Monday, June 4, 2012

Eating My Words: "Running is for Suckers"

This used to be me: "Silly people who run. I have no idea what is wrong with them. Running for no reason is for suckers."

Then Andrew decided two summers ago he would do the Couch to 5K program, and every morning at a ridiculously insane hour (5:30am) he'd get up and go running. He loved it. The "he is CRAZY" theme continued in my head as I smugly went along with my yoga practice.

Fast forward a few years, and I've started wondering just how much my heart rate really is increasing while practicing yoga. Sure, I sweat, build muscle mass and generally feel like I've MOVED my body for 60 to 90 minutes... but is my heart rate really up there for my practice 3x (more or less) a week for the entire time?

Heart Rate During a Yoga Class:
Let's just chat a bit more about this: out of 60 minutes of asana, at least 15-20min of that is cool down, warm up savasana or "easy on the heart rate" postures. Yes, it's likely half of the class will make me sweat and build muscle, but I can't guarantee that two or three classes a week will really cover 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) MINIMUM aerobic activity. I just don't take three classes of 50 minute non-stop surya namaskar or vinyasa-ing one breath per posture (honestly, I have rarely taken such a class- most are well balanced...which is a good thing).

I love yoga and do not feel that this is a negative aspect of the practice. In fact, I feel like yoga adds something more. That said, it would be a mistake to blissfully equate 1:1 a minute of yoga practice to a minute of "moderate to vigorous physical activity".
  I have room for both Yoga AND other physical activity in my life.

Out of curiosity, I decided to take the Heart and Stroke Risk Assessment online screener. Thankfully I only have 4 scary risk factors for Heart Disease. My risk factors are a combo of my parent's family health risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, premature stroke etc) and eating too much salt and not enough veggies in my diet. Five servings of vegetables and fruits per day so isn't happening in this house (and it should!).

According to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology's Canadian Physical Activity Guideline (which is used by Health Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and ParticipACTION);

Canadian adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity in a week... 

(Check out their other age ranges for children, teenagers and mature adults!)

So. This weekend I bought some running sneakers, fun pink running socks and I mentally prepared myself for my first day of Couch to 5K... TODAY.

Running appeals to me intellectually because it's so minimalist. You don't need the gym, fancy equipment (although a decent pair of running sneakers are worth the money) or special clothing (my yoga clothing worked just fine). You just need running sneaks and yourself. I like that.

As un-eco as this sounds, in order to save our knees from shins splints we decided to run in the park...but if we tried to run TO the park we'd never make it there. So I will be honest and admit we drove there (boo us).

Beyond a softer landing ground for my joints, I'm hoping that three runs a week in the park will also infuse a great big dose of NATURE in our lives

After a grand total of 8 bouts of 60 seconds of running and a whole bunch of brisk walking in the horizontal wind and spitting rain near the crash of whitecaps of the Atlantic ocean, I survived! I may have had this weird irrational urge to giggle every single time we started running (anyone else experience this?) and I may have complained once that I didn't really think I could run again ("but I have this STITCH Andrew!") but with Andrew's so excited, HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY support (he really likes running) I made it home and didn't feel like throwing up or dying. Bonus!

What I did not feel, however, was the post running high that Andrew was so obviously experiencing. Instead, my body was kinda angry, stiff and cold. It may have been the weather, but since Andrew wasn't experiencing the same thing, I think running just might take some time to grow on me.

In order to fix my physical and psychological state from running, I decided that 20 minutes of yoga was what I wanted. I was right. After moving through various postures (with some help from Rachel's Suburban Yogini post), I was back to being myself.

I'm not going to be running a marathon anytime soon, and I most certainly will pick yoga over running any day, but I'm very glad to be adding something a bit more heart rate intensive to help prevent a disease that is the leading cause of death in Canadian women (Heart and Stroke Foundation).

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I'm glad you started running, but could you please change the big bold statement to 150 *minutes* per week? It's about 20 minutes a day, which 3 hours of yoga per week does cover. 150 hours would be 20 hours a day, I would bet that's unhealthy! Thanks, the math teacher.

  2. Hi TinaC: thank you for noticing that- it's been a long day so I missed it. :)
    I don't actually think that three hours of yoga a week would cover "moderate to vigorous" activity- as I pointed out, I would estimate that 30min of an actual class that I take would qualify as "moderate-vigorous" physical aerobic activity.

    It's an interesting mistake that many people make. For example- the ParticipACTION organization released it's 7th yearly report card on Canadian Children Activity and noted that while many parents felt that a hockey game or practice would constitute a minute-minute equality of time spent-physical activity, the reality was that the children spent a significantly less amount of time in an activity that would qualify as "moderate physical activity"

    I think equating a full hour of yoga to moderate-vigorous physical activity also is inaccurate. Which is fine, I love yoga, but I need to be realistic with my health. My life has room for other physical activity as well :)

  3. Ps: also need to thank you- a second look and i realized that this is a bit of a rambly post- so i tried to bring the "yoga and heart rate" discussion a bit more attention. :)

  4. Nice post. I recently discovered the same thing... I do quite a bit of yoga- but I need cardio! So I started running and as my joints started screaming again, I remembered why I stopped! On to trying something new- maybe swimming or biking in the mix :)
    Enjoy running! (It's true- it's totally addicting...)

  5. one of the reasons i didn't like yoga at first is because it doesn't feel like enough exercise to me. now i'm giving it a try, and see that a. it would take a lot more practice to get to a point where i can get in a flow that gets my heart rate up or correctly hold strengthening poses and b. it's also about the relaxation that comes out of it because i need that in my life now.
    i ran all the time in high school but i don't really enjoy running, so i didn't keep it up. i think it's important to find exercise that you enjoy. i'm so happy that i can bike to work, because that is some consistently exhausting activity.
    also, to warn you, i've never really gotten the "runner's high"...not everyone does.
    good luck with the running journey.

  6. I've been running 2-3 times a week for a year now. I started out with couch to 5k and can now do 3 miles of hilly terrain without feeling like I'm going to pass out at the end, but I hate every second of it. I've never gotten that elusive runner's high, and the concept of running in a loop to get nowhere makes me feel ridiculous (though a treadmill would be worse). I would a million times rather do yoga or ride a bike, but as you say, running is great at getting the heartrate up and keeping it up, and it burns more calories (for those of us who like our dessert). I still think runners are crazy.

  7. Nice post. We are big supporters of yoga as a compliment to a variety of sports/activities including running. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after logging some more miles :)

  8. @Anon: that's the beauty of all this- there are always options for everyone.Although, the main reason we ran at the park was to decrease the likelihood of shin splints and decrease impact on our joints. Swimming would be LOTS of fun!

    @Julia: Yes, I see your point. I do think it's tricky to find the right style for each person (although I said I needed something to go with my yoga practice, I still had to search to find a class where I felt like I was working too).
    I am jealous that I've allowed so many barriers to my biking use though!

    @Erin: haha, yay! I'm so glad it's not just me- I think I'm going to always be a yogini who uses running to compliment her yoga. :)

    @prAna: thank you! Like I said above though, I would see it as running being a compliment to my yoga practice :) (but maybe I'm just being picky!). I will definitely be blogging more about this journey- for sure!

  9. As you know, I love, love, love running! So much, and I totally get the giggling thing. Sometimes when I am running a race I feel like I am going to burst out laughing. When I cross the line I alternate between wanting to burst out laughing or great big sobs. I have managed not to cry yet!

    It really is a wonderful form of exercise, just remember, make sure you buy a sports bra too! It will make things so much more comfortable.

  10. Old lady runner her (30+ years). You may be getting a stitch and missing the high because you are running too fast. It's best to start out slow and aim for a sustained, moderate pace. When I first started running, I marked a mile (more or less) and my goal was to complete that distance. In the beginning it was a lot of walking and a little running. I gradually increased the running until I could go the whole mile. I do not remember, after all these years, exactly how long that took, but it was not instantaneous. And sometimes I feel a greater high than others but I always, always feel hugely better after a run than I do before it.

    Also, as someone pointed out, if you want to make anything into a habit or a long-term activity, it is important that you enjoy it enough to do so. I hate swimming, for example, and have tried not to hate it several times, and finally realized that it's just not for me. If you hate running (and I hope you don't), it's hard for me to imagine how or why you would drag yourself out every day.

    Running has the same appeal for me as it does for you: it's simple, free, and requires minimal equipment (a good bra is a definite must, especially if you are a C or above!). It's also a great way to explore a new place when you're traveling, and it can make you appreciate all types of weather. I hope you enjoy it enough to continue.

  11. @actionjen: LOL, SO happy it's not only me who gets a HUGE case of the giggles while running! :) I plan on going this weekend to purchase a Canadian made sports bra too! (thankfully two of my yoga tops have a LOT of support).

    @Anonymous: ah yes- very true! the Couch to 5K program is a weekly podcast with slowly increasing the time you run vs walk. The first week we are walking 5min to warm up and cool down, 8 sets of 60secs run, 90secs walk.
    you're right though, my plan is to finish the couch to 5K (probably take over the summer) and see where that takes me.
    I'm hoping that I will be ambivalent enough that the pay off of assuring outdoor time will balance my 'meh' feelings towards running.

  12. I too wasn't keen on running, but run twice a week to work now (about 10-15mins each way, depending on route). A friend lent me the Chi Running book - - which argues that often we're running all wrong and the way to avoid injuries, avoid stiff sore muscles etc, is to work from the core, have good running form, loose joints and relaxed muscles. I've yet to put it into practice but a lot of the key skills he describes are very familiar territory for yoga peeps. The author runs ultra marathons and the like and seems to know what he's talking about!

  13. @Alyson: that book sounds very interesting!
    What's funny, is that I noticed right away that my breathing wasn't difficult to maintain- all that yoga.
    Also- the relaxing of the arms- done and done.
    Yesterday, on day TWO (lol), i tried visualizing running from my core- and that definitely was quite different. I'm not sure i'm quite there yet- but I'll have to look into this further- thank you!

  14. Weee I love running. Historically though running doesn't like me. I get crazy shin splints and patella femoral syndrome. I've started to dabble in barefoot running/minimalist running with some success though (just having problems with tight calves afterwards).

    I find the runners high is an unusual occurrence for me. Hopefully it happens more often for you once you get used to running often though. And let me say, when it does happen it feels AWESOME.

    Do you still bike ride?


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