I was sceptical at first. If I am honest, I also felt a little foolish (writes regular contributor Chris Broadbent). But I am now a fully-fledged yoga convert. I began experimenting with the exercise around six months ago and it is now a key part of my training week.
I began for a few reasons. I had some recurring back injuries whenever I embarked on some heavy training periods. I had also signed up for Loch Ness Marathon this year. It will be my sixth marathon, but also the first of my forties. However, I still want to run my fastest ever time.
To do so, I reasoned I would need a long injury-free build-up. I also wanted something new in my routine that would give me that extra edge and complement my running. Perhaps, in yoga I have found it? Certainly my core has never been stronger and so far – despite the odd twinge (hey, I am a veteran now you know!) – I have managed to keep a significant injuries at bay.
I first experimented with both yoga and pilates, but I found the former a little more chilled and the perfect yin to the yang of running. I didn’t do classes, nor even invest in a DVD. I simply logged onto YouTube and searched for ‘yoga for beginners’. There are hundreds of free classes to select from, taking you right through the levels. Just find the one you like.
At first, I was rubbish. I was unable to perform many of the moves and spent most of the time toppling over. But I progressed and pretty quickly too. That has been part of the joy of yoga for me, you can measure your progress easily.
Like running - where you might note your improvement through PBs - with yoga I have found that the poses I struggled with two weeks previous were now well within my abilities.
I also noticed a definition in my core that had simply not been there before. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hardly a six-pack, but it’s now less of a pudgy wine bag too. I have also felt that at the end of long training runs, my form is holding up pretty well. I feel strong to the last.
At one time, I would never have considered sacrificing an evening run for an hour’s yoga. To be a better runner, you have to run, I reasoned. However, I am now coming round to the idea that to really get the best out of my training runs I need to be better conditioned and – of course – injury free. It is about the quality of the training, not so much the quantity.
It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. A downward dog in this case.