How I Retrained My Yoga Body & Mind To Love Running

Written by Melissa Paz

For as long as I could remember, I told myself: I'm not a runner, I can't do that, I don't like it and I never will.

It was one of those activities that was for others, not me. I thought it seemed so boring, robotic and lacked creativity. See, I'm a dancer and yogi at heart. I love moving my body to inspiring music anything with a rhythm that gets me up and expressing myself.

There are so many different things you can do with your body and muscles in both dance and yoga. It's creative, engaging and makes me feel connected to my deepest self.

So how on earth could running — moving your body in pretty much the same monotonous way over-and-over again — actually make me feel good? And what is it that everyone is running toward or away from anyway?

But when I became a mother, the way I exercised would soon change. I stayed consistent with my yoga practice (because it's also my profession!) but my usual aerobic workout of dance was minimal. Occasionally I'd use the elliptical at the gym or walk on the treadmill, but that was still the closest to running I ever got.

It wasn't until my youngest son was three years old, that it finally dawned on me: maybe I should try running.

My business partner at the time had just ran a half marathon and I thought, "Well, if she can do it maybe I can too." I saw how she was able to fit running into her crazy schedule and busy lifestyle, which made me think it was possible for me too. I began very casually at first, running a couple of miles at a time. I always felt better afterwards, but still, I was never really eager to run.

After my partner ran her second half marathon I decided to take this whole jogging thing a step further and start training for a race. I enlisted my neighbor down the street — a working mom like myself — to start jogging together a couple times a week at 5am. But it didn't take long before I realized I couldn't keep up with this schedule. It was a big deal for me when I decided I wasn't going to run with her anymore, because when I say that I am going to do something, I do it. It wasn't like me to be undependable and irresponsible like this.

What I realize now is that I was just trying to prove to myself that I could be a runner. This mindset ultimately wasn't motivating for me. So over the course of the next two years I ran on my own terms, getting just enough of a workout to feel good. I incorporated Zumba and Tango classes as a way to keep my creativity going.

Then in August of this year my friend sent me an email insisting that I join her for the You Go Girl 10K. She and I had shared our love/hate affair with running, so she knew I was a likely candidate. I saw her message as an opportunity and somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to do it.

I really had no idea how to train for a race, so my friend and I asked around for some basic training tips. Our first run together was four miles by far, the longest I had ever gone. What surprised me was how it really wasn't that bad, but maybe it helped that I didn't know how far we were running beforehand! I felt pretty good afterwards and I dare I say, I may have even had some fun. I discovered that jogging with girlfriends was a new and enjoyable experience.

From that point on I consistently ran three times a week, averaging about 8-10 miles a week until race day. I took my training seriously, but also managed to enjoy myself.

The big difference between when I was running with my neighbor at the wee hours of the morning, compared to training for the 10K, was that I was motivated by friendship and fun, not by trying to prove something to myself.

That motivation kept me running and enjoying the process, even on the days when my feet and legs felt more like lead than lightning. The accountability I had with my running buddy was a great motivator and I knew I wasn't going to let her or myself down.

By the time race day rolled around, I made a pact with myself to run the entire six miles without walking and to enjoy it. If I could accomplish this, then in my mind I would reach my goal. There were many times that I doubted my ability to run a distance like that. I'd start out on my usual jog with negative thoughts about failure, making every step I took more difficult than it needed to be.

Then there were the times when my mind felt clearer, my emotions released and my self-judgement ceased. And what do you know, I felt like I was running light as air! The time just flew by. It was these moments where I saw a direct correlation to how my run would go, based on the quality of my thoughts.

Now you may be thinking, "Well, duh! Aren't you a yoga teacher? Shouldn't you be well versed in the power of mind/body connection and practicing this all of the time?" Well, yes, but sometimes we need to break out of our current mold or habits (as good as they may be) to discover what's hidden within. And for me, that hidden treasure of awakening and connecting to my inner strength and self, came through daring to explore myself as a runner.

I still don't know if a half marathon is in my future, but I do know that I discovered my runner's zone, and that being motivated by joy, friendship and sheer fun is much more inspiring than trying to prove myself.

What challenge do YOU want to undertake in to feel a deeper connection to your possibilities?

Photo courtesy of the author

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