Photo by Thomas Hawk

I have just returned from a run – 18 miles – the most that I have ever traveled on foot in preparation for the Marine Corps. Marathon on October 25th. I was scheduled to run 16 miles, but I upped it to 18 in order to squeeze in both a 20 and 22 mile run before the big day.  This will be my first full marathon and I have been training since June. I know that I have been putting in the miles that Hal Higdon prescribes, but I believe that it is my yoga that will get me to the finish line.

How yoga comes into play in running and sports in general:

1. Yoga strengthens core muscles which provides one’s body with increased stability. Core muscles tie many other muscles together. Throwing, batting, twisting, crouching all are actions used in multiple sports that involve the core muscles. If one’s core is not strong, other muscles will compensate which can cause injury.

2. Yoga focuses on breath. When fatigue sets in, focusing on one’s breath by imagining each inhale as increased strength and each exhale as gray smoke or negative thoughts will tap into reserved energy. This kind of visualization technique is used by many athletes to help push past physical or mental fatigue to achieve success.

3. Yoga teaches us that our mind often controls our body, and that sometimes we must talk our mind into doing something it is resisting. I remember when taking a Baron Baptist day-long yoga immersion class that he told us to ignore those censoring thoughts in our minds (as long as we weren’t in actual PAIN) in order to allow our bodies to do things that they had not yet done before. There are many studies that confirm that our brain will tell our bodies to stop to protect it from harm. We can push our bodies harder and farther by teaching our brain that we will not be doing damage to ourselves as we reach new limits.

4. Yoga shows us how to get into “the zone”. By focusing on the moment while letting all thoughts pass, one’s mind becomes focused entirely on the task at hand. Similarly, yoga’s focus on the moment (the sun, the wind, the environment around you) can actually help you maintain a higher performance. According to Marc Allen, a six-time Ironman champion, he was able to win his first of six Ironman races in 1989 after failing six times previously by quieting his mind during this very intensely competitive race to beat his opponent who was in the lead.

I know the many miles that I have traversed during the last 5 months have helped me build up my physical endurance. However, it is my mental endurance honed by my yoga practice which I will continue to focus heavily upon during these last few weeks leading to my race which will carry me through the finish line to success.