Dear Bikram, I’m not having fun.

I used to love Bikram yoga. After completing 24 classes in 26 days in my quest to do a 30-day challenge, however, I’m not feeling the love. And, if I’m going to make it to the end, I still have to do six classes in the next four days. Blech.

I’m achy all over, my knee hurts, I have a pressure point sore on my foot, and I’m exhausted. I’m also tired of doing so much laundry and planning every freaking day around my yoga class. No zen-like peace in my world.

Bikram Yoga Pose Sequence

The 30-day challenge promises “a new body, and a new positive attitude.” I have neither.
Admittedly, attaining a new body requires heathy dietary choices (which I haven’t paid particularly close attention to) and the positive attitude is difficult for me to have when I’m hurting and simply “getting through” my classes.

Yoga classes used to be enjoyable when I only went twice a week. They provided me peace and power. With yoga, my running injuries healed, I gained strength, flexibility, and focus.

I still suggest Bikram yoga to everyone I meet. Yoga classes would help my mom with her arthritis, my sister with her migraines, and any of my friends and family who are looking for good cross-training options or therapy sessions that don’t require talking to someone from a couch.

I will not, however, recommend that anyone try to cram 30 ninety-minute hot yoga classes into 30 consecutive days. For me, it hasn’t been healthy. Granted, I am stronger and more flexible, but I’m certainly not better off physically overall. I can’t wait to get through this month and go back to my twice per week plan–balanced with running, walking, and hiking.

Knowing that I will never attempt a 30-day yoga challenge again, let’s end this on a positive note.

What I have liked about the thirty-day challenge:

1. Getting to take classes from so many different instructors has been great. Hearing someone explain a posture in a slightly different way has really added to my understanding of how to correctly do each pose. I still have a long way to go, but with each class and each attempt, I think I am moving in the right direction. And, as many teachers have reminded me, “This is a practice, not a perfect.” And, “As long as you are focusing on form before depth, you are receiving 100% of the benefits.”

2. I will like being able to say I completed a thirty-day challenge because, for me, it has been a HUGE challenge and I like being able to cross off various life experiences on my never-ending bucket list. Still haven’t gotten there, and not 100% I’ll make it to the end, but I’ll certainly do my best. I’ll then be able to add this accomplishment to the list of other things I’ve done.

3. I always look forward to seeing the staff and other students at the yoga studio. Salt Lake City Bikram Yoga truly rocks. They have amazing instructors, really nice owners, and a beautiful studio. It is truly a wonderful, welcoming place. I also like that an equal mix of men and women, from all ages and with all body types, show up to the same torture chamber as a supportive community with various reasons for why they are there.

4. I’m more accepting of my body. The 30-day challenge hasn’t necessarily provided this, but Bikram Yoga, overall, has. If you expect everyone in a Bikram yoga class to be young and perfectly toned, think again. All of us show up, no matter our age, weight, or limitations–barely dressed because of the heat–and work with the bodies we have. Bodies, in all of their various forms and abilities can be strong and beautiful.

What I have learned:

1. I’m reminded, once again, that it’s best to listen to my body. In reality, my yoga instructors would most likely tell me to discontinue the challenge and go back to a less frequent practice because, for me, that’s clearly the healthier option. My body is telling me that I’m overdoing it and I really should listen. I’m also very stubborn and committed, however, so I most likely won’t listen.

2. Cross-training is best. There are some people out there who stick to one form of exercise and seem to do fine. That doesn’t make sense to me. I feel most balanced and healthiest when I am doing a mix of various things. This challenge has made me really miss running. I also look forward to having more free time to walk my dogs.

3. Don’t set your expectations too firmly at the beginning of anything and let progress come in very small increments. I think I expected too much from this challenge. I envisioned being able to correctly do every pose in its full expression by the end. In only one month? Yeah. Crazy thought, I know. But I did hope.

4. You will always learn from any experience. You might not learn what you expect to learn, but trust me. You will learn.

In summary, wish me luck as I get through these last six classes. Consider giving Bikram Yoga a shot if you haven’t already, and–most importantly–listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

_____________________________________

Update: Today (December 30th), I completed my 30-day yoga challenge! Glad to have that done. Yoga Challenge

2014 Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay

Date: June 27 & 28, 2014

Distance: 196.4 miles

Location: Logan to Park City, Utah

Team of 12 

Time: 32-ish?18ShirtMedal
This year marked the fifth time I’ve run the Wasatch Back, I hadn’t been planning on it until a campus-wide email announced the need for additional team members on the Westminster team, “Staggering Parsons” (a reference to our pre-Griffin mascot).

As always, I enjoyed the weekend. This year, in particular, gave me the opportunity to get to hang out with co-workers I don’t usually get to spend much time with. Staff and faculty alike comprised the team–along with two non-Westminster runners. Primarily, our team included folks from Student Life and the School of Arts and Sciences. And, I believe this will be the most highly educated team I will ever run with. Annie and I joked about how we were relegated to the back of the van as we, from our backseat perspectives, realized that we merely held master’s degrees while the rest of our van mates held PhDs.

Overall, the race went well. The weather mostly cooperated and the weekend, as always, was filled with sleep deprived laughter and fun.

This year, I was runner #4, which meant  that I took on one of the easier sets of legs. That worked well for me since I would be running the Missoula Half just two weeks later.Finish line

Will I run another Ragnar Relay? Yep, probably. These weekends always give me the chance to get to know people in entirely new contexts, and that makes it very, very fun.

 

 

Stick it out

Date: June 22, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:52:51

Yesterday, I completed a ten-mile training run and thought a lot about the importance of sticking it out.

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/ (Forgive the capital “R”. Not my creation. Like the sentiment, however.

This thought–about the need to be persistent during a particular workout–was most likely brought on by the fact that I chose to run five miles uphill before I turned around and rewarded myself with the much-easier five miles down. I hate hills. They really suck. But, I must admit–sometimes the first couple of miles of any run feels challenging, no matter the terrain or elevation. To get through those first tough miles, I repeated, “stick it out, stick it out, stick it out” dozens of times in order to keep myself focused.

Even after eight years of running, I still have days when I start out and nothing is coming together–I hurt, my muscles feel tight, I can’t get my breathing under control, and–in short–it’s not fun at all.

Thankfully, because I’ve been running for awhile, I know that this feeling is most likely temporary. I just need to stick it out until my muscles loosen, my breath falls into a calm, steady rhythm, and my mind opens up because I forget that I’m running. I just need to stick it out.

For me, things generally come together about 1.5 or 2 miles in. This common physiological reality is probably why people who say they hate to run honestly hate to run. They most likely haven’t ever gotten past those initial couple of miles and experienced “the good part.” After all, why would anyone run if it always hurt and was a struggle? It takes awhile, though, to work up to one or two miles when running and many people simply don’t have the patience or the will to stick it out.

Before I started running regularly, I remember how awful some of my first attempts felt. I used to be in awe of runners who ran “for fun” and genuinely seemed to enjoy running. Blech. I hated it and could never understand how they got to that point. I remember thinking that some people are just built for running and I’m not.

In reality, I just had never given myself a fair chance to build up to the point where I could start to enjoy running–where I could experience the benefits of running. That took me years. I wished I would have stuck it out back then, but I didn’t have the patience.

The idea of sticking it out not only applies to singular workouts–it also applies to an entire training plan or one’s general approach to healthier living and long-term goals. This weekend, I was provided with a reminder.

Being Reminded About the Need to Stick it Out

I’ve often written about my affinity for Bikram yoga. When I practice yoga, I am stronger, I have more clarity, I experience increased flexibility, I have improved balance, I sleep better, and I’m an all-around nicer person. So, why oh why did I quit going to classes about a month ago when I know how beneficial a regular practice is?

As sometimes happens, life got in the way. I had a particularly busy schedule last month and started cutting back on yoga classes–telling myself I didn’t have time. Thankfully, I (mostly) still kept up my running schedule.

After realizing that I had let an entire month slip by without attending a yoga class, I dragged myself to class on Saturday. And, what did I notice? I didn’t feel as strong. I was distracted. I had almost no flexibility. And the next morning? I was SORE!

Rather than beat myself up about my lack of discipline, though, I’ve used this experience as motivation to re-commit to a regular practice.  I’ve got to get back to my twice-a-week yoga routine.

It’s depressing, but it’s reality. It doesn’t take long to lose fitness levels when workouts stop. It’s much better to maintain those levels with a regular workout routine so the many benefits of regular exercise continue.

When life starts to get in the way, or when that training run starts out in agony, I just need to remind myself to stick it out. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

2014 Race for Grief

Date: May 26, 2014

Distance: 6.2 miles

Time: 1:00:04 (gun time); 59:47:37 (Garmin time)

Today was a beautiful day to run. I was glad I had this race on my calendar but was a bit concerned because I spent the past two days fighting some sort of a stomach virus. My goal was to run this in under an hour and I did. Barely, but I did, so I’m happy–that is, if I count my Garmin time, which I will since I didn’t cross the start until a few seconds after the 5K runners started.

This race is a nice event that brings together parents who have lost babies. Others also run the race commemorating older loved ones who have passed away, and there’s a nice spirit of shared support at this event. I’ve found it to be a very satisfying way to take time and honor Melanie, whom we lost four years ago.

Shirt and medal

Shirt and medal

I wrote in more detail about the event last year at this link.

This year, they added a 5K option and moved the race day to Memorial Day, which I thought was a great move. For me, it’s especially meaningful. Melanie’s middle name, Irene, honors my Grandma–who would have celebrated her birthday tomorrow, if she were still with us.

As long as this event continues to be held, I’ll look forward to running it whenever I can.

Peace to everyone today who is remembering and honoring service men and women, and family members and friends who have left us too soon.

Happy Memorial Day to everyone, and Happy Birthday, Grandma Irene. I know you are taking care of Mia until we get to see her again.

Indianapolis and Cincinnati…another back-to-back

Date: May 3, 2014

IN shirt & medal

IN shirt & medal

One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon

Distance: 13.1 (Actual more like 13.2)

Time: 2:30:06

_____________________

Date: May 4, 2014

Flying Pig Half Marathon

Distance: 13.1 (Actual 13.3)

Time: 2:38:02

_____________________

For the third time, Denise and I completed two half marathons in one weekend. This time, we knocked out Indiana and Ohio (states #28 & #29). These were both really fun races and I would do either one again in a heartbeat.

Indianapolis Race

Denise in front of IN Capitol Building on our way to pick up race packets.

Denise in front of IN Capitol Building on our way to pick up race packets.

The Indianapolis race touts itself as the nation’s largest half marathon. The race is capped at 35,000 participants and –according to the website–has sold out for the past 12 years. The race does not include a full option so everyone running is doing the half, which I think is a really great feature of the race.

The best parts of this race are the crowd support, the mostly flat course, and the fact that–starting at about mile six, runners get to run an entire lap around the Indianapolis 500 Speedway track.

I’m not a car racing fan at all, but I still thought that lap around the speedway was one of those amazing, once-in-a-lifetime moments. Now, every time I see a television clip showing a car race there, I’ll immediately think, “I’ve been there! I’ve run on that same track!”

In terms of crowd support, this race had more aid stations than any race I’ve ever run–we could count on being able to get water or Gatorade almost every half mile. Also, there were more musicians and bands along this course than any Rock and Roll marathon I’ve run (and that’s the branding message for the R & R races).

We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard by the capitol building, and that was a convenient choice–in the morning, we only had to walk about three blocks to the starting line. It was pricey, though, and jacked up by $50 per night over the regular hotel rates. Oh, well. The convenience and that later race start (8:15 for our corral) was worth it. I honestly felt as though I got to sleep in for this race and that was well-appreciated.

Really loved this race.

Flying Pig

At start of the Pig. Football stadium ahead.

At start of the Pig. Football stadium ahead.

The Flying Pig is a very well-known race. And it, too, includes ten of thousands of participants. The entire weekend is filled with various races–kids race, dog race, relay races, 10K, 5K, a full, and the half. There are more related events, I’m sure. Let’s just say it’s a huge party for several days.

The half course takes participants along the Ohio River, past the football and baseball stadiums, over three bridges, into Kentucky for a bit, through a park, and all through several downtown areas. It was hilly, but I loved it. The crowd support was amazing and the scenery was among the best of any race I’ve run. It, too, offered very frequent aid stations and some towards the end even offered oranges, licorice, Swedish Fish, and Jolly Ranchers. I skipped the oranges (too sticky), Jolly Ranchers (afraid I would choke), and the licorice–but only because I didn’t really notice them until I had passed by. I certainly grabbed a handful of fish, however.

The race finished at the baseball stadium, only about six blocks from our hotel so we were able to walk to and from the race in Cincinnati too. I love not having to deal with shuttles or driving to the start, that’s for sure.

View near the finish.

View near the finish.

One of my favorite parts of this race, related to the great crowd support, was seeing all the creative motivational signs.

Signs along the course or shirt slogans that made me smile:

If you are behind me, that means you didn’t train for this race either.

Ryan Gosling, puppies, and wine are waiting for you at the finish. (If you don’t get the Ryan Gosling joke, check out some of these Google images).

If Brittany Spears can survive 2007, then you can survive this.

You look like you have good stamina. Call me.

If this race were easy, it would be called “your mom.”

And, another mom one (held by two young boys): Hey, Mom, Hurry up. Dad said we could get ice cream when you finished your race.

OH shirt and medal

OH shirt and medal

So funny. And, having great crowd support really does make a huge difference. It had been awhile since I had run a large race like both of these were, and that made the weekend really fun.

Denise and I run our next race together in September. Before then, though, I’ve got the Missoula Half Marathon planned. Looking forward to it!

Albuquerque was good to us

Date: April 19, 2014

Distance: 13.1 miles

Time: 2:25:06 (gun time)

Cheap race shirt and medal.

Cheap race shirt and medal.

Really, really liked Albuquerque. Will definitely go back to explore. Everyone was so friendly and the town felt much smaller than the half-million population. The race, too, was great.

The race was small–fewer than 700 people ran the race. Packet pick up was at a local running store, and the course began and ended at a local elementary school. Much of the course was on dirt or gravel roads or through neighborhoods. The weather was great, Denise and I felt pretty good for the race, and we enjoyed the morning.

Can’t say the post-race food was good, and the shirts were cheap cotton, but we didn’t really care. The entire weekend experience was enjoyable, relaxing, inexpensive, and we were able to take in some of the local flavor–including a visit to two local brew pubs Saturday afternoon following the race.

This weekend will be a nice contrast to our next race weekend in two weeks. We will be running the largest half marathon in the U.S. and another huge marathon the next day. The weekend will be hectic and the expo, parking, and races will be filled with crowds of people–a Niser Albuquerquesharp contrast to our small, leisurely, relaxing race weekend we just enjoyed.

Highlights from NM:

Ron, the Long Island-born bartender at the hotel, who is back in Albuquerque to take care of his ailing father.

The 27-year-old flight attendant and Great Dane owner we met at “The Tractor” who answered our many questions about Albuquerque.

Our Garmin, that insisted we take numerous, unneeded u-turns every time we relied on it for directions.

Our friendly hotel front desk manager who lined up our post race shot in such a way that it looks like I have a most unusual hat on my head.

Albuquerque post race

Antlers or a grand puba hat, perhaps?

Twenty-seven states are done! Yahoo.

Maybe shouldn’t have done that.

Date: April 5, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:39:24

Today I ran the Emigration Canyon Ten-Miler, despite my better judgement.

No medals in a ten-miler, but you still get a shirt.

On Thursday, I woke up with a sore throat and extreme exhaustion, which prompted me to call in sick yesterday when I also woke up with a headache. I rested most of the day and was feeling better, but still wasn’t great by evening. In contemplating whether or not to run the race, I told myself, “I’ll only run if I wake up feeling good AND it’s not raining.” (Honestly, I was thinking I would most likely put in a few miles on the treadmill at the gym).

Surprisingly, I woke up at 5:00 without my alarm, and the updated weather forecast predicted no rain until 10:00. I was also feeling decent–no sore throat, just a bit of nasal and chest congestion–so I got up, made coffee, and ate. Still felt pretty okay, so I took some cold medicine and headed out the door by 6:15.

This race finishes at “This is the Place Heritage Park,” so runners were encouraged to park in the lot there and ride buses to the top of Emigration Canyon to the start. Good plan, so after the race, it’s easy to simply jump in your car and drive home.

The problem with that plan (Race Directors, are you listening?), was the way too early bus departure. We all got up to the start by 6:45 and the race didn’t begin until 8:00. Dang it! It was cold up there and we all had to stand around for over an hour jumping in place, pacing around, or anxiously jogging around in order to stay warm. If my cold turns into pneumonia, I’m not blaming it on the race–I’m blaming it on the fact that I had to stand around in the cold for an hour before I could even get started.

I really had no high hopes on my performance for this race. I really was running more out of guilt rather than anything else because I had broken all training rules and hadn’t run at all since my half marathon two weeks ago. With my next race only two weeks out, I felt as though I needed to get some mileage in. In fact, my normal training schedule would have me run 10-11 miles this weekend anyway and I’ve been completing most of my long runs down Emigration Canyon anyway. The timing and location of this race couldn’t have been more perfect.

The Race

The race began at Little Dell Reservoir  so that means there’s a two-mile uphill climb right at the beginning of the race until the top of the canyon where the course winds downhill the whole rest of the way. I started off very slowly–alternating between walking and jogging during those first two miles. I’ve run this course dozens of times and knew how bad that first part is. Get past those first two miles, though, and the downhill makes it all worth it.

I forgot to wear my Garmin today, so I had no idea how I was pacing and had to rely on the race markers along the side of the road to inform me of my mileage. Every-once-in-a-while, it’s nice to run “naked”–as they say in running circles–meaning without technology. (I wasn’t completely naked, however, because I did remember to bring my iPod).

The nice part about running without tracking technology is you aren’t continually glancing at your watch the entire time and, most enjoyably, you are able to set a pace that isn’t dictated by your watch, but is based on how you feel. That was nice today. Even with the all-downhill course, I took a few walking breaks when I felt like it and then, when I was running, simply ran at a pace that felt right. It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line that I realized I had run an average 10-minute mile the whole race–even with the miserably slow first two miles. Wow. Sure wasn’t expecting that.

Looking Ahead

After the race, I headed home and enjoyed a hot shower followed by an hour-long power nap. Not a bad way to start the weekend and get some much-needed miles in before the Albuquerque Half in two weeks. Just hope I manage to get some shorter training runs and a few yoga classes in there before then as well.

 

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