Let’s Talk About Self-Care

It takes a lot of work to keep me functioning. I don’t mean it takes me a lot of work like it takes a lot of work to maintain a pristine physique (it does require a lot of work, I’m told, but I wouldn’t have any clue about that. Fatty likes his food.). No, I’m talking about the work it takes to maintain basic functionality.

There are a few factors at play that caused this:

  • One, I have back issues. If you’ve never had back issues, I can’t full explain it, but this is what I can tell you: I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without any type of pain. I went 8 hours pain-free in August, and it felt like I was on drugs. I was giddy. There are days where I just want to lie down on the floor. They’re rare, but they exist.
  • Two, I’m just injury-prone in general. This is a product of lifestyle, which is brings us to
  • Three, I work a desk job. Desk job’s are great in a lot of ways, but they are also a significant contributor to the decline of physical health of Americans.
  • Four, I have a stressful job. There are more stressful jobs in the world, but I have a “make your own stress” job, which is great because
  • Five, I like to make my own stress. I think A LOT. Most of my hobbies are about getting my brain to shut down or to keep it so focused it’s not running off on its own. Think of my brain like a border collie. Great when it’s focused and the possibility of being a real jerk if it has nothing better to do.

All of this results in me doing a few things just to keep my mind and body in check. Basically, I’m going to run through all of the big and little things I do to stay in one piece. If you find something you’ve never tried, give it a go. Every person has their own needs. These are just the things that help me. You’ll notice a good chunk of them were featured in the Super Awesome Year of Me.

Running

Hey, that’s why we’re here. I run even though I complain about it because it’s necessary. I don’t have a better way to get cardio work in quickly, and cardio’s necessary, especially if I drop from a heart attack and would like to recover.

But in all seriousness, running allows me to burn off the wrong kind of energy, that nervous energy that has zero chance of being productive. Plus, I get a lot of t-shirts.

Reading

This is a default for me when I’m overwhelmed. I like to dive into a good book and hide there. Not always the healthiest coping mechanism, but it helps. And if you’re going to engage in an activity for the wrong reason, at least engage in one that’s good for you. And because writers are the biggest bunch of dorks who include the most random bits of information, you also get to learn the most random bits of information. You’re gonna kill it at trivia night.

Writing

This is the other reason we’re here. I enjoy writing. I write for a living, but I don’t write fun stuff for a living. I write research papers. Not fun. Interesting but not fun.

This is about fun. This is about taking the time to put thoughts on a screen illuminated by the magic of technology. I can put jokes in here. I can put my thoughts here. And I can (hopefully) stretch my ability as a writer. This blog (and my other blog) are about allowing me to write under the guise of providing useful information for other people.

As a teenager, I wrote a lot. I don’t know what good it did or what good I thought it would do, but I enjoyed writing. Slowly, I got older and wrote less. This was my chance to take some of that back. I’m probably not going to write the next great American novel, but I can still write.

Yoga

This was the first piece of deliberate self-care I ever engaged in. I was doing most of the others, but I did them for fun. They just happened to be beneficial. I started doing yoga for my back. And it worked. I didn’t know why it worked; it just did.

Later, I would figure out it wasn’t just the stretching and that the core work was a contributor, but it didn’t matter. I found something that worked.

I don’t practice as often as I should, but I’m a yoga convert of 8 years. I don’t believe I’m flushing out toxins or finding (much) inner peace, but my body’s happier when I do yoga, so my brain’s happier too. And when I’m running, yoga’s the only thing that allows me to keep living a normal life.

Stretching

Not the same as yoga. For those of you keeping score, yoga includes stretching. It is not about stretching. And frankly, sometimes yoga isn’t all that great for stretching. Yoga classes and routines aren’t prescriptions. They don’t help my specific issues. I steal what I learn from yoga for my own use, but I have to do pretty deliberate stretching. At this point, it’s a full-body stretch routine, but I’ve had PTs who gave me specific stretches for back pain and costochondritis. Basically, I do stretches to help me with back pain.

Drawing

I should have put this caveat in earlier, but just because I enjoy doing something, that doesn’t mean I actually am any good at it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing. If you leave me alone, I’m doodling or making elaborate patterns.

While I always liked it, I didn’t realize what it was doing to my brain. When I did the Super Awesome Month of Drawing, I was a lot more calm after each picture was done. The concentration of drawing was downright meditative.

Music

This one goes two ways. The easiest to see is that I almost constantly have music going. I wake up and turn on Spotify. I have music going all day while I work. My commute has satellite radio. My walk to the office features me wearing earbuds. And of course, I run to a soundtrack now. Music is life.

Really, though, it’s the second aspect that’s most important. I play guitar. I’m not as good about playing every day as I’d like to be, but I play more days than not. Everyone should make music and preferably learn an instrument. It’s something to concentrate on, and if you’re brave, you can even write your own stuff. And that’s pretty damn cool.

Massage

And this is the one that has me outside of my comfort zone. I’m not a fan of strangers touching me, especially when I’m wearing almost no clothing. Let’s just not, thanks.

But I had back pain flare up that was lasting more than a week. When I asked the physical therapist what I could do, massage was their best recommendation. So I gave it a try. I went to a n0-frills sports massage place and proceeded to have a stranger make a valiant attempt at making me cry. And it was fantastic.

I was able to go back there one more time before I moved, and then I began my odyssey in Mississippi of finding a good massage. I had to make it to my 3rd location and even then it was my second MT before I found someone I was happy with. Now, every month or two, someone half my size digs their elbows into my back to buy me a few hours of relief.

And the thing I wish I did more of? Meditating.

I do things that hit some of the same points of meditating, but like running being the best cardio I can access, meditating is the best I can do to hit the brain.

5-10 minutes is all I need, and I can’t make myself do it. It’s hard. Trying to focus on your breathing and letting stray thoughts drift on by without dwelling on them is an enormous task as far as I’m concerned. But man, I feel fantastic after a good session. Unfortunately, I can’t stick with it long enough to see if there are long-term benefits. Maybe one day.

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Recapping the Super Awesome Month of Meditation

That is a wrap on the super awesome month of #meditation. #superawesomeyearofme

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I’d say the month of meditation flew by, but all the month’s fly by at this point.

I’d also say I learned lessons along the way, but I almost think the point of meditation is to not learn lessons. I think it might simply be that the point is to be there, no more, no less.

Today in yoga, which at its core is meditation, I went into a different matra than usual.

When I’m engaging in mindfulness meditation, first choice is to focus on my breath. Simply notice it.

My second choice is to narrate. In. Out. Helps keep me focused.

My third choice is gentle reminders that I’m right here and to let things mentally pass, and I’ll attend to them later.

That’s all well and good, but in yoga, the people in the room cause me problems. I don’t do well in crowds, generally, and this was one of those days.

I had to escape without being able to actually escape. I found a new mantra.

Warning, this is a little bit weird/depressing/scary/nihilistic.

I was repeating variations of this isn’t real. Mostly this isn’t real. But I had some they’re not real, I’m not real, I’m not here thrown in.

Of course, I know this is real (to the extent that anyone can actually know they’re real and here; there’s some computer simulation believers out there, so you can always wrap your head around that if you’d like). But it helped. People lead to me thinking about interactions with people, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to jump back to chaturanga. Pretending they weren’t real if I had to be around them helped. They were no longer people to me, which kind of helped.

And so it goes.


Turning to the future, I’m trying to get my mileage up. I’ve just recently acquired a shin issue that I’m hoping doesn’t turn into shin splints, but I’m not optimistic. I’m trying to up my calcium intake to help if the bone’s taking damage, and I’m going to avoid running until the ache is gone. Not a good sign, but not a real problem yet.

If it’s just a few days of delay, then I’m still on track for getting in another 5K before the year closes out and (possibly) chasing a new goal for the upcoming year: run six 10Ks.

Ugh.

I’m tired thinking about that already.

The plan to prep for the 10Ks immediately follows the end of my Zombies, Run! 5K app cycle. The full app has a 10K prep process, so I’ll just hop back into that (and get caught up on those shenanigans in Abel). Much like the year of the 5K and my foray into a 10K this year, the goal is to finish without completely embarrassing myself, so I don’t expect to run a full 10K. I do expect to try.

That effort will probably result in alternating months, starting in February, to give me time to get up to speed and then time to recover between races. Getting a 5K every month was rough enough, so 10Ks in the southern heat doesn’t bode well.

But we try.

Whenever I think of these goals I set, I can’t help but think how arbitrary they must sound to other people. But at the same time, life is people arbitrarily attaching meaning to things. People getting emotionally attached to inanimate objects, so I can set weird goals every year (plus, I’m completely over dietary goals; I think I might have caused more problems than I solved this year).

Halfway Through Meditation Month & Running Update

We have a two-parter, folks. First up, we’ll go through the month so far in meditation. Then we’ll close with an update on where I’m at with my running.

Meditation: It’s Hard

S0 far, I’m 11 for 14. One day I just stayed up reading. Another I decided to socialize. And the third? I have no idea.

There are some recipes for my success that I’m picking up.

No. 1: Timing

I can’t meditate any old time. Well, I could; I just won’t.

That’s an important thing to realize. It means I know that I need to meditate around 8 p.m. That’s when my body is down enough to sit still but also awake enough to not just fall asleep.

I’ve tried meditating during the day, but it just doesn’t fly. I can’t make my post-lunch brain meditate, and my pre-lunch time is when I’m most productive, so interrupting with meditation meant to help me be more productive seems counterproductive to my productivity.

No. 2: Location, Location, Location

Can’t do it anytime. Can’t do it anywhere.

I need to be sitting. This causes problems. Remember the whole back pain thing? Yeah, that makes sitting still with good posture for 10 minutes a bit difficult. Basically, I can’t do it without something to lean back against. Even sitting in a straight-backed chair doesn’t really work. I need something that I can put my weight against or I’ll start bending forward eventually.

My options for meditating get messed with because of that. Most advice says to be seated. I have really one spot I can do this: sitting in my futon when it’s folded up (and not when it’s flat for sleeping).

I’ve gone a couple of rounds on the floor leaning against my bed, and that’s ok if I’m ok. But if I’m not feeling it, I have to then lie down on the ground, which borders on sleeping.

My comfy meditation spot is now a Walmart futon. Classy.

No. 3: My brain likes to think

I already knew this, but it’s hard to ignore when you’re in a month of meditation. Today’s stray thoughts in session included me considering romantic options (including making some situations up), thinking about how to ask a subreddit about meditation advice, and work. There was more, but there’s a point where you don’t need to know what I’m thinking about.

Basically, my brain likes to cycle through a collection of information when I’m not actively monitoring it, which leads to

No. 4: Have to focus on something

The idea of mindfulness meditation is that you focus on your breath. When a stray thought comes in, you acknowledge it, and then you let it move on by coming back to your breath.

Easy, right?

Nope.

Even when I get back to my breath, my brain’s capable of thinking about breathing and thinking about Star Wars, etc.

The easiest way for me to overcome this situation has been to narrate my breathing, so that I’m thinking  “In” as I breathe in and “Out” when I breathe out.

When I’m on my game, there’s not narration, just focus.

Either way, afterward, I always feel better for having slowed down my brain for a few minutes. Hopefully I can survive the month and keep up a more regular habit moving forward, but we’ll see.

Running Update

Slowly getting back up to speed

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I’m plugging right along to at least be able to survive my first 5K in a few months. It’s been rough going, but only one nagging injury has popped up, so I’ve only missed one scheduled run so far. I’ll go into recovery right before the race, but return to the Zombies, Run! 5K app to finish my training so that I’m not an uneducated apprentice like Luke who inadvertently leads to Kylo Ren and his shenanigans.

After that, I’m not sure if I’ll return to my 25-minute goal or if I’ll chase another 10K. I might just keep cycling through the 5K app and increasing my running each time just to see how I do. Right now, I’m pushing pretty even with my first round with the app, though I’m purposefully pampering myself. It would be interesting to see how I’d do if I wasn’t starting from basically scratch every time I began the program. But that’s a tomorrow problem… Or a November problem, anyway.

I’ve got a 5K on the docket, so the next time you hear from me, it’ll probably be after I’ve gassed myself running beyond my meager means.

Until then, party people.

-Q

Sushi, Bojack Horseman, & Meditation Collide

[breathing]

Focus on your breath.

Focus on your breath.

Focus on your breath.

[checks time: two more minutes to go]

Sigh.

I was struggling to get through my second day of the meditation month. Meditation has a host of benefits (stress reduction, better immune system, calmer mind, better concentration, etc.). This I know. And yet I was struggling to get through my second round of ten minutes of meditation.

Technically, I’m doing mindfulness meditation. It seems like the most commonly talked about method, and this style of meditation makes the most sense to try (technically, I could have treated yoga as meditation, but I’m not with it enough to get meditative benefits as much as I would through mindfulness).

So I’m 20 minutes in, and it’s a struggle.

But luckily, the universe provides. I’m a consumer of media, and I like things that make me think. One such avenue is Reddit.

Reddit truly is the best and the worst of the internet. You have subreddits and individuals purely geared toward sharing information and helping people, such as the exercise and wellness subreddits. You also have the pure troll subreddits and redditors. I try to avoid the latter, but the former come in handy, including this week.

A few days ago, someone posted asking about the benefits of doing 10 pushups sit-ups every day as a starting point. The Fitness subreddit is one of the nicer subs you’ll see, and you immediately saw the encouragement coming, including sharing a quote from Bojack Horseman:

It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.

This is the full video with context (perfect for the #ihaterunning blog):

The quote is easy enough to latch on. 1) It makes sense. 2) It’s true. You know it’s true. That’s what makes it great/scary.

On Wednesday, I was actually prepared to skip my planned run, but the quote popped in my head, so I put in a couple of miles in 90+ heat. And today after I struggled through my 10 minutes of meditation, the quote came right back. It gets easier, but you have to do it every day. Luckily, I have an arbitrary goal to do it every day as it is.

But I’m only looking at the short-term. What about the long-term? What about a lifetime of pursuit? What does that look like.

It looks like Jiro Dreams of Sushi:

I had been meaning to watch it, and then I saw it was going to be on a non-Netflix streaming service, meaning it would probably no longer be available on Netflix when that happened (soon; like in the next 2 weeks soon), so I decided to watch it tonight (in the middle, I realized I had seen it before. I’d just forgotten because it’s been a couple of years).

The film follows Jiro Ono, who was an 85-year-old sushi chef at the time (as far as I can tell, he’s 90 and still working). Jiro is regarded as one of, if not the, greatest sushi chefs alive. Meals at his restaurant start at 30,ooo yen (roughly 300 dollars).

Dude’s legit.

In talking about Jiro’s passion for his work, the documentary and its interviewees kept returning to the concept of shokunin. There’s not a direct translation, but it’s basically a master artisan/crafter who continues passionately pursuing excellence in their craft. It’s a religious zeal, basically.

Jiro embodies this by continuing to work when most people his age are too tired to keep living. He embodies this by working nonstop and only taking days off when he must. He embodies this by basically being an absentee father when his children were young. Jiro lives for sushi. This is his passion.

Jiro lives sushi every day.

Every day.

It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.

This idea of every day is something we have to keep coming back to. What makes Jiro great (and what makes any expert great) is that they return to their craft with fervor every single day they are able to.

As it would happen, The Oatmeal released a comic yesterday that gets to much of this same idea, though it delves into how it relates to our conception of happiness.

The shortened version of the comic is this: happiness isn’t binary, and people who lead satisfying lives of relentless pursuit often don’t look happy in the moment as they purse what ultimately gives them meaning.

This comic is something I mentally latched onto fairly easily because, much like his running comicThe Oatmeal basically wrote the comic version of my inner beliefs. Namely, just because I’m not happy, that doesn’t mean I’m sad/depressed/miserable. I’m just somewhere in the middle. Also, the things that give you happiness usually only help you in the short-term. The things that give you long-term satisfaction are going to cost you time, effort, and energy today, but they’re worth it.

It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.

-Q

P.S. I’ll see you on that transcendental plane.

Recapping The Month of Fiber & Other Tidbits

We’ve got a multi-part post.

Recapping Month of Fiber

20 for 31 is the final count for my month of fiber, and it was honestly worse than that. A lot of the days where I met my goal, I did so by overeating (though I wasn’t overeating to hit my fiber goal; that was incidental).

If nothing else, I know how to hit 25 grams pretty easily. Actually doing it? Turns out I’m not so good at that.

See what had happened was I would eat well in the morning (some days) by going with steel-cut oats with berries, a bowl of fruit, and two eggs. And then I would have a good dinner planned, like red beans and rice. Then I would let all hell break loose at lunch. One day because Panda Express was out of healthy options, I had fried rice (they had no brown or steamed rice), crab rangoons, veggie spring rolls, and orange chicken (there was no broccoli beef or string bean chicken).

And that’s not my worst story. That happened yesterday.

For breakfast, I had instant oatmeal and two eggs. For lunch, red beans and rice with shrimp. So far, so good. Then I had a pizza as a snack. Then I had a burger and funyuns. AND THEN I had a burger and Doritos. I hit my fiber goal, but I also made myself prediabetic in the process.

I was making a good decision (or planning to make a good decision), and then letting myself run off the rails the rest of the day. Not a good philosophy.

It was an interesting month, and solidified that my diet-based months were bad ideas. I think they caused more harm than good. I’m actually against dieting, so these months went against my preferred decision-making processes, and they promptly bit me in the ass. In the future, I’m going to stick with non-dietary goals (after this year, of course) and just try to make good decisions when I eat instead of limiting myself to one type of good decision for a month at a time.

Post-Massage Bliss

Our next bit of miscellany is the massage I got yesterday. I get one every month or two to help keep my back pain in check.

Yesterday was magic.

Normally, I get the massage, and it keeps the pain in check, but the aches, twinges, etc., never fully go away, even the day of the massage. I’m just dealing with constant aches.

Yesterday, I got my massage, and afterward the MT said the left side of my back was in interesting shape (I forget the exact phrasing), and that I was going to be sore, drink lots of water, etc.

That soreness has never really set in. What did happen was I went ache, twinge, etc. -free for 8-10 hours. That hasn’t happened in an obscene amount of time. I was walking around in this hazy bliss and in a stupidly good mood. It was like being on drugs. I’ve never had that happen post-massage.

And it was the best.

The sad part was when I started wondering if that’s what everyone else felt like all the time. I don’t know what it’s like to be without back pain. Ever since I was 17-18, I’ve dealt with aches and pains, and over the years, it just got more persistent. I’m taking steps to dial the pain back, but it’s still there.

Chronic pain is for real.

I knew it affected my mood. I could see in action. After yesterday, I’m starting to realize it affects my mood even more than I realized. I’m not sure I can convey what it feels like to go pain-free for even a few hours after daily aches and pains for so long.

Again, yesterday was magic.

Upcoming Running Plans

But this is technically a running blog, so I’ll update you on my running plans.

I’m currently trying to get back up to speed. The past couple of months have not been running-friendly. I’ve let my weight start creeping up (bad), and I wasn’t able to run much (badder) because some bodily revolutions (baddest).

Luckily, I got the all-clear last week, and I’m trying to get back on the wagon of running (or am I trying to pull the wagon if I’m running?).

I’ve gone back to my Zombies, Run! 5K app to get my mileage back safely. It’s been a slog, but I’m 4 workouts in (out of about 30).

More importantly, I’ve signed up for my next 5K. I’ll still be in the process of getting my mileage back up, but I needed to set a goal to keep me on track. The next goal after that will be a fall 10K in October or November. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll find something. Probably.

But that’s all for now, sports fans. Tomorrow starts the Super Awesome Month of Meditation, which will be interesting. Maybe I’ll learn to move things with mind. Or maybe I’ll learn to not care that I can’t move things with my mind.

Q Starts a Revolution

Well, sort of. Let me explain.

I mentioned this before, but I started parking farther away from my office building than I had to. I listen to music as I come and go from the office. When I changed jobs, I went from a 3-song walk to, at best, a 1-song walk. And if I wanted to I could park so close that I couldn’t even get the headphones plugged in before I was at the door.

Sounds great.

There was just a little problem. Turns out, I needed that walk for more reasons than one.

The first reason is that Fatty really needed the exercise. I got winded walking around one day. That’s not cool. The second reason is it helped me clear my head. It was just nice to have the time to mentally decompress as I was leaving the office, and it was nice to get my heart rate up a little before I chained myself to a desk in the morning.

And so as a part of all the little changes I’ve been making, I started parking farther away on most days. I don’t know how much it’s really helped, but my fitbit’s appreciated the difference.

Much like my vegan and Crossfit comrades, turns out I can’t shut up about my life choices.

But my evil plan worked. A few weeks ago, one of my coworkers told me they started doing the same thing. Then this week, I saw another’s car where I parked, so I confronted them to see why (‘cause I’m an adult and adults confront each other over where they park). Turns out, they’d started doing it too. They both gave the same reasons. It was an extra little bit of activity and it helped clear their heads. I bragged to someone else about starting this little revolution and found out a THIRD coworker was doing the same thing.

The revolution starts now.

I think we can all agree, though, if I was going to start a revolution, this was both the least expected and also the least harmful.

But here’s the thing: This shouldn’t really be a surprise. Behavior is contagious.

We do nothing in a vacuum.

When one friend becomes obese, it increases the chance you become obese. I’ve even seen research that shows that effect going out a second degree. In other words, a friend of a friend becoming obese would be a decent predictor of you becoming obese.

Now it’s not to say that them becoming fat is spreading like a cold. The simple fact that they’ve gotten fat won’t make you fat. It’s more complicated than that.

One reason could easily be the environment. If you’re in an environment where unhealthy food abounds, where it’s difficult to exercise, or a high-stress workplace, your friend’s contributors to obesity are also your contributors.

I live in the South. The food is fantastic here. The food is also not even vaguely healthy (at least not what I tend to order). Conversely, when I was living in Florida, fitness was a way of life. Jogging paths and accompanying joggers were everywhere. The restaurants also catered to this crowd. Both of these places impacted my behavior.

Another reason is also just mimicry. When we see people around us making a decision, it’s more likely that we’ll make a similar decision. It’s like seeing the driver in front of you roll through a stop sign. You become a little more likely to as well, and so does the driver behind you.

I mentioned those joggers in Florida. Well, that’s where I jogged the most. I didn’t jog much back in Texas. And when I did, there was a lot of treadmill work. Moving to Florida, joggers out and about made it seem like a more normal activity.

And of course, there’s also just the good, old-fashioned support systems. People are social creatures. Or at least that’s what people tell me when they want me to go out on the town. When your friends, family, and coworkers create an environment that supports healthy decisions, you have a better chance to be successful.

They provide reinforcement. They’ll cheer you on as you get ready for a big race. They’ll even lend an ear when you talk about your WOD.

They may also join you. At my last job, there was a group of us that did stadium workouts after work. They were a regular thing. It made it easier to go through with it. It also made it more difficult to opt out.

Which leads us to peer pressure. Friends and family give support. They also give guilt. If you skip out, it’s not anonymous. They know. They ask questions.

So yeah, the people around you impact you with their decisions. Behavior is contagious. And if the people around you aren’t making the best decisions, you can lead the change. Or maybe you can be the first follower.

My environment may not be full of perfect examples, but there are some good examples. Three of my coworkers have fun half marathons in the past year. Showoffs.

I’ve also got coworkers making smaller decisions to try and me more healthy. There’s a duo in my building who work out together in the middle of the day at least once or twice a week. Being in that environment goes a little way toward making sure I’m not an obnoxious, overweight slob. I’m just an obnoxious slob. I can live with that.

So go be the change. Let people know you’re making good choices. Run for 30 minutes. Lay off the soda. Eat a salad.

Scratch that. Don’t eat salad. Not as a meal. That just sounds depressing.

Whatever. I’ve got some more people to talk to about the revolution. La resistance lives on.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Fighting to Relax: Yoga and Running

I’ve mentioned before on here that I do yoga. I have been for almost six years now.

Initially, it was for pain management. I’ve dealt with lingering back issues, and they flare up more often when I’m being inactive. But while that’s how initially got into yoga, I’ve benefited from the other benefits as well.

Wait, you’re a yogi?

Not that kind of yogi

Yep. That said, I don’t know that I fit the mold of the typical yogi (by that I mean, I’m 190 pounds, and I definitely do not fit the mold of a typical yogi). But I also don’t feel like a fit as a runner (by that I mean I’m 190 pounds, and I look like I know my way around a pizza buffet). That said, with regard to fitness, the things you’re the worst are the things you should be focusing on. That’s how we grow. At least that’s what people keep telling me.

So yoga. Yeah, we’re talking about yoga. I still don’t fully understand how I got to yoga. I had back pain, saw a show on PBS about Pilates and how it helps with things like back pain, and then I decided to start doing yoga ‘cause I’m not doing frickin’ Pilates.

So what is yoga?

I guess this depends on the yogi. For some, it’s stretching and strength exercises. At it’s core, though, it was started as meditation. It can be something akin to a religious experience. And then there are people like me who might have even more specific expectations for what yoga is (e.g., pain management).

So how does this relate to running?

Lots of ways. Let’s start with pain management.

I started doing yoga for back pain. When I was doing it daily, I realized my back wasn’t really hurting but neither was my knee. That was unexpected.

When I’m running, that’s stress on my body, especially said knee and back. If you ignore that I’m at a healthy weight, I’m really just a fat kid who runs. I wheeze, I ache, and I hate it. Yoga’s a great way to keep those aches and pains from flaring up too much.

Yoga also benefits running as an extra workout. You’re improving flexibility, which is awesome. You’re improving core strength, also awesome. And, in addition to working big muscles, yoga hits smaller muscles that might not get worked while running. Basically, you’re getting a more balanced workout when compared to running. Where running leads to imbalances, that’s the antithesis of a yoga workout.

One of the benefits I never really paid much attention to until the last few months was breathing. For years, I did yoga on my own. While I knew I was supposed to be breathing deeply and slowly, I lapsed on effort there sometimes. In yoga class, they focus on breathing, so a couple of times a week I focus on breathing for an hour. When I’m running, I’m taking those gains from working on breathing deeply and using that while I run. I think that’s one of the reasons I didn’t die at the 5K. I was really focusing on breathing, and that’s a direct benefit of yoga.

And of course, yoga is meditation and meditation helps relieve stress.

This allows you and your body to just be in better shape.

It’s easy to view meditation as some hippy thing that’s all about relaxation, but meditation is actually a very active process. When you look at monks who’ve been meditating for decades, their brains are incredibly active in the process. So even though you’ll be more relaxed as a result, meditation is still an active process. This isn’t too different than the effects of running for some people. Running is how some people sort out their days or how they clear their heads.

But for me, yoga more so than running is about forgetting everything. I have fewer stray thoughts in yoga compared to running. Getting rid of these thoughts helps my day feel less cluttered, which leads to less stress, which means it’s less likely I’ll con myself into skipping an afternoon run.

So yeah, that’s all I have to say about that.

Yoga’s pretty awesome if you can get past the weirdness of it. That said, if you’re reading this, it’s a good chance you’re a runner. No one’s chasing you and you’re still going. And when you’re in a race, remember you’re in a crowd of people who are basically wearing synthetic underwear as their entire outfit (if the weather’s warm). So who’s the weirdo after all?

-Q

#ihaterunning