Miles 5 & 6

26.2 A SERIES

Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.

MILE 5- Flexibility and Strength–On Finding my own Balance

It might seem strange to some that I would dedicate miles 5 & 6 to yoga postures. But the truth is, I have learned so much from each posture that I practice that it was difficult to narrow down which lessons I’d pull from most often in my training and in the race. One of these choices though was obvious. Standing bow has always been my favorite posture for two reasons: beauty and growth–neither of these things have ceased since I began practicing almost nine years ago.

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Standing bow is all about balance. The beauty in standing bow comes in your ability to hold it. There is actually a line in the Bikram dialogue that says “The harder you kick, you can balance forever.” They say this because your kick up balances the weight of your body down; you need these two opposing forces to stay in it. Many of us think of balance as 50/50, equal parts; I thought of it this way for years. After overextending my hamstrings over and over again from relying solely on my flexibility for this posture, I realized that I needed to engage my strength as well. I set forth with the standard 50/50 mindset, after all even the dialogue seemed to point to needing equal parts of each component. My pain persisted.

It took me about six years to understand that my correct ratio of strength to flexibility in standing bow is about 80/20. More than anything, I have to concentrate on pulling up on my quad and using my strength to kick–the strength of my kick lifts my whole body up. I need determination, concentration, and then…I need patience. Just because I have more flexibility, it doesn’t mean I should use it. If I’m patient and I wait, my body slowly opens up in a way that doesn’t cause me pain or injury. This is my lesson. This is what I will take to mile 5. The Universe gives us all these different gifts in varying quantities. I think part of the journey is figuring out our own balance–when and with what force to employ each gift. I expect I’ll need some restraint at a time in the race when my legs start to recognize that they’ve finally arrived at the Big Kahuna; something tells me this is when they’ll know that they’ve finally reached the day they’ve been training for. When the moment comes, I think my mind will give them and all my emotions a soft Shhhh. “Easy,” it’ll say. “Patience and focus now while I’m running things…trust me, you’ll need ALL that heart for later…save it.” 

 

MILE 6- Standing head to knee-On finding my Own pace

Yoga and running have a lot of things in common. A big sign of growth and self realization in both of them is the moment you realize you are legit–that even if you can’t straighten your leg completely over your head, or run a 7 minute mile, you are no less a practitioner than the bendy speed demon to your right.

Standing head to knee is a particularly difficult pose. People can work at it for years and if they’re not paying attention to tiny intricacies, they might feel like they’ve never made any progress. There are so many stages of this pose. If you peek into a class, you’ll see a great deal of variance amongst students. You’ll notice lots of people trying to kick their leg out while they stand on a shaky bent knee. Instead of anxiously pushing themselves into the next stage of the pose, they might actually be better served by hanging back and waiting to kick out until they have a strong, locked out leg–a solid foundation from which they can move forward. On the other side, you’ll see students frozen–standing there like perfect one-legged statues. Although they’ve mastered the first part of the posture, something inside makes them hesitant to kick out–to move forward. Sometimes they’re protecting themselves, they have some limitation due to strain of injury. Other times you see the ones who have to be encouraged by the teacher to try and kick out. It seems as if they would rather stay in the spot they are confident in, than thrust themselves into the unknown.

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Finding my own pace has been a constant theme in my running, in my yoga practice, and in my life. I remember when I first got sober I was incredibly anxious to work the steps because I understood very quickly that that was where the change was going to come from–that was what was actually going to make me better. Jumping into the steps right away worked well for me, and for years, I couldn’t understand why anyone else would go at it any other way. Now that I’ve been sober for longer, I realize that everyone is different, and recovery moves at all different speeds–none “better” than the other. Finding what’s right for me as an individual has been a journey of finding and really knowing myself. Respecting the varied paces of others has been a great teacher of patience, and my admiration for diversity continues to grow every day.

I stood on a solid locked out leg in standing head to knee for years. I was one of those students who had to be coaxed out of their shell. Now I’ve got my leg kicked out but my flexibility comes and goes and allows and limits whether I can kick even more forward and bend my elbows down. It changes from day to day, but I’m right there with it–I can see the little wins and I know that I am progressing.

I hope at mile 6 I start to find my own pace–the one that combines what I trained for and who I am on that day. I don’t want to fall into the comparison trap, and try to keep up with anyone else around me. But I also don’t want to let fear hold me back, I want to believe in my training and realize the strength that I own in each moment. Each foot forward is progress–I’m on my way…my way.

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this piece, I hope you might like to continue with the series… please consider following me through WordPress or through email by using the links on this page. You can also follow me on facebook  ~all support is appreciated. thank you. x

25 thoughts on “Miles 5 & 6

  1. Cat, I love your self awareness and the recognition that the way of doing something that is best/healthiest for you may be utterly different from you neighbors, and your way tomorrow or yesterday. I am recurrently amazed at how much I can learn from seemingly small things when I am willing to but curious and pay attention.
    I have done a modest amount of yoga over the years, but you’ve introduced me to a new pose, standing head to knee. Something to experiment with when the time feels right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Steph! It’s taken me a long time to get to a place of understanding that what’s best for me may not be best for everyone. My true nature is a bit of a control freak. “Live and let live” is a pretty key phrase for me to remember.
      Let me know how the yoga goes!

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    1. Wow. Thank you Mary Lou, so much. The group of people getting me to this starting line keeps on growing and growing–I really am so appreciative of your support.
      Also, if anyone is describing me as having patience, it’s an incredibly good sign–I wouldn’t say it’s my strong suit. Thank you again! x

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  2. Great post! I’m particularly fond of your yoga with a view (envious may be a better word 🤣). I enjoy your blog immensely. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to my yoga practice tonight, just one of those days, but you’ve inspired me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great post Cat, and those views!! When I raced the bike I was really bad at comparing myself against others. It’s a constant battle for me not to do that with running, but I’m (slowly) realising that the only person I’m competing against is myself. Like you, I think the half is more my distance – the training is also a little more manageable than the full!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ali! Yeah the training for the half is kind of just what i normally like for fitness–shorter speed workouts during the week and one long run (nothing over 12) on the weekend. Maybe after all this I will get into trying to improve that half time!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hanna

    Are those pictures taken at the building where you live? Man, what a VIEW! Lucky duck.

    I love the part about finding your own pace. I used to be really jealous of runners who were faster than me and even of my friends who beat my race times. All I wanted in the beginning was to keep getting faster and faster and faster.

    But here’s the truth: there is nothing inherently better about being a faster runner. There is no magic transformation that happens when you finally hit a certain pace. Running feels the same, pushing yourself to your limits feels the same, whether you are running a 10:00 mile or a 6:00 mile. The only difference between those two marathoners is that one enjoys the scenery a bit longer. Faster runners aren’t “better”, they’re just faster. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to try to improve your running times, but there is no magic that happens when you get faster. The faster runners I know aren’t happier or healthier people than the slower ones. If you’re working hard and pushing yourself, you should be proud of yourself no matter the pace!

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    1. Hey Hanna! Those pics were actually taken on the roof of my sister’s building, the first building I lived in when I moved to NYC. Now my hubs and I live a few blocks away. We’re lucky to have a great view as well but not quite as good as this one :).
      “The faster runners i know aren’t happier or healthier people than the slower ones.” THIS. So key! You are so right. I never really thought about it in terms of health or happiness but I feel like that is such a great way to look at it.

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  5. Mylifebythechapter

    I enjoyed reading your post. Finding your pace, sticks out to me the most. It’s something that I think about as well. Just in life, we naturally want to try and keep up with others. I’m learning to find my pace aand stick with it, I am at this pace for a reason 👌🏾Yoga and running, two things I want to improve. Much needed motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy to hear from another yogi/runner, always <3. You're so right, there is definitely something inherent in us that wants to keep up with or even surpass others. I try to to suppress it in myself but that feeling is never dead, it constantly comes up. I think running and yoga are two of my best methods for getting that thinking in check–it is so clear that it doesn't serve me!
      Thanks so much for reading. Please come back–I'm so happy to hear your thoughts!

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  6. I struggled so much finding pace and rhythm during my training, the more I thought about or concentrated on it the worse I got. Something just clicked on race day, I don’t think I could even replicate it!
    Another great post Cat… and reminded me I must get back to Yoga, you look awesome in those poses!!

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    1. I hope what happened for you happens for me as well Ang! I’ve been happy enough lately with my pacing but still feel like i have NO idea what’s going to happen on race day. Thanks for saying that that might be ok! Makes me feel a little lighter about it.
      And oh my yog. I love it so much. It’s been weird during training cause i am doing less yoga than i have in years–i miss it, but there are just not enough hours in the day or enough fuel to get me through that much exercise. I love it so much though. Hope you’re able to get back to it! x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post… I did exactly the same. Absolutely jumped in head first when I first got sober, I couldn’t wait any longer. It helped I had a tough( Californian) for a sponsor who took no shit. It amazing how the self awareness we get can help us apply lessons learnt to ALL areas of our lives. Rigorous self honesty, commitment, body, mind and spiritual awareness. S x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG you’re sober too? Too good.
      I agree, I couldn’t wait with the steps– I was so sick and anxious to feel better. I had to actually change who i was or i was definitely going to drink again.
      Also, you’re so right, so much of this is just all about self-awareness–I think that may be the thing I am most grateful for. Before I was just walking around with no real understanding of how my actions affected other people–examining yourself is not always fun–sometimes it’s painful, but I’ve found that I cannot live any other way.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is the best advice so far – it’s your race so run it your own way. It’s weird how a marathon can be a lonely day in the middle of a crowd of people and every race is different. I wish I’d been so thoughtful before my first one!

    Liked by 1 person

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