Sweatin’ It Out: Adventure into Hot Yoga

June is ‘stepback month’ for me. While you may hear about ‘stepback weeks’ in terms of marathon training, I feel like you rarely hear about runners taking a month to slow down and take it easy. There are probably a few reasons for this. Either they never consciously take it easy for several weeks or they’d rather not admit it to their #runnerd friends on Dailymile and/or Twitter. I decided to take it easy this month after training consistently for 4 months and racing two half marathons (along with a few other shorter races). My ‘coach from a distance’, Chris, put a cap on my mileage and told me that I shouldn’t run more than 60 miles in June. When he first gave me this guideline, I was like “okay, I can do that. 60 miles isn’t that bad”. You truly realize you’re a runner when you scoff at the idea of limiting how many miles you run in a given time period. Because it rarely is the number you want it to be; you always have to do a few more. (Case in point: I ran 100 miles in May, after adding in one more run to make it an even number.) But the light at the end of the tunnel, I suppose, is looking forward to starting my official Chicago Marathon training by jumping into some crazy mileage when I return from vacation at the end of the month.

After settling in with this idea of a recovery month, I decided I needed something to occupy my time/mind. It just so happened that a friend of mine had a Groupon for two months of unlimited hot yoga at a studio down the street from my office and I decided to take it off her hands. The studio wasn’t a convenient location for her and she didn’t have the time to truly take advantage of it. I registered for two months at TruHarmony Yoga near the Chicago and Franklin brown line and have attended 2 classes so far.

I’ve never truly practiced yoga. Sure, I’ve bought a few DVDs and tried to stand on my head in my own living room, but as far as dedicated time and effort to classes, it’s never been a priority. Yoga tends to make me feel refreshed and stretched out. I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders and struggle to keep them loose especially when I’m running a lot. But yoga makes my posture more aligned and I feel like I can control my breathing. The first class I attended at TruHarmony was a Yogasculpt/Bootcamp class. I knew it was going to kick me in the butt. The instructor was incredibly energetic and got the class excited to sweat it out. The rooms are heated to 95 degrees for the full hour and they encourage each individual to remain in the room no matter how you feel. It’s more jolting to your body if you exit the room and return to the heat, which is totally understandable. This was probably the first full body workout I’ve had in awhile. (I guess I don’t consider running a full body workout anymore). I feel like I sweat more during one hour of hot yoga than I did at the sweltering 13.1 Chicago race. I typically don’t drip sweat during a difficult run, but I was drenched from head to toe after yoga bootcamp. My second class at TruHarmony was to be more relaxing, as it was Restorative Yoga scheduled as a week “wind down” on Friday evening. Another runner in the class suggested to the instructor that we focus on hips, which I was happy to hear. I tend to have a bit of tightness in my hips constantly after running. The entire hour felt like a deep hip stretch. We did poses that I’d never even seen before. And looking back on it, I’m sure I’d be embarrassed to do some of these poses even in the comfort of my own living room. It’s a testament to the studio and instructor that I felt comfortable enough to perform these poses in the presence of others. 🙂

All in all, I like the studio and the classes I attended. My goal is to attend at least 2 classes per week, along with shorter weekly mileage through the end of the month. I may not be as close to 60 miles this month as my ‘coach’ would like, but the rest and recovery I’ve done so far through yoga has been a nice change of pace.

Have you taken the time to cross train appropriately in between training cycles? What’s your favorite way to stretch/restore your running muscles?

-J

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