3 Massive Mistakes Runners Make: How to avoid them and stay injury-free, move easier, and run faster!

  • 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.

 Click Here to get FREE, A Practical Guide to Yoga for Runners.

  1. 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.

If you would like to feel light, move easy, and run faster, the click here to get my FREE book.

Why Tart Cherry Juice?

 

One of the best things I have found lately for improving my life is tart cherry juice. After reading an article on Runners World, I decided to try it. The two main benefits I have found are improved sleep and better recovery from long runs.  On the first time I tried it before bedtime, I woke up more refreshed than ever and far less sore than I expected to be after the run I had the previous day. 8 ounces before bedtime is the amount I like for enhancing sleep and preventing muscle soreness through the anti-inflammatory properties. It can be somewhat pricey at health food stores, so the most economical way I have found to purchase tart cherry juice is in concentrated form. Organic Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate 16 fl oz (474 ml) Liquid is available on Amazon.

Although I usually shy away from fruit juices because of the high sugar content, I believe the extra sugar from a few ounces of tart cherry juice is negligible for an active runner compared to the benefits of better sleep and reduced inflammation. Tart cherry juice works to help you sleep because it contains melatonin, a natural sleep enhancing agent. The anti-inflammatory effect is apparently provided by particular phytonutrients in the tart cherries. Second only to Juice Plus, a concentrated whole food source of phytonutrients, tart cherry juice is one of my favorites for better living through nutrition.

References:

http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/jun2013_Anti-Inflammatory-Properties-of-Tart-Cherry_01.htm 

http://www.prevention.com/health/sleep-energy/tart-cherry-juice-increases-sleep-time

Chi Running

 

Prior to establishing a regular yoga practice, I came across a book by Danny Dreyer entitled Chi Running. As a tai chi practitioner, Danny has applied the lessons of his practice to running and created a system of running. This system utilizes mindfulness, body awareness, breathing and relaxation to cultivate easier and faster running with fewer injuries. At the time, I was unable to practice Chi Running effectively because I was too attached to the quantitative side of running–the measurable things. I was so concerned with speed, mileage and time that I didn’t slow down and focus on movement quality.

That all changed when I began practicing yoga. I realized that the skills I was learning on the yoga mat could make my running more enjoyable. Yogic philosopy teaches non-attachment to outcomes and a focus in the present moment on the process of each activity. I let go of the need to run a certain distance and speed. As I focused on the process and integrated yoga into my running, my body felt better and eventually I ran farther and faster than I had before.

I really started tuning into the messages my body was giving me while running. I felt each step fully and noticed I could step softer and run easier. My body didn’t like stomping the ground with my heels. I noticed I was carrying tension that I didn’t need. I used attentive breathing to release that tension and relax my body. Running became much more enjoyable and meditative. Before long I was running better and the measurable aspects such as speed and distance were improving.

I went back to that book,  ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running, and realized I was using the four skills that the book explains: focusing your mind, body sensing, breathing, and relaxation. I consider it a must read if you want to improve your running technique.

 

4 Ways Yoga Improves Your Running

yfr ebook cover Special Offer, Free Download, Yoga for Runners: A Practical Guide

I found the practice of yoga during a stressful time in my life. I had been a runner and had completed a marathon. I also had been heavy weight lifting enthusiast as well as a competitive bodybuilder. I found myself unable to recover from intense workouts or long runs. Nagging aches and pulled muscles plagued my workouts. These injuries and my life stressors at that time led me to yoga.

I had dabbled with yoga before, going to several group exercise classes at the local YMCA. But I had never made it a regular practice until then. Life stress drove me to find refuge on the yoga mat. The mental clarity, emotional stability, and a physical feeling of lightness kept me coming back. My body, mind, and emotions were brought into union by the practice. I found better connection to my spiritual center. I was actually able to sit still and meditate for the first time in my life.

Eventually I returned to running and the following is how the regular practice of yoga has affected my running:

1. I feel more connected to my body which puts me in the zone.

Yoga taught me the important skill of tuning into the sensations of my body. I have learned that the human body has deep and profound wisdom hard wired into it. There is a brief moment when a feeling in the body is only a feeling.  This happens a split second before the mind can get to it and begin to analyze, interpret, and judge. In that space is the peaceful serenity of complete immersion in the present moment. Some sport psychologist may call it flow, or the zone. I am now capable of bringing my mind to that place much more frequently while running. I get more runner’s highs.

2. I have a greater ability to relax and move more efficiently.

This ability to relax into the zone has allowed me to run faster with less effort. From the physiological standpoint, excess tension in the body creates peripheral resistance to blood flow. As a result, the heart has to pump faster to create circulation in the pressurized blood vessels throughout the body. Releasing the tension allows the blood to flow easier throughout the entire body with a lower heart rate and less perceived exertion. Yoga teaches us how to release the unnecessary tension we carry by tuning into the bridge between the body and the mind, the breath.

3. I have stronger breathing.

Yoga is essentially a breathing exercise. Some practices entail simply sitting and performing breathing techniques. Others require acute attention to the breathing while engaging the body in physical positions which may challenge some combination of strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. This systematic cultivation of attention and control of the breathing has benefits too numerous to describe in detail here. But the main benefits for runners are stronger breathing muscles, better control of energy flow throughout the body, and an ability to control the arousal state of the central nervous system.

4. I have better alignment and fewer aches and pains.

Many of the physical postures require special attention to alignment.  These alignment demands of the various yoga postures require activation and strengthening of weak muscles.  In addition, the postures require relaxing and stretching the shorter, tighter muscles. The net effect is better alignment in the musculoskeletal system which translates to fewer aches, pains, and overuse injuries. More specifically my tendency toward over pronation of the foot has been greatly reduced as evidenced by the wear patterns on the soles of my shoes. This means I can run more without the unwanted aches and pains.