A few months back, on a wild-haired whim, I entered the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. Hundreds of thousands of hopeful masochists enter every year. Only 45,000 lucky souls get their name drawn—among them, was mine.
For many years I have been a yogi first and a runner second. I have always loved both, but my yoga mat was where my heart felt most at home. Over the last 13 weeks I have been on the local trails and roads far more than my mat. And while I miss my asana, it doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my practice altogether. In a lot of ways, it’s been with me every mile of the way.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from lacing up my running shoes:
1. Yoga : Running, Yin : Yang
A runner’s yoga practice may lean more on the restorative side than the fancy inversion side, but almost any runner knows and has mad appreciation for the value of a solid yoga practice. The juicy stretches are a runner’s dream and are absolutely essential when recovering from a long run. Yoga is the yin to running’s yang.
2. How to wake up early.
I tried to do this for years. Seriously, years. And couldn’t make it happen. Now, five to six days a week I’m up by 4:45 AM For the first few weeks I was catatonic come 4 AM. Explaining that you look like you’re about to pass out because you did an eight-mile tempo run on a Wednesday before work is not easy. People think you’re crazy. And maybe you are. But only in the best way. Thankfully, shots of cold brew coffee and Earl Grey tea helped me power through this difficult time.
While rising early didn’t happen naturally for me, these dark, quiet hours are now my favorite part of the day. The rest of the world is sleeping and it feels like the extra hours are a gift. At a minimum, thinking about it in that way has helped me.
3. Don’t go it alone.
It’s hard to describe how painful it was to peel myself out of bed those first mornings of practice when my alarm sounded. It’s the middle of the night. This is insane, I reasoned with myself. The only way I have successfully pulled it off is knowing there are 30–40 other runners waiting on me. My pace group is waiting on me. And I will get texts if I don’t show up. And my body will hold me accountable with aches and pains if I don’t work them out.
Not only do they hold you accountable, but a training group provides invaluable knowledge. Whether it’s my coach pushing me past what I thought was my limit or my pace group swapping nutrition plans and tips on pre- and post-race nutrition, I have learned something new on every run. Not to mention how much faster you get when running alongside a group of seasoned marathoners.
4. Nutrition is trial and error.
My race is six weeks away and I’m still figuring this out. Pre-run prep, during-run fuel, and post-run recovery foods are all trial and error. Use your long runs to see what works for you. I tried taking a Gu energy gel for the first time in my life during a half marathon. I seriously regretted that choice about four miles later. And when you have 26.2 ahead of you, it’s a risk you do not want to take.
In general, eat like you would before a tough, kick-your-glutes yoga class. Almond butter and a banana are a great choice. And during a run, beware of caffeine. Yes, we all know its super powers, but it also could have some less-than-awesome effects on your stomach if you’re not used to it. Post-run, never miss your protein shake. I keep the powder in a cup in my car, immediately add water and down it right after the run. Wait more than 30 minutes to take it and you’ve waited too long.
5. Set an intention for your run.
There will come a moment when you wonder Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I putting my body through this?
If there’s one thing yoga has taught me, it’s how to breathe. How to push through walls. Lean into pain and find peace through breath. My yoga practice has taught me how to find a deep inner strength and calmness that has been imperative to my training. There are days when you feel like hell. When you don’t think you have anything left to give and doing another mile feels near impossible. But coming back to your intention, just as you would in yoga class, has helped me get through those tough moments and push beyond mental and physical barriers.
6. Love your body.
After my first 20-mile training run, my farthest to date, I got home and lay down, staring at my blistered, bloodied, and beat-up feet. I felt sorry for them. With awe and gratitude I thanked my stems for letting me once again put them through this ritual.
Eventually, and with frequent encouragement from a few wily veteran runners, I began rewarding my body with regular physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and treating myself to a regular sports massage. Your muscles need to feel the love. Recovery is essential.
Running long distance is all about endurance. Speed is great and strength is key but endurance is essential. If my heart is racing and I need to reign it in, breathing through my nose is a great way to lower my heart rate and regain control. Deep inhalations have helped carry me into faster pace times, while keeping my breath calm and steady.
I still have a long way to go, but come race day, this yogi will be ready to run.
For more information on the 108, including locations and lineup, click here.
Laci Mosier is a copywriter living and loving in Austin, Texas. She and her one-eyed pirate dog live for exploring and discovering life’s magic. She is most inspired by yoga, running, Kundalini meditation, good books, great jams and even better coffee. Getting lost is where she is most often found. Follow her on the Twittersphere or Instagram.