Growing up as a professional mountain biker who eventually turned into a runner, I'm embarrassed to admit that I used to trash yoga. When I say trash it, I just mean I never thought it was worth my time.
When I thought about yoga, here are some of the thoughts that would run through my mind:
"I don’t have an hour to sit and do nothing. I’d rather run or ride my bike."
"I feel out of place as one of the only males."
"I don’t want to look stupid, so I’ll just stick to running and biking since I’m comfortable with it."
Looking back, I can't believe how wrong I was! I had such an "either/or" mentality, meaning that if I only had an hour to work out during the day, I wanted to make sure I got my heart rate up and sweat like crazy.
How did I make a change, you ask? It all started when I met my partner, Melissa. She was not only a regular yogi, but she was dedicated to her practice. Her beautiful smile, her passion for yoga, and perhaps the allure of being able to walk to class and hold her hand the entire way got me off my ass and onto the mat.
I still travel a lot for work, so I’m not a daily attendee, but even going one to two times per week has made a huge difference in my life.
Here are some of the benefits I've noticed after just three months on the mat.
I’ve always been that runner who doesn't make much of an effort when it comes to stretching. I know I should do it, but I just endure the tightness of my hamstrings and deal with it. Yoga has allowed me that crucial time to work on stretching out my muscles and getting more flexible.
I used to barely be able to touch my toes. Now I can touch the entire floor with nearly the palms of my hand. It’s my time to stretch, and if nothing else, that has been worth it.
A stronger core and stronger arms.
As a cyclist growing up and now more of a runner, spending time on my core and arms was always low on the list. Yoga has changed that. There are days when I walk out of the studio incredibly sore and feeling like every muscle in my body has been worked hard. My abs are looking more defined than ever, and my arms are getting a workout like they've never had before. Endurance athletes know intellectually that a strong core benefits us, yet we don’t do the work. Yoga is an excellent way to get it done.
I learned how to breathe.
I had always heard that yoga placed a huge emphasis on the breathwork, but until I started going regularly, I didn’t understand how powerful it was. One day I was watching my favorite teacher Juan doing various poses as he led the class, and I sat in awe as he did these poses.
His secret? The breath. I took heed. Learning how to breath has been paramount to my performance as a runner. I’ve noticed in the last three months since doing yoga weekly that my breath is deeper, richer, and more controlled when I’m running. I can even do long runs now by breathing only out of my nose, thus conserving energy and pacing myself better.
At the end of class, my partner Melissa and I often talk about the best part of yoga, and for me, it’s usually the end of class—the savasana. Sometimes I get emotional and actually begin to tear up. Why? I still don’t know exactly, but the time to feel rooted, rested, and connected to my body and the camaraderie of the class is very special to me. The instructors often leave us with very beautiful thoughts, encouraging words, and it’s something that I love and carry forward in my day.
Yep, I’ve gone from a hater to a huge advocate of yoga. The time is well-spent, and it’s made me better. I’d recommend yoga to any endurance athlete who is on the fence. Do it. It’s worth every bit of the time and investment.