That Time I Got Lost Running in London

At the end of July in 2019, I took a trip to France to attend the wedding of a friend I had met studying abroad in Taiwan 10 years before. I was super broke but those who know me know I can make a little money go a long way. Since I had never been to Europe before, I decided to take a 4 day stop in London on my way to the wedding. 

After finding super cheap flights and opting to stay in a hostel rather than a hotel, I picked out two semi-expensive touristy things to do – see the musical Wicked (for the first time) and visit Stonehenge. Everything else I wanted to do needed to be free or very cheap. One idea I had was to visit a local running group and get a local view of the city. 

I did some online research before my trip and found the group London City Runners online. I messaged them asking if it was okay for a tourist to join one of their weekly group runs, and they responded I could absolutely join them. Runners are usually nice like that. 

I think I arrived on a Tuesday morning and the group run I planned to attend was that very Tuesday evening. In hindsight, trying to go on a group run in a city I wasn’t familiar with on my day of arrival was dumb. I was super jetlagged and tired,and had no sense of direction, but I’m too stubborn for my own good sometimes. I was in London and didn’t want to waste a second of my time there. Plus, the hostel smelled weird and wasn’t exactly the most comfortable place to rest.

London City Runners 2019 clubhouse closed. Blue garage type metal door with yellow "London city runners" written across and yellow London bridge logo.
Closed London City Runner’s Clubhouse in 2019.

Earlier in the day, I used Google maps to find their clubhouse. It was still closed, but a garage like door had their name painted across it so I knew it was the right place. That night when I walked back it was bustling with runners, most of whom seemed familiar with each other. After shyly waiting around like the wallflower I am, I worked up the nerve to introduce myself to a few people. I wasn’t the only American there; I met a really nice woman who had just moved there for a finance job after finishing school in Wales. 

The group organizer showed a few of us who were new their route on a large wall map. They had 5k, 6k, and 10k route options. I inspected the map, but honestly none of it sunk in.

The time to run came and followed the pack out of the clubhouse and down the road. I kept up with the 5k group at first until we crossed a bridge over the Thames River. Then I started getting farther and farther behind. I was super jetlagged and already a slow runner to begin with.

I ended up missing the correct turn for the 5k and accidentally followed the wrong people for the longer course. By the time I realized this, I was lost and on my own. Instead of doing the smart thing and retracing my steps back to the clubhouse, I ended up just turning towards the direction I thought the clubhouse was and running that way for a while, trying for a big loop.

The sun started setting, but I wasn’t scared because I had travelled alone before, studying abroad in three different Asian countries. I knew I just needed to look confident and like I belonged and no one would mess with me. No one did.

I could have just returned to the hostel or found a spot to grab a bite but I was determined to get back to the clubhouse so I kept running, evening stopping to ask for directions until I finally made it back.

They were surprised to see me when I got back. Most of the other runners had already left, but the other American woman I had met was still there, along with the club organizer. No one had known where the random American had gone, and we laughed about my big oops over a smoothie.

I don’t regret that solo “group” run at all. I got a great view of Big Ben, the London Eye Ferris Wheel and all kinds of evening life happening around the river. It was absolutely magical. It was also really nice to meet new people in a city I wasn’t familiar with. I would definitely do it again.

If you’re ever in London, I highly recommend visiting the London City Runners. Just maybe don’t do it the same day you arrive like I did.

How Runners Can Benefit from Yoga

I’ve heard other running coaches say yoga isn’t “running specific” because it doesn’t mimic running and thus might not be worth an athlete’s time for cross training. However, just like any strength training or mobility training program, a yoga practice can be created to enhance specific areas of an athlete’s fitness.

It’s true that not all asanas (static postures) may be beneficial to runners, but we can say the same of strength training exercises. The key is to identify what areas does a runner need to strengthen and what areas need to be lengthened. This will be different for everyone.

Here’s three ways a regular yoga practice can benefit runners.


Strength

Yoga’s physical side consists of moving the body through a series of asanas with the breath. These positions engage and target specific muscle groups and challenge the entire body. While most people who haven’t done a lot of yoga might think it only involves stretching, holding and moving through postures can actually build strength in key muscle groups needed for good running form. 

You can find strength training exercises like planks or squats in a yoga practice, though they will definitely feel different from your usual strength training session. Instead of doing multiple reps in a row, depending on the type of practice, some postures will be repeated multiple times in a pattern and others will be held for several minutes or breaths only once. Runners can work with a private yoga teacher or on their own, identify key asanas to help them build strength in areas that are imbalanced and create a personalized sequence for better performance.

Mobility

The most obvious benefit to including a regular yoga practice into a running program is increased mobility. Yoga can help loosen overly tight hips, IT bands and hamstrings that if left tight will lead to painful running and possibly injury. While you might see Instagram yogis casually resting in the splits or a crazy backbend, that level of flexibility doesn’t need to be your goal. Runners can focus on asanas that will meet their personal needs and benefit their running journey. 

Mind

Runners have various methods of pushing through pain and boredom to run for long distances or intense speeds. A common method for distance runners is distraction and moving the mind away from the moment. Yoga is the opposite. During a yoga practice, the goal is to stay in the present moment and focus on one’s breath and inner self. You can’t do that if your mind is wandering or on another planet. A regular yoga practice can help runners increase their mental stamina and stay present and aware of their body and surroundings during a run. 

Yoga can’t replace all of a runners’ strength training needs, but a regular practice two or three times a week can help keep things interesting. There are many kinds of yoga classes, it would be best for runners to work with a private yoga teacher or take a class with runners in mind, however, most classes will probably provide some of the benefits listed above. 

Please drop-in for one of my yoga for runners classes or checkout the yoga for runners videos on my YouTube channel if you need help getting started.

(References: Felstead, C. (2013). Yoga for Runners (First ed.). Human Kinetics; Polsgrove, M., Eggleston, B., & Lockyer, R. (2016). Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. International Journal of Yoga, 9(1), 27. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.171710; Tarma, J., Shaw, R., Girard, S., Gipple, P., Highfield, S., Ketabi, S. R., Viggiano, D., & Gourgy, A. (2016, May 5). 4 Ways Yoga Primes You for Running. Yoga Journal. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/cross-training/yoga-and-running/running-for-yogis/)

Ideas for Updating Your Running Playlist

One way to keep your run interesting is through a curated playlist design to help you want to keep moving those feet and pumping those arms. I usually keep more than one playlist so I don’t get bored listening to the same songs over and over again. Here are a few ideas on how to use your running playlists as motivational tools and to keep them interesting.

Movie Soundtrack Playlist

For most of 2019, my most often played playlist was really just the entire Spiderman Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack with a couple Black Panther soundtrack songs. Full disclosure, many of those songs are still on my 2021 most used playlist. Superheroes and action scenes often inspire me to get moving. The soundtracks from these movies make great additions to any running playlist. If there is a movie with a character you physically admire, songs from the film might help you on those tough “don’t want to run” days.

Some of my favorites from the Spiderman Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack you might want to add to your playlist are Start a Riot by by Duckwrth and Shaboozey and Elevate by DJ Khalil featuring Denzel Curry, Cordae, SwaVay and Trevor Rich.

One song you might not have heard that I feel I must recommend is #1 Spice by HAB and Young Cardamom. It’s from Disney’s Queen of Katwe and is literally about salt (special salt from Lake Katwe to be exact). It makes me smile every time I hear it.

The Slow Easy Run Playlist

It’s really hard to run slow and easy when a fast and fun song comes on. It’s a good idea to make a playlist specifically for your slow and easy days with slower song speeds in mind. Just make sure the songs aren’t so slow they make you want to walk instead of run. It’s also a good idea to make sure the songs have similar tempos so you can keep an easy pace.

My song recommendation for this type of playlist is Power is Power by SZA, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott.

Intervals Playlist

Song intervals can be really fun. Pick songs of varying tempos and try to include a good mix of both slow and fast songs. Run fast for the fast songs and slow down for the slow songs. You can do this in a structured way by creating a tempo pattern or hit shuffle and make it a fartlek run.

A fast song I would add to this playlist is Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé. A slow song you could try adding is Dernière Danse by Indila.

Sing Along Playlist

If you have a really long run and you need some help to stay motivated, I highly recommend putting together a sing along playlist. You could add Disney movie soundtracks and musicals, or maybe your favorite karaoke jam. This type of playlist definitely helped me on some long runs when I was training for my first marathon. I should also explain that it did not embarrass me to be seen singing loudly (and badly) while running along the canal. If you are easily embarrassed, you can still sing in your head.

My song recommendation for this playlist is I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Disney’s Mulan.

It’s probably pretty obvious that most of my music recommendations come from movies and films. I would love to hear what you’re listening to on your run. Comment below and let me know on twitter or Instagram (@breOutside).

5 Midday Yoga Moves to Get Energized

(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program. This is especially true if you have known or unknown existing health conditions including but not limited to high blood pressure, heart conditions, knee or spinal problems or are currently pregnant. If you are new to yoga you may also want to consult with a yoga teacher to correct any misalignments or postures before practicing on your own.)

It usually happens around 2 or 3 o’clock. My eyelids get heavy. My head leans back as if reaching for the back of my chair. My pillow is calling my name. I want to take a nap.

While an afternoon nap on the weekend is a welcomed treat, it’s a no-go Monday to Friday while I’m working my 8 AM – 5 PM desk job.

If this scenario sounds familiar, below are five moves you can do to wake-up and get energized to finish the afternoon strong. All five poses are standing moves so you can do them virtually anywhere and anytime.

Make sure to repeat poses 2 through 5 on both sides. Hold each pose for 3 – 5 breaths.

  1. Mountain Pose

Standing up is definitely a good way to start bringing energy back to the body and mind.

Stand tall with feet together or hip width apart. Keep your arms down, palms facing the opposite wall. Root down into all four corners of the feet. Imagine a string is coming out of the top of your head and a puppeteer is pulling on it.


2. Figure-Four Chair Pose

Wake-up your legs and strengthen key muscles. This is also a good stretch for people sitting at desks or on the couch for long hours at a time.

From Mountain Pose, bring your hands to prayer and lift one foot off the floor, bending at the knee. Place the raised ankle over the opposite thigh above the knee and sink the hips back making sure to root down into all four corners of the grounded foot. Try to bring the thigh of the standing leg parallel with the floor. Do not let your heel come up. Flex your foot that is off the ground. If you can, try to fold your heart down to your leg and bring your armpits closure to your shin.


3. High Lunge

Hips and leg muscles tend to get tight as we sit all day. This is a great pose to stretch hip flexors and engage most of the body, waking us up.

Begin in Mountain Pose. Lift one foot off the floor bending at the knee and raising it towards your chest. Lift your arms to the sky as you reach back with the lifted foot landing on the ball of your foot. The front knee should be inline with the front ankle and toes. Keep your hips squared to the front of your mat. Really reach tall with your arms and feel the energy rise from the ground out of your finger tips. With every exhale sink deep into the front standing leg. Make sure your knee is tracking properly over toes and you are not letting it sway in or out.


4. High Lunge with a Twist

Adding a twist will help with building better balance and increase energy; the goal of this short sequence.

From High Lunge, bring your hands to prayer at your heart. Keeping your legs where they are, twist your torso towards your front leg, hooking your elbow to the outside of the front thigh. If it feels okay on your neck, gently gaze up.


5. Tree Pose

Standing balances like Tree Pose require engagement throughout the body, waking us up.

From Mountain Pose, lift one foot off the floor, and place it either on the side of the standing leg’s calf or inner thigh. Do not place the foot at the knee. Hands can be in prayer, at cactus with elbows wide or raised up straight over your head. Engage your core, drawing the naval into the spine. Stand tall and strong.

What are your favorite yoga poses? Which ones do you find the most helpful? Please let me know in the comments below.

References:

Doyle, S. (2018, October 20). The benefits of Twists: 5 Great Twisting yoga postures for a more Resilient low back. Retrieved March 21, 2021, from https://www.yogauonline.com/yoga-practice-tips-and-inspiration/benefits-twists-5-great-twisting-yoga-postures-for-more-resilient#:~:text=Twists%20are%20ubiquitous%20in%20most,of%20a%20series%20of%20muscles.

Felstead, C. (2014). Yoga for runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Roundtree, S. (2012). The Runner’s Guide to Yoga. Boulder, CO: Velopress.

Why I Haven’t Run a Second Marathon Yet

There are two types of people in the world. The ones who believe they can run a marathon and the ones who don’t.

I don’t enter races very often, but over the years I have run in many 5ks, a 10k or two, a 15k, and several half-marathons, and one full marathon.

What made my first and so-far only marathon possible was a confidence that I could run 26.2 miles, despite never having run even close to that distance before. It took me two years to complete my goal, but I just knew that I could do it.

It takes a special kind of person to complete a full marathon. The type of person who sees a big challenge and is willing to go all-in. It is a huge time commitment, not just on race day but during the 16 to 24 weeks of training prior. While I have some fond memories of that training period, it was also more draining physically and mentally than I could have ever imaged. It was also difficult to have any kind of social life when balancing marathon training, work and family.

Ran 26.2 miles for a medal and a peanut butter bagel.

A few weeks after running my first marathon in 2019, a friend convinced me to sign-up for the same marathon again for the following year. When she first asked if I wanted to run it with her, I hesitated. I still remembered the pain of those miles and the hours spent training during the months leading up to the race. I wasn’t sure if I was up for that again, but the memories of the pain quickly faded while the memories of the glory gleamed. I registered.

Training for the second marathon was tougher because I knew what to expect. I had not done a good job training for my first marathon. The goal then had been to finish the race, and while I had done my best to prepare, on race day I realized some of my training errors. Things like not training for the hills and not practicing a nutrition and hydration plan slowed me down.

The goal for the second marathon was to get a better time. To do that, I needed to train smarter and harder. I started reading more running books and building a better training plan. The problem lay with keeping the plan.

I started getting busy with work and having to attend weekend and after-hours events. My dog went blind and needed a second eye removal surgery, making me weary of leaving her home on the weekends for long runs when I was already gone for so long during the week. Life started getting in the way. I’m sure many runners out there can relate.

In addition, time-management issues and life events, I believe knowing what lay ahead also created a mental block for me. I knew what I needed to do but felt stretched too thin and like I didn’t have the strength to climb those walls. I just didn’t have it in me to do a full marathon that year. I wasn’t the only one. My friend ended up dropping to the half-marathon with me.

I think when most people consider or think about running a full marathon, they only consider the 26.2 miles on race day. But it’s so much more than that! The more was too much for me on my second attempt.

I didn’t want to drop down to the half-marathon and for a little while I felt disappointed in myself and like a failure. I see these big time milers on social media racking up weekly numbers I’m not sure I’ll ever reach. It took some soul searching to remind myself that I am me, and this is my running journey and no one else’s. My runner status is not defined by my mileage. It is okay to scale things back when you bite off more than you can chew.

Fast forward another year and we’re in 2021. I haven’t run a race since that half-marathon and the rest of 2020 was an on-again, off-again relationship with running for me. Am I still a runner? Absolutely.

After a year of running leisurely for myself, when I felt like it, I feel ready to tackle another distance challenge. I’m ready to put in the work and strive for the glory of a personal best.

This is my relationship with the marathon distance so far. I would love to hear about yours.

Running for Beginners: How to Get Started

(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program.)

Running seems like a very simple activity. You lace up a pair of sneakers and head out the door. In reality, it’s a bit more complicated and most recreational runners always have a few things they wish their beginner self would have known before getting starting. Here are a few tips from my experience coming back to running as an adult.

Proper Running Shoes

Do you remember Ollivanders, the wand shop in Harry Potter? They have a fun exhibit of it at Universal Studios. You go in and a magical shop attendant helps you find the wand best for you. Getting a pair of running shoes is kind of like that.

One of the first mistakes I made coming back to running as an adult was just wearing a random pair of shoes I liked from a Nike outlet store. They did not have nearly enough padding and were too light for my training goals. I ended up getting shin splints and having knee problems.

You can get fitted for proper running shoes at your local running shoe store. Typically, you will walk on a treadmill and the fitter will check your gate for pronation. They will also ask you about your running goals and what you are training for.

If you are still not shopping in-store because of the pandemic (I am not either), a lot of running shoe brands and running shoe stores have online shoe selectors. They are not as good as getting an in-person fitting, but they are definitely better than picking shoes out on your own at random.

A lot of new runners do not know that running shoe models come out every year. The previous year’s model will usually be on sale, so if you are on a budget, look for those. When you can, it’s great to support your local running shoe shop, however sometimes it is cheaper to buy your shoe directly from the company online, once you know what you need.

The shoes will typically range from $60 to $160, depending on what type of shoe you need and the brand. Unless your doctor recommends it, I would not spend the extra $70 to $100 on a custom insole if you are on a budget. I did for the first pair of real running shoes I bought, but honestly do not believe they made a difference for me.

Last, typically you will order a half-size up from your regular shoe size. This will help you keep your toenails. Your feet expand slightly throughout the day and while running so the extra space gives your toes somewhere to go.

When to Run

A lot of new runners start off running in the evenings. There isn’t anything wrong with running in the evening, but there are two reasons running in the morning has worked better for me.

First, when you run first thing in the morning, it lets you check something important off of your to-do list right away. Whether you get anything else productive done that day, at least you kept your commitment to yourself and got your run it.

When I schedule evening, or afternoon runs, it is easier for life to get in the way. Someone randomly wants to stop by or call you. The dishes or laundry are calling your name. Or maybe it was a long day and you just want to eat dinner and watch some television. It gets easy to find reasons not to run the later it gets.

Second, running energizes me. I rarely want to be energized close to my bedtime. It leads to me staying up late (reading comics usually) and then feeling tired and groggy the next day. I would rather spend my evenings relaxing with Baby Bear.

If running in the evening works for you, then run in the evening. You should run on your own schedule, when it makes sense for you.

Base Building

Out of breath. Heart pounding. Sweat dripping. Legs burning.

A second mistake I made when coming back to running was running too fast too soon. Like wearing the wrong shoes, this also led to unnecessary knee pain and shin splints.

If you are new to running or coming back to it after a break, take a few weeks to let your body get used to running and to get yourself into a routine or habit. During this time think about how long you want to run (i.e. 10, 20, or 30 minutes) and work on spending time on your feet. Start slow and work your way up to longer runs.

Do not be afraid to take walking breaks. Do not start worrying about your pace or hitting certain mile markers. Run easy, so that you could hold a conversation. You might feel like that pace is too slow, but you can work on different running speeds after building a baseline.

Listen to your body.

Safety

Bad guys, and bad weather and cars! Oh, my!

It’s a dangerous world and I could probably go on for hours about safety while running, but here are a few general tips to keep in mind.

  • Make sure someone knows where you are going.
  • Bring some form of personal identification with you, like your government issued ID. This is useful if you get hurt, in an accident or stopped by the police. I happen to be a black woman and my twin was stopped while walking in our neighborhood once because she “looked like someone they were looking for” and I have been stopped while on a bicycle. Bring your ID. I usually bring my insurance card too.
  • Do not wear headphones while running outside. Even with one earbud in, it leaves you vulnerable to not hearing a car or someone sneaking up on you. It makes you look distracted and like an easy target. I leave my phone on speaker when I need music while running outdoors. Some might find that annoying, but I won’t be within their hearing range for more than a few seconds.
  • If running at night you might want to get a headlamp or reflective vest. I have found both at local dollar stores, surprisingly.

I could go on for ever, but these tips should help you get started on your running journey. If you need more help you can also hire a running coach to help you with your running journey. Coach Breanna specializes in working with beginners and casual runners.

Outdoor Yoga – Tips for Taking Your Practice Outside

There are so many reasons practicing at home can be difficult sometimes. A new show or movie on Netflix is calling your name. There’s furniture or laundry in the way of your practice space. Fido or the cat is feeling extra needy. Maybe you’re a mom or are taking care of family members, and just can’t get a few minutes without someone asking you for something.

If practicing yoga is important to you, but one or more things at home have been making it hard to get your practice in, maybe it’s time to change up your routine with an outdoor practice.

Ways to Practice Outside

Backyard or Patio

If you are fortunate enough to have a backyard or patio, that might be a good place to start. My current home is a little chilly because of the tile so it is really nice to take a 15-20 minute practice in our small yard. There is nothing like the Arizona sun warming my skin.

This might provide a new challenge as noise pollution for neighbors and cars. In my experience living in an apartment community, early mornings were the quietest times to practice on my patio.

The Park

I love practicing yoga at the park. There is more space and trees, and it’s also a great place to practice with a friend or two. I usually bring my dog Baby Bear and tie her to a nearby tree or lamppost. She loves to lie in the grass and just smell the wind or take a nap.

Camping

Baby Bear and I love to go on weekend camping trips. You don’t have to go far, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Look for a state or county park within an hour’s drive from your home and it makes an easy weekend trip.

It’s fun to turn these trips into mini DIY yoga retreats. You can do a sunrise practice, a midday practice, and an evening practice and go hiking in between. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with nature and get away from the digital distractions.

Safety

While getting closer to nature and practicing outside can be relaxing and rewarding, it is important to take safety precautions.

Air Quality

You may want to check with your state’s environmental quality agency or your city to check the air pollution levels before heading outdoors. Especially if you have sensitive air ways or asthma. Breath is important in yoga, so you don’t want to be breathing in air that will make you sick.

Weather

I live in Arizona, where temperatures can hover near 120 degrees in the summer. Even in the winter, the afternoons are relatively warm compared to other parts of the country. Blue sky and sunshine are the norm.

Wherever you live, pay attention to the temperature and humidity. If it’s going to be hot, find a shady spot and remember to bring and to drink plenty of water.

On the other side of things, if it’s going to be cold, dress in layers. Pay even more attention to your fluid intake since you may not feel as thirsty as you would on a hot day.

Personal Safety

Always make sure at least one close friend or relative knows where you will practice and when.

Be aware. Always be aware of your surroundings when practicing outside in public, especially if you’re practicing alone. Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds, which may give someone the impression that you are distracted and an easy target. Making eye contact can also signal to a person that you see them and are aware of their presence, in case they were thinking otherwise.

Don’t be predictable. You will probably want to post on social media about your practice, but avoid posting the time and location of your practice online. When practicing outdoors alone, also avoid practicing at the same time in the same place regularly. Switch up your routine so that it is not predictable where you will be.

Keep technology and belongings either locked in your car or close by and insight.

None of these safety tips are to scare you, but I wanted to acknowledge there are safety risks for practicing outdoors and the risks will vary depending on where you live. There are good people out there, but there are also bad ones.

5 Yoga Poses for Busy Runners

(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program. If you are new to yoga you may also want to consult with a yoga teacher to correct any misalignments or postures before practicing on your own.)

Regardless of pace, one thing novice and casual runners tend to have in common is skipping their stretching, strength training or both. Regular stretching and strength training play a role in injury prevention. Adding one or two running specific strength workouts to your weekly training can help you stay a healthy runner.

Yoga is probably not the first thing that came to mind when thinking about strength training, but it isn’t all about flexibility. Regular yoga practice can help you build strength in some muscles essential for running and better mobility.

Try adding these five moves to your pre and post-run routine to get started.

Downward Dog

Downward Dog stretches the spinal muscles, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons while strengthening the upper body.

Start on your hands and knees. Tuck the toes and send the hips backwards, reaching the heels towards the ground. Spread all ten fingers and press out, keeping the ears in line with the arms and relaxing the neck.

Low Lunge

Low lunge builds strength in the legs while stretching the hip flexors of the back leg.

From downward dog bring one foot between your hands. Rest the back knee on the ground and untuck your toes. Check the alignment of the front knee and make sure the knee is in line with the ankle but isn’t going past the toes. Keep your shoulders down.

You can use a pillow, blanket or towel to cushion the knee.

Corkscrew

Corkscrew pose is similar to low lunge but ads a slight twist and a quadricep stretch.

From low lunge, lift the back foot and rotate the torso towards the front leg as the opposite hand grabs the back foot. Gently turn the head to look over the shoulder of the hand grabbing the foot. Weight is rested on the top of the thigh, not the knee. Keep shoulders down.

You can also place a towel, blanket or pillow under the knee here.

Reclined Pigeon Pose

Pigeon pose stretches the outer hip and the IT band.

To avoid straining the knee, try pigeon pose on your back by brining one ankle over the opposite knee. Keep feet flexed, relax the neck and shoulders. You can grab the thigh behind the knee of the shin that if parallel to the floor to help guide the leg backwards or rest hands on the ground.

Goddess Pose

Goddess pose strengthens the inner thighs, improves balance and can strengthen the core muscles.

Take a wide stance and turn the toes out at a 45 degree angle. Slowly lower the tailbone down bending the knees. Press the knees outward and avoid letting them turn inwards. Keep them in line with the ankles and toes. Pull the belly inward and keep the torso long and tall. Hold the arms at 90 degree angles and press the elbows back to add a chest opener.

These are just five poses that might be beneficial to your running journey. What are your favorite yoga poses? Which ones do you find the most helpful? Please let me know in the comments below.

(References: Felstead, C. (2014). Yoga for runners. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.; Roundtree, S. (2012). The Runner’s Guide to Yoga. Boulder, CO: Velopress.)

Fitness Accountability When You’re On Your Own

(Always consult with your doctor or a medical professional before beginning a new exercise routine or fitness program. There are risks of injury or death when participating in an exercise program. If you are new to yoga you may also want to consult with a yoga teacher to correct any misalignments or postures before practicing on your own.)

Maybe you started a new fitness goal in January, promising yourself to lose so much weight, eat healthier, or get into a new fitness routine. Or maybe you made the goal after watching an inspiration movie, a few scrolls on Instagram or a visit with your doctor. Whatever you promised yourself, very few people are likely still keeping that promise.

During a normal year, people have a hard time sticking to their health and wellness goals. During a pandemic, however, there are even more obstacles to keeping these goals such as increased psychological stress, getting the virus and having to pause your activities, or maybe having to take care of loved ones.

Given the current pandemic, you may have been and continue to opt away from old social support systems of in-person groups and gym classes. If that’s the case for you, here are a few tips to keep you accountable to your goals and to yourself.

Take a Zoom Fitness Class

It’s really easy to turn off a YouTube video, and I am definitely guilty of ignoring my phone apps when they ask me to do burpees. Most people however do not walk out of a fitness class they are taking at a gym or yoga studio. Whether it’s because we’re too embarrassed, competitive, or we just don’t want to be rude to the teacher, we tend to stick out the most gruelling or maybe even boring classes.

You get a similar feeling when you take a Zoom class. The teacher sees you at the beginning of the class and so do your fellow students.

Do yourself a favor and leave your camera on to really get that feeling of being in the gym or studio. You will likely try harder and put in more effort if you think the teacher is watching. I’ve taken several zoom ballet and yoga classes where the teacher has even made corrections over the camera. So get your money’s worth and leave it on!

You can try out a Zoom yoga class with me by using the code FIRSTCLASSONBRE and signing up at www.breoutside.com. The code expires on Feb. 28, 2021.

Journal After Every Workout

Journalling after your workout doesn’t have to mean copying the stats from your watch or phone app, although you might find that information useful. You can start by thinking about what you planned to do that day and writing about if you met the goal or not. Did your plans change? Did you really try your hardest or were you holding back?

Besides writing about your actual physical activity, something that helped me keep a 30 day yoga challenge was also writing about my thoughts and mental space during my practice. For thirty days I journaled right after each practice, mostly describing the places my mind drifted during the practice. It went to some surprising places, and I learned a lot about myself from this very simple and easy to do practice.

Create Your Own Fitness Challenge

I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to follow other people’s prescribed fitness challenges. They have their set videos that you are supposed to do in order for x number of days. I usually get to day two before forgetting altogether or intentionally calling it quits.

The one time I finished a fitness challenge was when I created my own yoga challenge. The rules? Do yoga every day for 30 days. Any video, live class or app workout counted.

Why did it work? Because I could do my practice based on how I felt that day. Some days I needed a live 60 minute class while others I needed just a gentle 15 minute stretch.

If you have a goal and want to jumpstart it or stay motivated with a fitness challenge I would suggest thinking about what your goals are, what workouts will get you there and coming up with your own challenge.

This is just three ideas on how to stay accountable while socially isolated. If you have other ideas, I would love to read them in the comments.

Three Ways to Fall in Love with Running

I know more people who say they hate running than I know regular runners. Even a few of my friends that I convinced to run still have a hard time getting out the door. If you think you hate running but want to start running for the physical benefits, maybe the below ideas can help you make progress towards your running and fitness goals.

1. Slow Down

Your heart is pounding. Your breath is uneven and raggedy. Your body hurts and you don’t think you can go much further. If you are new to running or maybe just coming back to running as an adult and what I just described sounds like a normal run for you, you may want to consider slowing down.

When you are just getting started running, your focus should be time on feet and getting your body used to the action of running. Take things slow. During your first few weeks of regular running, you can check your pace not with a fancy watch, but by trying to hold a conversation (even if it’s with yourself). If you are struggling to talk while you are running, you might find the experience more enjoyable if you slow down.

Increasing your volume and work load too quickly, could put you at risk of developing an injury.

2. Find Your People

Under normal circumstances, finding a local running club or running group is a fantastic way to make running fun. Talking to new people, feeling like you belong and maybe grabbing a bite to eat, a beer or cup of coffee post run, makes it an experience to look forward to. Given the current circumstances, however, there are still ways you can connect with other runners, even if you do not feel safe joining a group run just yet.

If you are a fan of Facebook, there is likely a Facebook group for a local club in your area. You can also check with the Road Runner’s Club of America to find out the names of any local clubs and if they have a website.

If Instagram is your thing, look for a local hashtag you can search for to find runners in your area to connect with. For example, one hashtag I follow is #AZRunners.

Don’t be scared to reach out to local runners online to chat. Most of them are happy to connect, and once you feel safe again, you may have a real in-person running buddy to run with. That said, when meeting with anyone you met online in person for the first time, make sure not to give out too much personal information and to meet during daylight hours and in a public place.

3. Find Inspiration

One way to psych yourself up to run is by continuing to motivate yourself with visualizations of where you are now and where you want to be. Look for stories of people real or fictional who remind you of yourself and the journey you are embarking on.

You can listen to podcasts like Part-Time Athletes to hear how real everyday athletes just like you got started and how they keep themselves motivated.

Find movies like Brittany Runs a Marathon to keep running on the brain even when you’re on the couch.

If you are a reader, there are tons of outstanding books to keep you inspired. Three books that I enjoyed are:

I hope these ideas help you fall in love with running. Let me know in the comments if any of them worked for you.