The Seasonal Runner: Leaping into Spring and Summer
The sweetness of that very first spring-like run of the season is intoxicating. Runners shed their winter layers and emerge from their treadmill lairs to drink in the warm, earthy air. The roads and trails are clear, days grow longer, and plant life gives birth to new leaves and buds. We, too, are innately connected to this pattern of growth and renewal. Suddenly, a motivation that was once dormant, breaks through. There is a palpable energy in the air, and that is especially apparent to anyone with a running mindset.
The turn of the warmer weather is often met with a zeal and eagerness to train harder, achieve that PR, or even to lace up a pair of running shoes for the very first time. Ideally, we are taking cues from nature, and honoring these natural cycles; not overdoing it to risk injury and burnout, and training in ways that improve our performance, while allowing for sustainability and continued enjoyment in the sport of running. Here are a few points to keep in mind as we enter this exciting time of year.
Join a Run Group
The social aspect of running with a group is incredibly motivating. Structured workouts within a group setting can improve your performance while having fun, and the accountability of the group will likely mean a stronger commitment on your end. As you connect with like-minded individuals, you are sure to make lasting friendships.
Think about what you want to achieve. Do you want to commit to running more days per week? Do you want to go longer or faster, or snag a race PR? Goals should have personal meaning, rather than meeting someone else’s expectations. By being specific and realistic, you will be in a better position to commit to the work required to meet whatever goal you set.
Yoga poses work the body in ways that can bring tremendous physical, energetic and mental benefits. Let your yoga practice work with your training, and not in opposition. On high mileage or active days, give in to a restful practice; and on lighter days, you can allow your yoga to focus more on strength and movement. The following short sequences highlight three poses for each purpose. Add them to your routine to create more balance and see how you feel.
With the feet together or hip width, draw the hips back and down like you’re reaching for a chair. Let the weight be heavy in the heels and light on the toes. Feel the outer hips compacting as the torso lifts off the thighs and the chest is upright. Keep the hands at the hips or raise the arms as shown.
From Chair Pose, pour the weight on the right leg as you lift the left foot and draw it back behind you, so you land in a lunge. Through that transition, keep the outer right hip exactly as you had it in Chair Pose. In the High Lunge, you may experiment with a bent or straight back leg as you keep a tall spine and even explore a subtle backbend.
From High Lunge, shift the upper body forward and bear the weight in the front leg, again keeping the right hip pinned in and drawing back, which engages the glute and hamstring. As you lean forward, keeping the chest searching forward, and spine long, lift the back leg. Work to keep the hips level – right and left hip bones facing the floor evenly. Keep the back leg lifted by engaging the quadricep and drawing the inner line of the leg toward the ceiling. Step to Chair Pose, and then to a standing position.
Flow through these three poses, alternating from right to left. Experiment with holding for 3-5 breaths in each pose, and then moving dynamically, holding for 1 breath per pose, and performing 5-10 times on each side.
Place the elbows under the shoulders, keeping the legs relaxed. Head may be kept in a neutral position, fall forward, or rest on a block.
From a seated position, draw the soles of the feet together, allowing the knees to go wide. Let the feet be further away from the hips, and incline the body forward.
Lie on your right side, supporting your head in your hand. Draw your left leg up, like you’re hanging out reading a magazine. Reach behind you with your left hand and catch ahold of your right foot, targeting the quadricep of the back leg. Stay on your side, or roll back (as shown in the photo), to invite a twist to the spine.
Hold each pose with the muscles fully relaxed, allowing the body to become heavy. Go only to the point where you feel a mild amount of sensation – nothing sharp or painful. Set a timer and hold each posture for 3-5 minutes.
Terry Cockburn has been teaching yoga since 2006 and owns Freeport Yoga Company (Freeport, Maine) and Yarmouth Yoga Studio (Yarmouth, Maine). A marathon runner, mother to two boys (and one yellow dog), business owner and outdoor adventure seeker, she balances an active yang lifestyle with time on the meditation cushion and a contemplative yin practice. Terry teaches classes, workshops and retreats and has a passion for working with the athletic population. Check out her upcoming offerings at www.freeportyogaco.com.