Tuesday, 2 March 2010

One run or one cookie?

Yesterday's Well column in the NYTimes discusses the evidence suggesting that small changes don't matter that much when it comes to weight loss. I applaud mainstream coverage that recognizes that being a certain size isn't just a matter of "eats too much" and that if you could just "cut out sweets" you'd be skinny or whatever. I also liked the passing mention of the fact that exercise and eating well have impacts far beyond weight loss - it's good for your cardiovascular system, your nervous system, and your mood.

So today I did my one run. It was a short, half-walking/half-running 20 minutes. I'm trying not to do too much too fast and burn out, but rather to take the Mysore approach of adding a little bit at a time when you're ready. The temptation to get back in bed was strong. But I overcame, remembering what I'd written yesterday. And I succeeded in getting outside (yay) before work (double yay) and felt good doing it (triple yay).

I enjoy being the first one in the office in the morning. I like the quiet, and the (admittedly overly self-righteous) ability to roll my eyes at yet another email from a colleague saying s/he is running late. That used to be me, and I love that it isn't anymore. And exercise is the thing that makes it possible.

Marchathon: 2 for 2.

New beginnings

It's been months since I blogged, or ran regularly, and I don't like either of those things. I've been more on than off with my yoga practice, and that's good. In the meantime, I've moved back to New York, rejoined a division of my company I used to work for, and tried to resettle into something resembling my old life with my new me. It's going pretty well, though change is always surprisingly hard and unsettling.

The good: Yoga Sutra. I've been taking Mysore with Costanza. It's different than with Phillipa, but I still find it the best part of my day. Costanza is much more authoritative, she'll shout across the room to remind you to put your head down or breathe or 'not like that' but she's also very *there*. Which is a long way of saying, Phillipa was much more English, and Costanza (despite being from somewhere else, I think, based on the accent) is American through and through. I feel for her, lately: her partner (in life and teaching) has gone to India to study for a few months and she's carrying the class mostly alone. But I'm definitely making progress.

The not-so-good: I'm toying in my head with running the Brooklyn Half this May, despite having not run regularly in who-knows-how-long. Part of me says I should sign up to have a goal, part of me recognizes that I've done that a couple times lately and haven't followed through and should recommit to running regularly before I do.

The promise: begin anew. Take the month of March to get back to a 3 or 4 day a week running schedule. Stick with the yoga. Keep at it even through traveling for work. Enjoy the active vacation you have planned. And blog. Is it Marchathon?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Freaky short arms

I think my arms are too short. I can't reach the floor in dandasana (or staff pose). That is, sitting with my legs straight out in front of me, my hands don't quite touch. This seems odd. I don't know why this is, except that my arms are freakishly short. I searched all over the interwebs for someone else with this problem, and it seems that it's rare, at least among bloggers and people who write yoga instructions for the web. I only found one person who shares my fate, and she doesn't have any ideas either. Help!

Friday, 4 September 2009


My yoga has been erratic lately (though better than my running which has been non-existent): a couple days last week with Michaela, then nothing on Monday (a holiday) and an evening led class on Wednesday. So when I finally saw Philippa again this morning, she asked 'Have you had some time off?' Translation: yes, people do notice when you don't come to practice. Oops, self!

Speaking of the led class: first off it was packed - as this one always is - and secondly there were so many vinyasas I thought my arms were going to fall off. Luckily nearly everyone else felt the same and so there was I think one guy doing the 'optional' vinyasas between sides. Also, it went through more of the sequence than I do on my own. It was good to have someone count the breaths and remind me of all the little details of the poses, which sometimes I forget/ignore. But mostly, I just missed my self-practice.

So, I finally got back to it this morning, and while I was extra tight (longer than usual break between classes followed by a shorter than usual break between practices) it was great to be back. I could feel myself loosening, loosening, and also getting stronger. And then. The most amazing thing happened. Someone talked to me in the changing area.

If you're not English, this might not be so amazing to you. But if you combine general locker room 'keep-to-your-self'ishness with traditional English reticence, you'll understand why this is such a surprising moment for me. She started by asking for the shampoo (there are two showers, no doors, side by side, so it was a little more intimate than I really would have liked) but then we kind of chatted the whole time we were getting ready. We discussed differencees between teachers (one who lets you break the rules of Ashtanga, and one who, well, doesn't) and why we take the moon days off (her theory: because Guruji was a Brahmin and too busy with religious things on moon days to practice, not the 'you're more likely to get injured' idea that's often passed around). She even tried to encourage me to come to the Primrose Hill practice on a Saturday morning because everyone goes out to breakfast. Shocking. Then we exchanged names, which if you've read Kate Fox's Watching the English you'll know is tantamount to having sex.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Too long

It's been too long since I was in the habit of running, yoga-ing, blogging, generally focusing on fitness. And in less than 2 months, I'm running a half-marathon with the stated goal of running the whole thing. Um, yeah. I had a kind-of active holiday with lots of swimming in the lake (though that mostly took the form of hanging out in the water) and I even went for one sorry little run. Then I had a busy week last week and just didn't have the focus. This weekend we went away so I didn't do my long run, but instead we took our bikes and went for a lovely little ride through Cardiff. There's a beautiful little river that flows into Cardiff Bay and they've got a nice bike path through a beautifully maintained (but not manicured-that's not the British way) park.

But now it's time to really get back in to it. I had been thinking over the last week that I really missed the discipline of just getting on the mat - or into my trainers - in the morning. There's something therapeutic about it.

Yoga this morning with substitute teacher Michaela, who helped me with the standing one-leg postures in a very different way than Philippa usually does, so I feel like I got a better feel for how it's supposed to happen. This one seems to cause a problem for lots of people, because teachers are always going around helping people with this. It's been so long since I was in class that I realised later I forgot one of the postures, oops. And I did shoulder stands which I kind of love, despite the feeling of suffocation - energizing and relaxing all at once.

All of which helped me have a calm feeling this morning at work, good because I had to have a sit-down with the boss over some changes here, and it went better than I could ever have hoped.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wierd hippie yoga with kids and roosters

Since this seems to have become a yoga blog of late, here's something fun for those of you who hate the yoga and think we're all weirdos:

Courtesy Carrie Brownstein, formerly of Sleater-Kinney and now blogging for NPR at Monitor Mix.

And in class this morning...

I seem to only blog on Wednesdays lately. The week is settling down enough that I have space to breathe during my lunch hour, but it hasn't gotten so long that I sleep through my workout. Or something, I'm justifying it to myself in the hopes of changing both the workout and blogging behaviour.

Speaking of sleeping in, I went to class about a half hour later than usual today and it was PACKED. Not sure if this was because of the lateness or just random extra people - I suspect more extra people because I kept looking around (bad drishti, I know) and when the regulars came in at their normal times they all looked surprised at the number of people. I've never had to be in row 2-and-a-half in this class before! Welcome, I suppose, though selfishly I'm hoping they don't all stick around.

There was a guy there who looked completely out of place next to the skinny-flexies that I often see, the age of my dad and about that shape too, showing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle in the belly and all. But still, Philippa had just as much time for him as for everyone else, helping him to do the best he could. And that's something I love about Mysore - it takes us as we are. I do hope he'll come back.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

An hour of yoga is as good as an hour of sleep

Had a couple of really hectic days at work that involved starting before nine on a Monday morning and ending at midnight only to begin again at nine the next morning. I managed to make it to yoga on Monday but (owing to the drunken midnight bedtime) not to run on Tuesday. So when my alarm went off this morning, I was half-inclined to stay in bed. But I’d already packed everything up, so I convinced myself that an hour of yoga would be as restful as an hour of sleeping.

And guess what? I was right. Not only do I not feel like I need to go back to sleep now (as I surely would have felt if I had just rolled over this morning), I’m un-tired and un-guilty feeling!
After my complaint about spinal flexibility the other day, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my back, and discovering that actually things do seem to be improving. Where I’m kind of used to twisting and trying to get my back to crack when it hurts, now I’m actually finding that the twisting does what it’s supposed to and things are actually sliding into place with that ever-so-satisfying crack. And also, my back is hurting a lot less than it used to. It’s been good to make myself focus on the things that are actually improving, because there are a few folks in my class who are insanely far ahead of me (things like putting one leg behind their head then standing up, then putting their hands on the floor and lifting the standing leg and swinging between their arms before shooting their legs back into plank) and while I shouldn’t be competitive about it, and actually don’t generally find Mysore that competitive, it’s nice to think about the ways that I’ve already improved my body.

Also want to give a shout-out to Runner Insight, a blind runner who is fundraising for Guide Dogs for the blind, and who stopped by here the other day to remind me of the value of a positive attitude. So, um, thanks. And have a great run at the Missoula Marathon.
Monday when I was doing purvattanasana, Philippa came over and helped me lift my hips enough to (almost) get my toes back on the floor. What a difference that made in the stretch across the chest and shoulders! So today I focused on trying to get that same stretch on my own. I also was happy that I was able to jump through to seated twice, and got pretty close two more times. That whole ‘hold the breath, focus on getting your hips up rather than your feet through’ thing actually works, who knew that a teacher could give you advice that would help?

So in summary, yoga can replace sleep and a positive attitude is a good thing. I’m an annoying-cheery person today, aren’t I?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Spinal flexibility

Will my spine get more flexible? Because right now it's more than a little stiff. I can't get my left shoulder far enough toward (let alone past) my right knee to reach the floor in parivritta parsvakonasana and Philippa has me doing some preparations for backbending which are the bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) with hands by my ears like I'm about to go into wheel and the chest movement of fish pose (matsyasana) but with my knees bent and my arms still by my ears (does anyone know what these preparatory poses are actually called?). And I can barely get my hips or chest off the floor. Why is everything so tight there? And weirdly, also in my chest? It always makes me laugh inside when Philippa presses my shoulders open to stretch my chest in shavasana, but it's come into even sharper relief in purvattasana. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think I'm just upper-body stiff in general - my shoulders are tight in prasarita padottanasana C and I cannot grab my elbows behind my back. I suppose it's the danger of an office lifestyle. Somebody please reassure me things will improve!

In further contibution to the global economic recovery, I bought a new yoga mat to replace the old one that is currently leaving purple bits all over the studio floor and me. It arrived today and I'm sad that I have to wait until Friday to inaugurate it. On the other hand, I get to run tomorrow, according to my modified Hal Higdon plan. (Modified because I'm only planning to run 3 days a week, counting yoga as both cross-training and stretch & strengthen, and to add one 12 mile run into the plan a month before the big day - his beginner plan only goes up to 10 miles and I think I'll be happier with something a little longer as prep.)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The inaugural run

This morning's run was inaugural in many ways: the first run on my new and revised training program, the first run this month (oops), and the first run for a whole bunch of new kit.

First, the shoes. I finally got myself to a proper running store and was properly fitted for new shoes. Apparently I'm in the vast minority of runners as a neutral runner - in fact, I was surprised to find out that when people say 'pronation' they mean rolling INWARDS, if I have any problems it's rolling OUTWARD which is the opposite of pronation. I didn't even know people's feet went that way. Also bizarre - the sales guy asked me, within the first 2 minutes I was jogging in my socks on the treadmill, if I'd had an injury on my right ankle ever. Well, yes, about 7 years ago I broke it, but that's really it! Turns out I run with my left foot straight forward but my right foot turned out about 15 degrees. Weird. Also strange that he could diagnose this as an old injury so quickly. I wound up with the Asics Gel Nimbus, which felt like running on air compared to the planks my old shoes had become. I think my milage tracking wasn't accurate, because they seem to be on 176 miles all the time but they are in bad shape.

Next, the top. This is a bit embarassing. A couple weeks ago we were at a festival and the Royal Parks people were there, selling last year's Royal Parks Half Marathon technical shirts for a fiver. Being the cheapskate that I am, I bought one even though I didn't run it. Took it out for its first run today. I usually like sleveless shirts to run in, and this is short sleeved, but it's easy and comfortable.

Finally, socks. Think Fast Move Faster is a new site that bills itself as a social networking site for athletes. Honestly, I don't know that they're succeeding in this quite yet but maybe it'll take off. They're also sponsored by Diesel Energy Stix, which I'm sure helped inspire a tweet offering to give away runner's gear. I tweeted back that I could really go for some socks, and they sent me some, free of charge, along with some energy bars and those aforementioned Stix. I haven't done any running long enough to justify any of the energy-products yet, but I did take my new Feetures socks out for a spin this morning. I like. I usually go for shorter socks than the mid-cut ones they sent me but cheapskates can't complain. The socks were comfortable straight out of the box, no real seams to create blisters, while feeling pretty supportive through the arches. I love my DryMax socks but these are a pretty good addition to the sock drawer. It was raining through my whole run but my feet were still dry.

A good first run back on the roads, took the first mile extra extra slow on purpose, second mile at a comfortably slow pace, then a comfortable pace for the third. 3 miles, 35:07