Sun 23 Sep 2012
When I posted my last blog entry, I had made a commitment to not run for 30 days to allow my chronic hamstring and glut injury to heal. As an alternative, I decided to do only yoga and stretching to encourage the healing process. I was frankly terrified of gaining weight and going through a major endorphin withdrawal. At 15 days, I had only gained one pound and had not yet bitten anyone’s head off… that doesn’t include my boyfriend.
It is now two weeks later and I have honored my commitment to not run and have completed 10 more yoga classes. This is the longest I have gone without running since I started back in my early twenties. I am reporting that my experiment has been a big success for many reasons.
First of all, I can see a big improvement in the flexibly in my hamstrings, knees and lower back. Instead of being incredibly stiff, I am now just stiff. I can only expect so much improvement in 30 days after 35 years of running and I am not disappointed. All but two of the yoga classes I took were Bikram Yoga, the same 26 postures in a room heated to 105 degrees. Besides learning to endure torture, the heat encouraged my ability to stretch further.
Second, I did not go through an endorphin withdrawal. One time I went for two weeks without running while I was on a European vacation and I became jittery and irritable. I did not get that way this time. Bikram’s challenging postures, especially in a hot room, proved to be much more of an endurance workout than I anticipated. I now have a huge appreciation for those folks who enter and complete the 30 day challenges. I am in incredible endurance shape as a long-distance runner but I couldn’t have completed the last 30 days in a row without becoming overly exhausted. This was a different type of endurance. But the good news is that instead of getting jittery, I got more relaxed. In fact, I haven’t fought with my boyfriend for a week now!
Third, I got a complement on my skin the other day. She said my skin was glowing. The last time someone told me that, I was pregnant. Now, I know I’m not pregnant so it must be the yoga. Sweating, of course, can unclog pores and be detoxifying. I tend to sweat heavily anyway so running was detoxifying, but, as you can imagine, it’s easy to sweat heavily in a hot room doing yoga. It must have been the Bikram poses developed to stimulate the thyroid and other internal organs that have caused my skin to glow. I understand Bikram Yoga will also slow down the aging process by restoring all systems in the body to healthy working order. Pretty cool.
Fourth, I didn’t gain weight. That gains repeating. I didn’t gain weight! I will admit that my calorie intake reduced due to not burning as many calories, but I think there must be some truth to the claim by the Bikram Yoga enthusiasts that Bikram Yoga decreases blood sugar levels and cravings. Also, I noticed, that despite the lack of using weights, two problem areas (my abs and arms—especially my triceps) got more toned due to the stretching.
Now that I’ve reached 30 days without running, do I jump back into my old routine of running and interval classes and once week yoga? After some contemplation, I’ve decided to forego running for another 30 days. My intuition (and body) is telling me to stay on this course a little longer. I want to be able to stretch and not feel the pulling pain in my glut muscle. It is gone in my hamstring but not my glut—which is pretty amazing. But, better to be safe than to reinjure it. Also, I am very close to being able to sit Japanese style, which I have not been able to do for twenty years due to extremely stiff knees. I have always been told to listen to my body, so I think I will follow that advice for once in my life
So the moral of this story is to try something new. If I had not left my comfort zone, I would not have experienced the benefits of a very different form of exercise. As we age, it’s important to stretch to maintain flexibility and range of motion, especially for runners. I intend to be running strong well past my eighties—actually my nineties.
Starting October 1 is a 30-day challenge initiated by the Bikram Yoga studio in Irvine, California. Am I in shape to do this challenge? Stay tuned.