Written by Marcus Rendle, a Triathlete, Ultra Trail Runner, World Record Holder, Ironman & Yogi. Follow Marcus’ journey through this link to his instagram profile.
If you want free speed as a runner, then yoga is for you!
I am embarrassed to say that ten years ago, if you asked me if I did Yoga, I would have made some wise crack about Yoga not being for me because I didn’t drink herbal tea, wear a sarong, wasn’t vegetarian and didn’t meditate before going to sleep in my hammock surrounded by incense and candles…… chilled as that now sounds.
How wrong could I be? Yoga is not only good for me, it is good for everyone.
In an ever changing world with emotions running high, opinions more vocal, Yoga couldn’t be more politically and ethically correct. It is the ultimate in equal opportunity.
It doesn’t care if you’re female or male, young or old, short or tall, stout or trim, black or white, married or single, healthy or hungover, quite simply, the more you do, with the greater frequency, the more your body unwinds. Most likely in areas that you didn’t know existed let alone needed improvement. Who knew what the Psoas muscle was and what an integral part it plays in body movement?
For no matter who you are, unless blessed by youth coupled with natural balance and athleticism (weren’t we all), Yoga very quickly finds your weaknesses. No need for private healthcare, an MRI scan, an ECG or a probe….. a quivering, shaking body tells you everything you need to know if you listen to it.
After the odd comical complimentary class at the gym, my Yoga journey started in earnest in 2016 when training for a couple of multistage ultra marathons in the Sahara. What started as a grin and bear it 75 minute sweat fest, quickly turned into a voyage of discovery into my own body that I wasn’t aware I had signed up for and assumed was unnecessary. I’ve had my body for over 40 years, surely I must know it inside and out by now? Alas not, not even close.
Yoga has provided answers questions such as;
- Why can’t I break the illusive 20 minute 5km barrier no matter how hard I push myself?
- Why does one hip and shoulder drop lower than the other, no matter how much I focus on standing tall and imagining somebody is pulling me up by my hair?
- Why is it impossible to relax my shoulders and look 10-15m straight ahead of me at the same time rather than looking at my feet?
- And why does my right leg feel like it wants to have a cadence of 90 plus and chase around like a post lockdown escape on route to the pub, whilst my left leg prefers a somewhat sedate cadence of 70 and it’s more like trying to drag a reluctant teenager out of bed on a frosty morning?
It transpires that it wasn’t as I thought that I wasn’t fit enough, or that I wasn’t doing enough weekly mileage, or that I missed one track session. It was simply that my body was not mobile enough to enable me to get into a decent running position, let alone hold it for any duration with good form.
Our bodies are amazing, they know something is wrong before we do, and they automatically adjust. For example, if you have a weaker leg struggling in the later stage of a race, the other leg somehow knows it’s struggling and chips in a bit more. Great when heading for the finishing line, but not sustainable in the long term. Such imbalances will lead to injury and time away from something you love. Yoga quite simply irons out our niggles and straightens us up.
Everything is linked to something else, you release one tight spot such as your glute max, so then your glute med doesn’t over work and releases, so there’s less pull on your ITB and alas that painful knee stops. Who knew my knee pain was nothing to do with the knee at all, but something higher up in the posterior chain? In my case, an underperforming left leg after years driving an automatic car. But after a few classes you start to release one spot, and then that seems to open the door to release something else, and so the process continues and before you know it, over a period of time your body is straightening out and moving with less effort.
No more are you wasting energy fighting yourself, all your energy goes into moving you forward more efficiently harnessing greater elasticity.
If you follow Shane Benzie at Running Reborn, you’ll know about elasticity, its free stride length, that’s free speed, for no extra energy. I’ll say that again, FREE SPEED, that’s why we are all saving up to buy pink Vapourfly shoes. Well, Yoga can have the same end result and doesn’t need replacing after 200 miles.
As a GB triathlete, Yoga is at core of my eternal quest for running, cycling and swimming utopia…. the sweet spot. Where efficiency as it its best and you feel like you can go for ever. Who knew this could be achieved irrespective of age, and on a weekly basis and not occasionally stumbled upon from time to time, disappearing as quickly as it arrived?
I love Classic & Fierce Furie classes which I integrate as part of my weekly strength and conditioning work, focussing on my weaknesses. For active recovery, slower paced often floor based Hatha and Yin is invaluable maintenance after a week’s training and sets you up for the following week.
As with everything in life, knowledge is key so attending classes is preferable if you want to get the most out of your sessions. Body position is everything and I find classes invaluable. The variety of classes also sustains my interest. But realistically how likely is it that you can find time 3 – 4 times a week to attend? But the more classes you attend, the better informed you’ll be regards which positions specifically aid you the most, and then you integrate them into your post run cool down. You’re not trying to find an extra hour at the end of the day every day (although the gains would be phenomenal), just add 20 minutes to the end of your run, may be whilst you’ve got your post workout meal in the oven.
Quite simply, Yoga gives you the best chance of being the best athlete you can be. And this doesn’t matter if your goal is to complete or compete in a challenge. Don’t see it as time you should be running, see it as the tool that will keep you running.