Hi Yogis,

I have some exciting news to report: Sometime in the last 6-8 weeks, my back stopped hurting.

I have been babying my back for many years now. I have been careful about forward bending and posture and lifting heavy things. I have been afraid to fall down, afraid to sleep without a pillow under my knees, and afraid to even sit for too long because I never knew what might start it hurting again, and when it decides to start hurting, it can be pretty debilitating.

That all changed one day recently, as I was talking to a physical therapist friend of mine. I mentioned to her that my back hurt all the time and that I was frustrated by my tight hamstrings. I was sure that stretching them made my back hurt worse. “No!,” she exclaimed, “tight hamstrings are probably making your back hurt!” Wow. So all this time I have been treating my back like an acute injury, and never moving into a phase of rehabilitation.

A lot of times in class, we are reminded to just listen to the words of the dialogue and follow them exactly. As students of yoga, we are encouraged to have faith in the practice, trust it, and the more I do that, the better my practice becomes. I decided to do exactly that, especially for the postures, such as rabbit and hands to feet pose. My hamstring flexibility has increased tremendously (although they are still pretty tight!) and I think that is the number one thing that has lead to my decrease in pain.

I will admit, that at first my back hurt much worse. I used a little ibuprofen at work, and some heat and ice, but I continued to really push myself in class, especially in these postures that are so challenging to me. I simultaneously tried to work extremely hard in the spine strengthening series, and consistently keep my core engaged throughout class.

My back pain, miraculously, began to subside. I can’t pinpoint the exact day it went away, and there are still days when I have some pain, but I realized recently while I was at work that I felt fine. In fact, I felt great.

I am beginning to feel more balanced and more comfortable. I am slowly losing that off-kilter in my body feeling that I really think was contributing to my back pain. My posture has also improved quite a lot since early November, and I’m sure that helps too! I guess this is just another lesson in learning to trust the practice.

Bikram’s really does heal all!

-C

Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on 30dayyogi.wordpress.com.

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My 8k is coming up and I am nervous, plain and simple. I ran my first practice 8k last week, and it went horribly awry: my allergies acted up, my shins hurt like crazy, my clothing was uncomfortable, and I felt discouraged and let down. I kept thinking to myself I’ve been working at this for nearly 6 months, and 5 miles is still challenging. Why am I even doing this? I want to quit. I’m going to finish the last out of everyone and feel terrible about myself. But I finished my run (if you could call it that), and I felt like I knew my worst case scenario.

Feeling sorry for myself, unmotivated, and disappointed, I sauntered into my house to check out facebook (where better to seek comfort?) when low and behold, an update from Jamie: a picture with the caption “Nat on her 40th km today in the BMO.” Ok I’m sitting here feeling bad about running an 8k and Natalie is on her 40th km of her marathon? I am in awe of this woman. All my negativity instantly went away, and was replaced with inspiration and motivation. I could get there one day too! But how? Well, ladies and gentelman, without further ado, I present to you my Q and A with the amazing, inspirational, and very very fast, Natalie Chomin herself.


Claire: How did you start running and why do you love it so much?

Natalie: I started running in elementary school and realized I loved to race, so that’s when I decided to try Cross Country and Track. I competed until I graduated High School [and did] other sports at the same time. When my High School days of running were over, I found myself craving that racing experience and decided to do my first half marathon. I really enjoyed it, and decided to start racing in triathlon, which I did for the past 5 years along with running shorter races. Last year I decided to take it up a notch and sign up for a full marathon and the rest is history!

Running is a funny thing. Sometimes I wonder “why do I do this every single day?”….especially when I am losing toenails, chaffing, blistering, missing out on social events, watching my diet and alcohol consumption and giving up my days off so I can run, and recover from, my weekly long runs which got up to 35 kms. But that’s what I love the most about running–the challenge and the high I get from achieving my goals. Nothing is comparable for me, and many people wonder why, but it’s become my escape.

C: What was your very first race like? How far was it and How did you feel after?

N: My first race outside of High School was the Victoria Half Marathon. It was 21.1 km, and it was a bit of a letdown. I had trained extremely hard and enjoyed that aspect immensely, but race day was a thumbs down. The weather was terrible, and I went out too fast with the built up adrenaline and hit a wall around 15km. After, I was happy I finished and overall it was a good first race, but I learned a lot from it.

C: What is the last week before a marathon like? In the days before the BMO marathon, what did you do to prepare?

N: The last week of training before a marathon includes tapering. You hit your highest weekly mileage around 2-3 weeks before the race then all your runs get shorter and less intense. In the days before the race, I focused on making sure my diet was getting a lot of simple carbohydrate for immediate glycogen stores, getting a lot of sleep and mentally preparing. I was extremely nervous, barely able to think/talk about anything else.

C: What types of cross training do you incorporate into your workout routine?

N: I like to do yoga 1-2 time a week, as well as biking or hiking; in the summer I do the Grouse Grind as one of my cross training days. I also do a core circuit twice a week, as having a strong core really improves your running performance.

C: What is normal running pain like? Where do you feel it most when you run for long distances? Shorter distances?

N: Pain is one of the biggest topics in marathon training. I thought I knew what it was like to experience pain from running before marathon training….but I was wrong. In long runs, one of my biggest issues was chaffing. I would literally be bleeding in the shower from the rubbing of my heart rate monitor, sports bra and sometime shorts/long spandex. Long runs also bring on cramping in the calves, and hamstrings, not to mention lactic acid build up occurring in the upper body. Tempo and speed workouts were just painful because they were tough cardiovascular workouts and I would get some acute muscle soreness afterwards.

C: What gets you through the tough times? When you are training what motivates you? When you are actually racing what pushes you to go faster and keep moving?

N: I go through some tough runs and tough stretches of time while training, which all runners definitely experience. On one of my long runs I was seriously questioning my decision to run a marathon. Why am I doing this? Why do I go through all this pain? Will I be able to finish the race? Maybe I should just do a half…..but I always am motivated by the one fact that never changes, I love a challenge, and achieving that goal is one of the best feelings in the world. Hands down. In a race, the adrenaline and the pounding of footsteps by the other runners around me drive me forward–knowing that pain is temporary, and pride is forever. I had a cross country coach tell me “run until there is literally no gas left in the tank”. Lots of times I have to dig extremely deep to find that bit of energy, but it’s there, and sometimes you have to get through times like that mentally when physically, there is nothing left.

C: Any final words of advice or encouragement for newbies like me?

N: I love it when I hear that someone is picking up running. Having confidence is very important when beginning a new sport. You have to know that YOU can do it, and no one else can tell you otherwise. I never thought I’d do a marathon…it was just too long of a distance, I used to think. But when I realized that the only thing holding me back is myself, I went for it. I would suggest signing up for a 5k, or whatever distance you feel would be a challenge and start training. I love having a race in mind, it motivates my workouts every single day. And when I am finished that race, knowing I achieved something that I set out to do, is an amazing feeling!

Happy Running!

Thanks for the interview, Natalie! You are phenomenal and I can’t wait to hear about what you do next!

Happy training to all my readers, whether you are a runner, a yogi, a swimmer, or a bob sledder.

Motivationally yours,

C

It’s a shame that I actually am having to force myself onto my blog today after nearly a month of utter internet silence. It’s a shame because this past month I have made such major progress towards becoming a runner.

Briefly, I’ll give you a running update, and after that I’ll get to the more interesting stuff:

1. My 10:36 minute miles has dropped to a 9:56 minute mile – that is a :40 second difference in just a month! A lot of that was made possible because I am learning how and when to push myself in running (which, for the record, is SO different from in yoga).

2. I have gone from thinking of the treadmills as “vicious, evil, monsters who like to revel in my humiliation” to being able to go into the gym and jump up on one like he’s my favourite pony and I’ve ridden since I was born.

3. The shins. Ohhhh the shins. ouch. They aren’t really getting better, but I do find that with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical the pain is significantly reduced. I also find alternating between running a mile, walking for 2-3 minutes, and running another mile helps immensely.

4. I can finally say I am at a place where I know if I had to run Beat The Bridge tomorrow, I could do it. I probably wouldn’t be particularly thrilled with my performance, but I know I could finish it, and even probably run the whole way.

Now to the juicy stuff. It’s a new year (2011! Yeah!) and since this blog so much focuses on setting goals, and achieving them, you are probably expecting some epic resolutions for the coming 12 months. The fact is, that is simply not the kind of goal setter I am. As you may have noticed, I set my big goals kind of randomly, when the timing feels right, and when the right challenge comes along. This very seldom coincides with December 31st (actually, it tends more to coincide with November, for whatever reason). One of the mantras I do live by, however; is “keep setting goals and achieving them.” This mantra is what drives the rhythm in my life. I set goals, small ones and bigger ones, every single day. Take a look in my day planner, and you’ll see what look like mini to do lists on almost every page. I am a goal setter, that is who I am, and the beginning of a new year does nothing to encourage that or discourage it in any way. Goal setting gives my life meaning.

This year, however, I would like to add a bit of a theme to the goals I will set, and that is I want each of them to make me a better person in a new way. My big goals I’ve blogged about so far have been athletic ones, but the new big goals I am going to tackle are not. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t quite fluffed them out yet. In this way, this new year will be different. I will continue to set goals and achieve them, I will continue to challenge myself both physically and mentally, and I will continue to let this add meaning and value to my life, but I will expand my ideas of what can be thought of as a goal.

As a quick refresher, remember to set goals that are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Timeframe! Good luck with your own resolutions, and I wish you all the most productive, successful, SMART, New Year you have ever had!

-C

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

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

There is a moment in every yoga class where I am convinced that I am not going to make it.

It usually comes right before we hit the floor. At the end of the standing series my muscles are shaking, there is sweat dripping into my eyes, my feet slip on the mat, my lungs threaten to burst, and, if I’m doing it right, I don’t even know my own name. This is the crux of the class, and I always know if I get through that few minutes, that it will all be downhill from there. If I can handle those few minutes of pain and suffering and exhaustion, I can handle anything.

Life, like yoga, come’s in series. There is a crux of each episode, and if you can get through it chances are you will have a moment to breathe. You will finish the standing series, hit the floor, and take your two-minute savasana. The problem is, life isn’t a set. You don’t know what pose is coming next, you don’t know when you will finally get to lie down. You have to just plug along, and be satisfied knowing that eventually you will make it through the crux of the situation.

I feel like I’ve hit the crux of my current situation, struggled through it, and I’m starting to wind down. I might not be in savasana yet, but I’m getting close. I am happier than I have been in a long time, although that happiness is tinged with a distinct pain sensation. Remember not to assign value to sensation, simply feel it, and allow it to wash over you. Winston Churchill said, “when you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Has anyone read Dante’s Divine Comedy? Dante kept going, he travelled through the depths of hell, into purgatory, through that, and do you know what he found? True love. So anytime you think you can’t make it, relax. You’re savasana is on its way.

-C

Yeah.  I said it.  This blog has been about…. the physical and mental challenge of yoga so far.  I have avoided talking about personal things.  I have avoided discussion of the emotional impact of yoga.  Now it’s time to get personal, because that is a big part of how this class tonight went for me.

I knew it was going to be a tough class from the start.  We began with the breathing exercises and 6 breaths in I was gasping for air already.  Partly I think it’s that I’m a little bit under the weather (with a cold no less and only allowed to nose breathe? ugh…), but partly it’s that yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body.  Yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body, but in order for that to happen, they have to flow through your body, which means you have to experience them and that can often be painful.  Bikram always says that the poses that are the most challenging, the ones that hurt the most are the ones that you need the most.  I have always kind of thought of this as being purely physical, but tonight it got very emotional.

Maybe I have been holding on to a lot more than I thought I was.  I actually made it through the standing series, but right after tree pose, lying in my savasana (dead body pose), it was all I could do to not burst out crying.  I am not a person who cries a lot, or who cries easily.  I am a person who distracts herself, moves forward, dislocates herself from her problems, but I found myself lying in my yoga class with tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.  Then I started thinking.  I started accepting that this pain that I was feeling (and it was a deep, emotional pain) was just like the physical pain I was in during certain postures.  I thought to myself that in order to get stronger, I was going to have to be present and feel this pain… and do you know what?  I started realizing (really really realizing) that it was ok to be sad… because I have done a lot the past few months.  I am coming off of a broken engagement, moving away from everything I know and love, missing all of my best friends in the world, jobless (and other things but let’s not wallow too much)… and aside from all that, even if none of that was there, it would still be ok to cry.

So this class, tonight, for me, was about realizing the appropriateness of being sad sometimes, and crying sometimes.  I thought a lot about the importance of being present, and allowing one’s self to feel whatever is there.  My very first yoga instructor ever once told us to stop  categorizing our feelings.  She said there are feelings.  There are no bad or good feelings, just feelings.  She said if you are feeling pain, allow yourself to experience those sensations without categorizing them, and you will be suprised how much you can handle.  I’m allowing myself to be present now, and I think that will do a lot for my psyche.  I didn’t just expel physical toxins tonight, I expelled emotional toxins as well.

So why get personal now?  Why expose my innermost feelings to the world wide web?  I guess I hope that other yoga practitioners, and anyone else who is reading this, might realize that it’s ok to expel some toxins of their own.  Maybe I am looking to see whether or not I am alone in feeling this way.  Maybe I am running out of people who will listen and I am throwing my thoughts out into the ether in hopes that someone will catch them and say “I get it.”  Either way, it feels like the right thing to do tonight.

Sincerely,

-C