- Skipping yoga.
Common excuse I hear from runners: “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.” That is the equivalent of our non-running friends who say, “I can’t run for exercise. I get winded just running once around the block.” Obviously we know that when you lack cardiovascular fitness is when you need exercise the most.
When you lack flexibility is when you need yoga the most. But many yoga classes are intimidating to runners. It is difficult to keep up with the contortionist teacher who is tying her body into knots at the front of the room. That’s why I created Run Light Yoga, a method of easing into the practice of yoga designed exactly for runners and our bodies.
- Ignoring your breathing.
Breathing is a very unique physiological function. It is the only function that is under both voluntary and involuntary control. Because of this, it forms a bridge between the voluntary and involuntary aspects of your nervous system. You can use your breath to control things that usually happen unconsciously, such as your level of arousal or relaxation.
During a run, a useful way to become more efficient is by relaxing. Focusing on the breath is a great way to ease into a relaxed state during a run. The best way that I have found is with a mantra that follows the breathing pattern.
This example comes from Chi Running. On the inhale say to yourself the word “cotton” and imaging your arms and legs are loose and soft like cotton. On the exhale, silently say to yourself the word “steel” and imagine that the center of your body at the center of your pelvis is as solid as steel.
3. Ignoring your body’s messages.
In our culture it is more common to tune out the body’s signals than to pay attention to them. Every health club has TVs in the cardio area. Some even have televisions on each treadmill or other machine. We consider it normal to distract ourselves from what we are actually doing.
There is a better way. Focus your attention on your body while exercising. This is the best way to get the highest performance possible while preventing injuries. The breath is a good place to start. After you have tuned into the breathing for a while, start paying attention to the moment when each foot hits the ground—the foot strike.
Notice each foots strike and how it feels. Is it harsh and jolting? Or is it soft and smooth? Try to let it be soft, smooth, and fluid. Notice the difference. Experiment with different styles and tune into how your body responds.
Our bodies contain more wisdom than our minds. The immense number of functions that our bodies coordinate would quickly disintegrate into chaos if controlled consciously by our minds. Our bodies will find the most efficient and least damaging way to move and perform if we tune in and listen.
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