Run Smarter, Not Harder.
Don’t fall into the same potholes I did that almost destroyed my knees.
Your mission should you choose to accept it is… To finish your next marathon (or 5K) in one piece, keeping your blood blue.
Between 2014 and 2018 this turned into a regular THREE marathons in one year. I ran through knee aches and sprained ankles. Until the middle of 2016 when I felt a divine interruption to this course…
I entered my first Iyengar Yoga class... Where I started learning how to properly stretch, but not just that, strengthen, and use the mind and body closer to how it was designed.
“Things usually last longer when you use them according to their design”
is something I find my mind considering often.
Now most of us have learned by now from our smartphones and laptop batteries that they weren’t designed to be plugged into the wall all the time.
Same thing with your mind and body. If you only use it or exercise in one or two ways you are ignoring all the other ways it can move efficiently and over time that results as weakness and an undesired stiffness or immobility. Why do we need a 360 degree range from our hip joint when we’re primarily sitting behind a screen anyway?
Did you think that kind of thing was something reserved for dancers and gymnasts on stage? It's not in my world... Which I'm slowly bringing out of my head into reality.
The Iyengar class reminded me more of a diverse well rounded physical therapy than the modern vinyasa or “flow” yoga classes I had been in previously.
I still remember the first major breakthrough I learned in it...
I learned the difference between my big toe and big toe mound and what the big toe mound could do for balance, flexibility, using strength I had, and building on it.
For starters it teaches me how to stretch the inner leg and spread the toes. It still surprises me how fast it helps relieve achy-click-y knees on bike rides or after sitting for long periods of time. This was the first major actionable breakthrough that I continue to practice off the mat to this day.
I became obsessed with reading books by B.K.S. Iyengar and this particular quote from the book, “Yoga for Sports: A Journey towards Health and Healing” stood out to me,
"constant flexing of the knee makes the quadriceps heavy and [sports] players find it very difficult to straighten their legs" (pg 65). Additionally, "whenever the feet are pressed forcefully on a hard surface, an impact is created in the hip region that can put strain on the ligaments around the hip" (pg 63).
Furthermore, too much strain in the joints can lead to overuse syndrome which can cause overused muscles to tear or strain and underused muscles to get weaker (pg 83).
If you’re a runner, cyclist, hiker, or any other athlete this practice will help you fully extend and relieve the legs and upper body from strains on the sports field or road.
As well as help you go further in any warm up, cool down, or activity you do… Or save you from falling when you feel unstable. Now, that’s pretty cool! If you’ve ever saved yourself from falling in any situation you know what I mean.
“When in doubt, press the big toe mound down”
...has saved me more than a few times!
In short, what started as a fuzzy plan of “run and run often” and “eat healthier without too much ice cream and cookies” in order to boost a slower metabolism became clearer as I practiced the optimal posture and movement principles learned in Iyengar Yoga.
I think to myself now, “what’s the sense in running if you’re running heavier and harder instead of light and efficient the way humans were designed?”
Now I may not be done running forever but rather I’m in a restoration season that I know is helping me work lighter and smarter in whatever I do forward.
So the next finish line I cross my legs won’t feel as heavy or stiff.
If this story inspired you to run smarter consider sharing it with a friend so together we can end faulty running mechanics and back aches in running.
"Lead with the Heart instead of the head and you too can prevent back aches during your next training run or race."
These words and the training that inspired it relieved my back and helped me run stronger during my last few marathons. Especially after "the wall" at mile 18!
Lastly, I cannot end this without giving a sincere thank you to the Iyengar family and family of teachers. If it weren't for B.K.S. Iyengar and his Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India, for sharing the message that yoga is for everyone around the world, I'd probably still be pounding my joints to death on the pavement. With deep gratitude and thanks. <3
These teachers keep me going when I feel like I’ve reached a max point and they always show me that I can go a little further in a safer and more efficient way.
You can find a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher near you with this link, https://bksiyengar.com/modules/Teacher/teacher.asp.