Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Y-O-G-A, yoga!

The title of this post needs to be sung to the tune of the Kinks' "Lola". Don't ask why that's been bouncing around in my head. I'm thinking, "Well I'm not the world's most flexible guy, but when stretch my hips I feel I can fly thanks to yoga, y-o-g-a, yoga . . . ." Since I presume my readers to be decent people, I'll spare you any further indignities on this riff.

Yesterday marked my first formal yoga class ever. I took an introductory level Ashtanga class at a well-regarded local studio. I was the last one to arrive (but wasn't late) and I found a cozy corner on the floor near the radiator. Of the 20-plus people in the class, I was the only guy. Being the sole male and a beginner to boot was a bit intimidating, but I stayed relaxed and tried to focus on the instructor (a very easy target upon which to focus, if you catch my drift). I had spoken with her briefly before class, told her I'm a semi-injured runner seeking greater hip strength and flexibility (along with general body awareness and perhaps even some enhanced inner peace) and she told me that she's training for her first half-marathon. We agreed that if she gets me through yoga, I'll help her train for her fall race. It was a good start.

Although billed as a Level I class, there was a clear range of ability in the room. I think a couple of others were new like me, and certainly not everyone - including me - could do every posture correctly. Our instructor was great about offering variations in order to make a given move or posture easier or more challenging, depending on our preferences. I found that I have decent flexibility for the most part, but that some aspects of the routine were very rigorous.

As we went through different series of movements, my leg would occasionally buckle from fatigue. I sweat profusely, something my young yoga neighbor must have found extremely off-putting. The instructor came over a few times during the 90-minute class to tweak my leg or arm position, check my hips or otherwise ensure that my form was correct. She told me later she usually comes over more often with the newbies, but that I seemed to be catching on quickly. All the running-related stretching and consistent core work seems to have given me a decent yoga "base".

The plan now is to figure out how to do yoga at least twice a week, either on non-running or easy running days. Once I get better at it, then I won't need to work it in based on available class schedules, and can instead do it on my own at home in the early morning or after the kids go to bed. In addition to yoga, I'll be doing some very specific hip exercises, designed to strengthen my weak areas and to correct some of the muscle imbalances that have resulted from running through the various hip-related troubles I've had in the past couple of years.

Recent Running Report

Not counting the 2 miles I limped through the day after the marathon, I have now run a grand total of twice since. I ran about 7 easy trail miles on Sunday, a gorgeous day where I kept seeing people I know on bikes or walking in the woods. That felt okay, though I tried to be clever by exploring a new path and ended up at a dead-end where I had to bushwhack my way back to one of the familiar trails. Factoring in the walking parts, my pace was just under 10-minutes per mile.

This morning I went out for what was going to be 5 miles, but turned into nearly 7, since I took a new, not-yet-open-for-traffic parkway to see what it was like, and ended up tacking on some extra distance. It was cool-ish, but very muggy, and I ran the last mile or so in a light rain. I was listening to my virtual friend Steve Runner pace his friend Kathy to a new PR for her in a 10K on Long Island a couple of weeks ago, and it was nice to run in the early morning for the first time in weeks.

The "easy" pace still felt a bit labored, and my left glute was tight, but just being on the move was restorative. I sweat a ton, and wished I'd either hydrated a bit better in advance or had brought some fluids with me.

On Saturday, I'm probably going to run a trail race, but will truly, really, undoubtedly take it easy. It's a 6-miler through some public forests, with good hills and some semi-technical descents, so there's no point in going hard to risk re-injuring the hips or twisting an ankle. I'm trying to do as much as I can on trails, because it's less pounding on the body and it's so much nicer than road running, but I'm in no shape to going out hard and seeing how long I can hold on.

The Next Training Cycle

I've pretty much decided to repeat the Pfitzinger 18-week, 55 miles peak per week plan (Pfitz 18/55) again this cycle, but will join the plan in week #3 to make it a 16-week buildup. The first two weeks are pretty easy anyway, 32 & 36 miles, respectively. I'll probably run that without being on the plan, but it'll allow me to shake up the mileage and the running days based on how I feel. I'm also going to adapt the plan to train around the 3 or 4 races I'd like to run this summer, substituting 5Ks for speedwork and "mini-tapering" for and recovering from anything that's 10K or longer.

Yoga and strengthening will take center stage on non-running days, and possibly on easy days, too. My PT will see me every other or every third week and weekly chiropractic appointments will round out the regimen. At some point I will need to see my family and make an appearance at work, but I am still thinking (or deluding myself?) that qualifying for Boston 2009 is still a possibility. At this point, I'll enter this next training cycle with cautious optimism, knowing that if I can complete the 18/55 plan and arrive in Chicago healthy, I'll have a shot at running 3:20. I know I'll need everything to come together perfectly, but I'm going to try to set myself up to have that chance.


4chi said...

ESG, I've got questions for you.

1. Whenever I'm in NH in the summertime, I'm overwhelmed by the biting flies and mosquitos, especially when I ventured out on the trails. It has led to me sticking to the roads because the bugs aren't as bad. How do you deal with this?

2. What specific stretches are you doing for hips? My right hips is bothering me more and more, mostly just behind and along the hip bone. Do you have a particular stretch or website with various stretches you would recommend?

3. I'd love to meet up for a run sometime this month, but I'll only be in the Concord area on Friday the 27th, and we'll be picking up other at the airport and getting ready to head to Star Island for the week. It might have to be next time around.


Lewis said...

Stumbled onto your blog compliments of the google alert for Steve Runner. Just listened to the same 10-K podcast. Also had to comment as I noticed alot of similarities. For Instance -- Radio Lab. Great podcast! I have run Chicago as well -- fortunately not in theheat -- I was there the year before with snow flurries at the start.

Keep up the good work. I am also recovering from an injury. Going slow these days... knee scope back in March.

Take care

L.A. Runner said...

I recently started yoga, too! I can finally touch my toes- amazing. Good luck with your training!
(L.A. Runner)