Friday, March 14, 2014

In Praise of Cross-Training

I so enjoyed having my weekend free after doing my long run last Friday, I had planned to do the same thing today.  But I felt rough last night at Run Club and my doubts got the best of me.  Plus I haven't slept well the past few nights, so I just feel beat and kind of emotionally overwrought.  I put on my running clothes in the pre-dawn, and then crawled back into bed and cried to The Husband about how I didn't want to run.  "Run tomorrow," he said, "and go to Pilates today."  I don't technically need his permission to push off my long run, but it's nice to have it.  So eventually I crawled out of bed and put on yoga pants instead of running crops, and prepared to meet the day.

I have been taking a lovely reformer class at Evolve Los Altos with some very nice ladies and an excellent teacher.  I had been mostly doing privates back in Pittsburgh, but the price is kind of high out here, and this super advanced class happens to be at a time I can get to pretty easily, so I just go for it.  I have a love/hate relationship with practicing yoga and Pilates on my own.  I love how I feel when it's done, I just hate pushing myself through it.  And since I'm kind of a wimp, I get easily distracted, etc.  I like to have someone else's eyes on me to make sure I'm really doing what I should be.  I like those little micro adjustments and weird visuals.  They make me happy.  So I really thrive on a real in person class.  Working myself out gives me a chance to play with things sometimes, but a good teacher will give you that space, too, especially in a private session.  And a good teacher is also going to look at your body with a critical eye and see all the places you're weak and make you do the things you don't want to do.

The other thing about yoga and Pilates, or really anything you do that makes you move in a different way, is that it can make you a better runner.  Not only does it force you to work all the parts you probably don't usually work when running (lateral motion, shoulder stability, the list is pretty long), but if you're someone who likes to think when you run (and no judgment if you don't - sometimes I just want to run and not think all that much about it), it can help you to make little adjustments.  I remember after my first half marathon, the part of my body that was the most sore was my shoulders.  I had totally hunched them up in the last few miles and put all my stress in my shoulders.  This is a really common thing, runners do it all the time, and I did it A LOT.  When I was going through my Pilates certification, I joked that my Pilates name tag would say "Shoulders Down the Back" because that was the correction I constantly got from my teachers.  It took a good year for me to reliably be able to engage my shoulders in the right way, but eventually I got it (most of the time), and my running got better, too.  Paying attention to how I was hitting the ground was also something I started doing while going through training.  I began to see that I was running very turned out (duck footed) and it was leading to a lot of pain in my SI joint and hip in general.  So I began to concentrate on becoming more parallel.  I also began to play with my footstrike, which was very heel-heavy.  I took a few months to transition into being a midfoot striker, rather than a heel striker, and most of the old injuries that had plagued me disappeared.  Not that there wasn't a huge transition process, because there was, and it wasn't always comfortable or fun.  I traded the old injuries for some new ones, but overall, I think it was a good call.  And all because of the attention that Pilates brought to my body and what I was doing with it.
Just for fun, a video of two of my favorite exercises on the Cadillac - Airplane and Ferris Wheel.  I could knitpick these like crazy (and this video is from last year, so hopefully I'm better at these now), I want to yell at myself "straighten those wrists out!"  Still, fun stuff.

Now this doesn't mean that I think everyone should run out and get a Pilates DVD and change up their footstrike.  I think it's really hard to pick up a yoga or Pilates DVD and really do things correctly.  I think it's hard to go to a class at a gym and pick it up, too.  In a perfect world, I'd like to see everyone be able to take some small group or private lessons to get the basics and then revisit that more intimate format to learn new stuff, work with injuries and imbalances, etc.  I just can't say enough about how wonderful it is having someone's eyes on you to help you figure things out and help put you back together.  And there is something a fine line between good and bad yoga and Pilates, and I say that as someone who did bad yoga and bad Pilates for many years.  Poorly performed exercises put you at risk for injury, and preventing injuries is a huge reason to do this kind of stretching and strengthening.  So it really is worth the money and effort to find a good teacher with whom you click and really learn how to do things best for your body.

I left  my class today feeling so much better, both physically and mentally.  Putting the long run off until tomorrow was the right call.  Yay Pilates!

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