Posts Tagged ‘running’
I like to do hill sprints occasionally to really get my heart rate up. I consider it power and strength training for my heart. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how changing the manner in which I breath effects my performance.
What truly inspired me was a study I read about in the book “Body Mind and Sport” by John Doullard.
This study consisted of teaching athletes classic yoga pranayma breathing and having them apply it to their sport. This usually took a few months to teach because the athletes had to learn to exert themselves while only breathing through the nose and with very deep diaphramatic breaths.
This study was inspired by top athletes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile. He described his experience as euphoric and not at all torturous. He didn’t feel as though he was working hard, but as if he had found a perfect flow.
I observed this once while watching Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt competing. His sprint looked effortless. His mouth was closed. There was no sign that he was over exerting himself. When it was over, he had so much joy, he ran more laps, waving to fans and celebrating. There was no sign of exhaustion, and yet he beat a world record. Most people in the world couldn’t run that fast if they killed themselves doing it.
What John Doullard’s studies showed was that those who mastered yoga breathing even while performing a seemingly intense, athletic feat felt less stress. Everyone who participated in the study could still perform with high skill. They just didn’t feel like they were working hard. The recovery rate was faster. In fact, many felt they could keep going and they didn’t feel tired after the training if they applied yoga breathing.
So I tried this for myself. First I did the smaller hill which usually takes me between 27 to 30 seconds to complete. I stood at the bottom of the hill and cleared my mind. I started breathing the way I do in yoga class until I felt I had the long, slow and deep breaths down. Then I bolted up the hill. I found that if I could keep the long breaths going, I brought my time down to 26 seconds which is an amazing improvement for a runner. I also realized that it didn’t feel like I was running fast at all. Perhaps it was because I was breathing slow and not panting. The slowness of my breath made me feel as if I were running at a more even keeled pace.
I tried this on the longer hill as well. This hill usually takes me 50 seconds to 1 minute to complete. When I focused on the yoga breathing, I was able to complete it in 46 seconds!
Another book that inspired me to experiment, not just on how hard I exercise but on what my mindset is when I exercise is “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkings M.D. Ph.D. This book is based on thousands of studies using applied kinesthiology to test strength. The book breaks down which mindsets give us the most strength. For example, the mindset of shame makes us weak. If we were to push on a person’s arm who feels shame, their arm would fall right away, but if you were to push on a person’s arm who feels joy, that arm is full of strength and energy. This book concludes that after testing thousands of people, that joy and universal love (that stems from compassion not infatuation) has the greatest energy.
I decided to test this theory on a whim as it was a very stressful week for me and I had so much on my mind. I was running my usual pace when I decided to try clearing my mind and focus on something more expansive than my every day worries.
I managed to quiet all the noise in my head. I don’t remember how I did it. Perhaps my own curiosity motivated me, for I wanted to see if my sprint time would improve if I achieved a higher state. I think I connected with the spirit of the hawks that built a nest in that area to lift me up. Focusing on the beauty of nature, put me in a different state, and I swear my time improved by at least 3 or 5 seconds! Some things came to mind. I recalled that my kung fu instructor who said that everything happens for a reason and I was able to rise above my worries and realize that its all happening the way its supposed to.
I invite all of my readers who have experience with yoga and pranayma to take what you learned inside the yoga studio and start applying it to your workouts and your life. After all, what use is practicing meditation if we can’t use it to improve all aspects of our lives? Instead of seeing exercise as torture, see it as a meditation, an opportunity to tap into your higher power. Then see if you can apply these breathing and focusing strategies to career and relationships. Lately, I’ve been training more clients and teaching more classes than ever but I’m learning to breath through my work, to focus on the moment and to start applying my practice to my life.
To read more about the benefits of meditation, click here:
To read more about the benefits of breath control, click here:
For more on applying a positive mindset to fitness, click here:
Some people may look at me and think, “She doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle like I do. She’s already in such good shape.” This wasn’t always the case. When I was a chubby kid, I had all kinds of self image issues. I injured my back three times in my life. I’ve also dealt with a knee injury, a hamstring injury, and a groin injury. Like many moms, I dealt with an awful laceration when giving birth to my large son, while the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I know what it’s like to have never been fit. I also know what it’s like to lose the ability to move and have to start over from scratch.
The hardest part of my job is teaching group fitness classes that cater to mixed levels. I give many options and modifications in my classes. It’s still difficult for a beginner, who has never taken a fitness class before, to do the easier modifications while those who have been doing it for years are doing harder moves. “Just do the beginning move,” they hear the perky instructor say, as if it were no big deal, as if it’s not a blow to the ego to realize that one is not as fit as everyone else.
I know how you feel. Actually, most of us do. Some of the greatest athletes were beginners once, eating everyone’s dust as they struggled in the back of the herd. It’s okay to be a beginner. To be a beginner is exciting. It means you are doing something you haven’t done before and there is nowhere else to go but up.
I still recall my first week of high school. I spent the summer working out at a gym for the first time in my life. I wanted to take the next step and lose more weight so I joined the cross country team. Everyone else on the team was so fit. I struggled, barely being able to run. I wanted to be able to run like them, but I couldn’t. They could run for miles and miles. I barely jogged and walked the warm up.
On Friday of that first week of school, a boy who knew my older brother teased me and said that my brother told him that I joined the team to lose weight. That day, after practice, I cried. The stress of my first week of high school had built up inside me and I let it all out.
The main thing that gets me, when I look back at this memory is the horrible feeling of embarrassment I had for wanting to lose weight. It was true. I didn’t want to be the chubby one anymore. I was tired of the fat jokes. I was tired of being slow. I wanted to be thin. What was wrong with that? First I was ridiculed for being overweight. Now I was being ridiculed for wanting to do something about it.
I’m sharing this memory with you now because I want you to know that you are not alone. There were times when I felt overwhelmed and wanted to give up. It’s a perfectly normal feeling, especially if you are new to something. Think of the first time you started a new job. In a way, the physical part is easy. The psychological part, the part that is dealing with the stress of change and the reactions of those around us is the hard part.
By the end of my first week of school, I had blisters all over my feet. My coach told me to purchase running shoes but I told him the sneakers I already wore were brand new and that my parents couldn’t afford new running shoes. I guess my coach got tired of seeing me kick those shoes off because of my blisters, preferring to run on the football field grass. One day, he pulled me aside. He said that he liked my spunk and that if I kept trying, even though I could hardly jog, I would get better. He gave me a check for 100 dollars to spend on running shoes. He told me that it was scholarship money.
I couldn’t believe it! It seemed like so much money and I never spent that much on shoes before. I bought my first pair of Nike running shoes with that money and they felt amazing. It made me feel like a real athlete.
I probably would have quit if people like Coach Martin hadn’t supported me, letting me know that not giving up is better than winning right away. On my first cross country meet, I almost finished last. There might have been one or two girls behind me. I learned what it was like to literally eat someone’s dust. A whole herd of girls ran ahead of me, kicking dust into my face, mouth and eyes. Before I knew it, they were out in the distance and I was alone in the back with a few of the stragglers. At some point of the 5k course on hills, a new group of girls passed me. Yes, another race started and I hadn’t even finished the first one. Struggling up “pukes peak,” a steep hill at the end of the race, was shear torture. Still, I didn’t give up. My goal was to finish the race and I did.
I ran cross country throughout high school and discovered martial arts in the meantime, something I could get really good at. Over the years, I discovered more movement modalities such as yoga and pilates. I learned that exercise isn’t just about weight loss and muscle gain. Exercise can be used to achieve relaxation, rehabilitation, energy and healing. Over the years I have helped athletes, seniors, kids, beginners and elite practitioners, all with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
I want everyone to know that there are so many fitness modalities that can help you in your journey to being healthy and strong. You just have to start looking. Try walking, running, dancing, martial arts, yoga, weight lifting, aqua classes, chair classes or many more. We are all on our own journey, a journey that will make us explore our bodies and minds. It will make us come to terms with what we can and can’t do, and what it means for us to be healthy. I hope to offer to my support, no matter what your set backs and accomplishments might be.
For more personal stories and struggles check out:
Be Kind For Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle: