minute and 36 second minute mile. That is a lot better than I thought I could do. So I warmed up with 5 minutes of speed walking, ran for 20, and cooled down with another 5 minutes of speed walking. I ran for 20 minutes straight, and it felt incredible. My heart rate stayed right about 180 – which is the target for athletic conditioning, and I didn’t feel horribly out of breath, nor did I get achy lungs or a sore throat.

I feel like I could have actually run for longer, but my shins were hurting awfully badly. It appears this pain might be my biggest hurdle. It isn’t like muscle soreness either, if I’m not careful I’m afraid I will really get hurt. I must look into having someone critique my form, and give me techniques to deal with this. In the meantime, I’ll be sure to ice my shins after a run, and stretch appropriately.

While on the treadmill, I learned that I tend to list to the right while running. I also learned (as mentioned above) that I’m in a lot better cardiovascular shape than I thought I was. I really feel accomplished right now.

I’m going to sit back and revel in that for a while. More to come later.

-C

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Once upon a time, there was running, and there was yoga. Running sucked, yoga was mostly awesome. I never thought they would work together; then they met and fell in love.

Bodies change. Bodies change a lot faster than you think they’re going to. I have been running (trying to run? Jogging? Limping??) for exactly 1 month, 12 days, and 4 hours. You wouldn’t think that this would have had a chance to change me yet, but I’m finding myself morphing both outside and in.

I really haven’t done a lot of yoga since I’ve been running, so during my class today, it was very interesting to notice how different everything feels.

Right off the bat I noticed my legs have gotten significantly stronger. During Utkatasana (awkward pose), I noticed I could go deeper into the posture, and I could hold it much more comfortably. Additionally I was able to get much more of my weight onto my heels, improving my technique. In all the one-legged poses, I could both see and feel how much stronger my legs are.

I also noticed that my cardiovascular endurance and aerobic ability has gotten a lot better. I didn’t find myself gasping for breath as much as I used to. I definitely still got my heart rate up, but the head pounding, dizzy, I’m-going-to-die feeling was mercifully absent. This allowed me to really improve the depth of my Ustrasana (camel pose), which felt amazing, as well as improve the form on Trikanasana (Triangle Pose), among others.

The last place I noticed a stark increase in strength was especially surprising to me: I noticed it in my core. I have always felt that if anything, the yoga would be the thing to increase my core strength, but the running has improved it so much in such a short time. It felt amazing, and so stabilizing, and it helped me to get a lot more benefit from many of the postures. I was able to do all but the last few sit ups between postures, and the forward bending.

Strengthening these areas allowed me to focus on smaller details of my form, and I really felt like some of the postures just clicked into place today. With Wind Removing Pose, the instructors always say to pull your leg back, completely avoiding the rib cage, and that you should feel a pinch in the hip-joint. I have never been able to feel that pinch, and it has always frustrated me because I felt I wasn’t getting the full benefit of the posture. Today, I realized the alignment of my leg was such that from the knee down, my leg was angled in. I focused on aligning my calf to my hamstring, and voilà! A glorious little pinch! I was so excited.

I just felt that I was doing these poses properly. They just, as I said, clicked.

Of course not all was perfect. My ankle strength is less than stellar. My calves, shins, and ankles cause me a lot of pain when I run, and now they cause me a lot of pain in many of the yoga poses. Additionally, my hamstrings and quads have gotten even tighter than they were before. Stretching out before an after running is definitely going to be something I need to focus on.

When anyone starts doing a new physical activity, there are obviously changes in strength and ability to be expected, they just usually aren’t noticed or appreciated until much later in their development. Doing an activity which requires me to be so in tune with the nuances of my body, has allowed me to benefit from the running I’ve been doing so quickly! I have already noticed so many exciting things happening. What a great motivator to keep on running.

All the best in running and in yoga,

-C

I am discouraged. I am on run three, and I am now certain that every time I run, it gets more difficult. I didn’t expect it to be easy by now, but it didn’t even cross my mind that it would be more difficult on run #3.

I have a few problems in particular. One is that my back hurts a lot. This is lower back pain, like I’ve had for years now, and running seems to be exacerbating it. I’m thinking it could have to do with running form or something? More on that in a moment.

The other thing is, my joints all hurt. I read on one of the websites about training that this is totally normal for new runners, but knowing that it’s normal doesn’t make me any less achy!

The third and final issue I have, is fear. I seem to have a terrible fear of falling. For those of you who know me, this is a totally fair fear, as I am someone who falls down. A lot. The ground is wet now, and the fallen leaves are slippery. It seems treacherous to run down a hill in those conditions.

I rarely get comments on this blog, although I know people are out there reading it (I have site stats, people!), so I am asking if you all would break your silence for me. I need some words of encouragement, running tips, advice on what’s normal, and anecdotes. I’m sure some of you are runners, and can indulge me in my plea for words of wisdom. You can comment anonymously. No one will know who you are!

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend, and that your week to follow is productive and successful.

With gratitude,

-C

I am blind as a bat.

Ok so maybe that is an exaggeration, but I am certainly blind enough that I cannot see people more than 6-8 feet away from me. I can recognize them, I know they aren’t a statue, but really see them? Not a chance. To be honest, this usually doesn’t bother me. I go through life waving at strangers like it’s my job.

In the yoga studio, the teacher often tells us to make eye contact with our reflections in the mirror, or focus deeply on a certain area of our bodies and, without my glasses on, I can’t do that. So today I decided to wear my glasses to class. I know this doesn’t seem like some monumental thing to those of you who haven’t experienced Bikram’s, but there are a few things which have stopped me from doing this in the past.

1. My glasses fog up: This both obscures my vision and makes me feel like a huge nerd. The nerdiness I can handle, but constantly having to take off and wipe down my frames… so inconvenient. Not to mention distracting.

2. Sweaty noses = glasses slippage: This is once again just inconvenient. I don’t want to come out of standing separate leg stretching pose or balancing stick only have to put my glasses back on.

3. Discomfort: The bottom line is, my glasses are incredibly distracting. One of the most annoying things in yoga is having to make adjustments physically, whether that is pulling my shirt up or down, fixing my hair, or adjusting my glasses so they aren’t hanging from one ear.

I will do a lot to avoid having to make adjustments in class, because it distracts me from the meditation of my practice. Unfortunately, without my glasses, I am left out of another aspect of class, and one that could potentially help me with my balance, form, and focus (ironically).

So wearing my glasses in class did everything I expected it to do for me.

Pros: It helped my balance and my form. In standing head to knee pose, I could actually see the dimples that formed above my standing leg, assuring me that my knee was locked. It gave me the confidence and ability to start really kicking out my other leg in the posture. In some other postures, eagle pose, tree pose, and standing bow (to name a few), being able to make eye contact with my reflection in the mirror really improved my focus and balance.

Cons: My glasses did slip down my nose a lot, but guess what? They didn’t fog up once, and they never ended up hanging from one ear. I guess I would put them in the same category of inconvenience as I do my bangs. My bangs get sweaty and I have to brush them out of my eyes occasionally, but am I growing them out? No. (well actually I am… but not because of yoga).

So in conclusion: Why in the world was I so opposed to even trying to wear my glasses in class? It was a better experience for me with them on. I guess I’ll be a glasses wearing yogini from now on.

Coming soon: Guest post from Travis, who was tough enough to brave the heat and come to his first Bikram’s Yoga class ever!!

-C

I was reading a post on lifestooshortforlowfatcheese’s blog (wow that’s a mouthful!), and one of the things she talks about in this post is craving junk food. As a response to that, I was thinking about how stopping eating junk food isn’t really what makes me stop craving it, but doing yoga every day (and I would like to emphasize that: every day not every other day, not three times a week) does.

One of the results of doing my 30 day challenge way back when, was that I lost weight. Bikram says that practicing his yoga will bring people to their optimum body weight, whether that means gaining weight or losing it, and I think that the reasons for this are both physical and psychological.

Physically, some of the poses in Bikrams are designed to effect the metabolism, by either speeding it up or slowing it down. Other postures are designed to optimize digestion. Overall the Bikram’s series is a purifying ritual, and when you come out feeling so clean and pure, it doesn’t make sense to run for a hamburger. Psychologically speaking, when I leave my Bikram’s class, I feel strong and light and clean, and I like to hold on to that feeling for as long as possible.

Foods like bread, cheese, and chocolate stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins that produce feelings of euphoria. When a person is feeling drowsy or depressed she might crave something high in carbohydrates or sugar, as they provide a quick source of energy (but of course lead to a blood sugar crash soon after). When you are doing Bikram’s, a lot of those types of cravings are taken away, because you are producing those chemicals organically. You are regulating your sleep cycles, improving your energy levels, and increasing your mental alertness. You stop needing those foods as much.

How can you increase the possibility of this happening? For one thing do yoga as much as possible. More importantly, when you are in class, really listen to what the teacher is saying. It is important to know the goal of the posture, and the target body part (hint: going deeper into the posture is often not the goal). For example in standing separate leg head to knee pose the goal is compression of the abdomen.

This doesn’t mean you will definitely stop craving junk foods, or wanting them, but you may find that instead of wanting to hoover a bag of chocolate chips, a small handful will satisfy you.

Happy Yoga-ing!

-C

- FIVE -

- FIVE -

Yesterday was day 5 of my challenge. I was planning to go to the 9:30 with Kristine, but we ended up going to the 7:45 instead, which was tough because I had eaten around 5:30, but I decided to go anyway.

The class went fairly well. In terms of my own motivation there were some postures that I didn’t push myself as hard in, maybe because I was a little tired, also because I was really focusing on balance today as opposed to strength or flexibility for the most part. One thing I am proud of though was that in tringle pose, I very nearly lied down for the posture because I honestly didn’t feel like I could do it. Then I thought to myself that is such a cop out. I knew I could do it and I was not going to let myself cheat. I decided I would do at least one set. So one side at a time, one set at a time, I completed triangle pose without having to take a break.

I was also pretty excited about standing head to knee pose, which I was able to hold for the entire time in both sets (although I did a l m o s t lose my balance at the end both times on the second set. It was kind of funny I was hopping around thinking I am NOT going to come out of this posture no matter what!!) In the pose after, standing bow, I was really excited to find that I was able to hold it for most of the time, only falling out of it once in the second set.

In Locust pose with both legs, I was able to get all of my legs and my hips off the ground, which was pretty awesome because I didn’t think I would be able to do it a second time.

There were a lot of small moments of success in last night’s class. For example during pranayama breathing, the first breathing exercise, there was one breath – just one – where I’m pretty sure it felt exactly how it was supposed to feel. I felt like I could keep breathing in forever; my chest felt so open and cavernous and my throat felt open too, like I big tunnel full of air. Unfortunately, though I tried, I couldn’t repeat it the same way. Hopefully it will happen again and I can figure out how I did it.

Rabbit pose is also coming along really nicely. After Julia helped me a couple classes ago, and showed me how it was supposed to feel, I have been much more successful in that pose, although it is much harder. Two classes ago, the teacher corrected me on the seated head to knee pose and I was disappointed to find that with correct form I wasn’t able to go as deeply as I thought I could. That’s ok though because I’ve been pushing the posture really really hard and I know I’m improving. Not to mention when I began these yoga classes, I never would have been able to even come close to where I am now in that posture, even with the correct form.

It’s nice to feel like I’m improving, even if it’s only in little ways : )

Last night I did drink some gatorade after class and my head feels better this morning, but it still hurts a little. I think it is part electrolytes (which I hopefully fixed), part dehydration, and part fatigue. Part of the problem is I have been staying up so late lately. This class basically takes up all of my personal time in the day, and so I have been staying up late to read, write in this blog, watch Greys Anatomy, and do other things I would normally due during the class! I need to use a little discipline and make myself go to sleep, because I am getting so tired and I can really feel it. As far as dehydration goes, well I guess I just have to drink even more water, as well as maybe trying to cut salt out of my diet a little more? I’m not sure I guess we’ll see how it goes.

I was planning on going at 9:15 this morning but I was just too tired, so I’m planning to go to the 2:30. That means I can’t tan before semi, but it’ll be ok. I can go home, shower,do my nails/ hair then head to Hil’s for the pre-semi bash! I can’t drink too much tonight because I do not want to experience a hung-over yoga class!

More later if I have time!

-Claire

P.S. Image from http://www.icanhascheezburger.com