Group Yoga and a Live Class!

A woman in black running trousers and a pale blue jacket does a shoulder stand in front of a large wardrobe
Heidi demonstrating a pose I cannot even imagine being able to do

Three friends came to stay this weekend, to celebrate my birthday by eating large amounts of pizza and ice cream and playing board games. This morning between meals and games I took the opportunity to rope a couple of them into doing a short Yogaia class with me. Anna had never done yoga before, I had done about half a dozen beginner’s classes and Heidi is an experienced yogi, so it was quite interesting.

Anna and I were laughing uncontrollably as we utterly failed not only to get into the poses but to even understand what poses we were supposed to be in, while Heidi calmly folded herself up like some kind of human origami project and maintained a zen-like focus. I don’t think Anna and I are constitutionally suited to yoga, but perhaps the zen-like focus and the origami-flexibility both come with practice.

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Yoga with my dog

Benny is a natural at yoga – his favourite resting position is one we like to call “froggy doggy”, where his back legs are splayed out behind him and his pelvis is flat against the floor. Sometimes he lies down and carefully maneuvers his legs into this position, but other times he begins in a downward dog position, then raises his head to stretch his back legs right to the tips of his toes, and allows his feet to slide out from underneath him.

christmas-froggy-doggy
Christmas froggy doggy – he likes unwrapping presents

I’m not nearly as flexible as that, and I don’t particularly want to be able to swivel my hips 180 degrees and lie flat on the floor, but I would like to be a bit more supple. I’ve also got ongoing discomfort in my shoulders and upper back; this is partly due to a tendency to tight muscles that I’ve inherited (hi mum! Hi granny!) but also thanks to my terrible posture. Add to all of that the fact that my brain goes 100 miles a minute and I am not very good at simply being, and the upshot is that yoga would be great for me.

I’ve looked into going to a yoga class several times. When we first moved here, I found there was a Ballet Fit class at the local sports centre. The idea of combining ballet techniques with yoga seemed intriguing, but also terrifying. When I think of ballet, I think of tall, thin, beautiful young women with perfect poise and grace. That’s not a description I would apply to myself! Yoga brings to mind athletic, bendy, healthy-eating overachievers who get up at 4am to meditate and wear Lycra at every opportunity. That’s not me either.
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Third Week of the Running Madness

I’ve hit week three of my running programme, which is apparently the week that most people quit due to boredom, injury or burnout. Although I did manage to injure my shoulder on Sunday (no idea how, it happened mid-run and was sufficiently bad that I spent evensong with my arm in a sling and the last two days taking Ibuprofen with breakfast, which is very rare for me), it is a lot better today and I decided it wouldn’t stop me from running. Apathy very nearly did – I reached the last possible point at which I could go out without ending up finishing my run after sunset and decided not to go. Then I looked at my diary which happened to be in front of me, and realised that if I didn’t I wouldn’t manage three runs this week. So I went and it was great!

Honestly, I don’t know what has happened to me. I was feeling a bit trepidatious about this week because it involves longer runs with fewer intervals of walking, but the time flew and my legs weren’t aching anything like as much as I expected. When the podcast ended I felt as though I must have somehow skipped ahead on the recording, because it didn’t feel like twenty minutes at all. The clock assures me it was, though. I’m raring to go on the rest of the week, and here’s to the next six weeks as well.

Today is a generally positive day because my exam this morning went excellently, possibly even better than last Tuesday’s. I’m hoping the next two (tomorrow and Thursday) will go as smoothly, and then the slight blip last Wednesday won’t be as much of a problem. I’ve also decided to treat myself to a day out on Friday, so I’m taking myself to a new cafe for breakfast after morning prayer, then going to a National Trust property for the day. Then I’ll head home and curl up with some popcorn to watch Potiche, my latest LoveFilm acquisition. It’ll be great. Saturday will be spent beginning my clearing out and packing mission (I’m starting early as I have serious doubts about whether all my stuff will fit into the 2m cubed storage unit I’ve rented, so I need time to find alternatives), and then on Sunday I’m going to some mystery village with the choir for the day. It wouldn’t be a mystery if I just googled the name of the place, but I rather like mysteries.

The Curious Lure of Running

I started running two weeks ago. That in itself is odd enough – I have always hated running. When I was training with the university ice hockey team, we ran twice a week. I always went, and I disliked every second.

So it is rather a surprise even to me that I decided to start running again, voluntarily, on my own. I’m following the Couch to 5k programme and using a podcast that plays music with a good running beat and tells you when to jog and when to walk briskly (we’re gradually building up to running 5k non-stop, but that’s a long way off). Then I announced my plan to several friends, including some internet friends who immediately decided to join me. We’ve now got a small group scattered across several different countries who are all following the same programme and reporting back on progress.

I still wouldn’t say that I enjoy running, exactly. I have to force myself through the run, reminding myself that it will be over soon and I will feel a buzz of triumph when I reach the end. Some days are harder than others. Today was horrible; it’s drizzling, there was wind blowing against me along the first stretch of the park, and for some reason every step was a trial. But I made it without walking during any of the run sections, or stopping at all.

Generally I’ve been running early in the morning, before anyone is really around to see me lumbering through the park with a bright-red, sweat-covered face. On Thursday evening I realised I hadn’t done my second run of the week, and if I left it any longer I would either be running on the morning of what was already going to be a long day (I went to see Singing in the Rain on Friday night – more on that another time) or running two days in a row. So I pulled myself together and went out.

I’m not sure what was different on Thursday to today, but I almost did enjoy that run. I did extra sprint sections, I pounded along with a smile on my face, and I felt like a real runner. I was still very glad to reach the end of the podcast, but then something possessed me and I ran another two minutes just because I felt like it. Part of the motivation was having run past someone I knew slightly – I didn’t want him to think I was too unfit or lazy to keep running. I doubt he even noticed me, honestly, but the psychological impetus was there.

Next week the programme steps up a bit, and I will have to run for 3 minutes without stopping. That sounds difficult to me; it’s twice as long as I’ve been running so far. But I used to run that much and more, when I was forcing myself around the 800m track with the ice hockey team, cursing with every step. There’s no reason why I can’t do it now as well.

I think most of running is about mind games: you trick yourself into thinking you’ve got much further left to go than you have, so you are pleasantly surprised when you can stop. You tell yourself how much you’re enjoying this, even if you aren’t. You smile at little birds or small children and your brain believes you’re smiling at the run. And somehow you make it through. Well, that’s how it is for me anyway.

My Fail-Proof Exercise Plan

There are several reasons why I should exercise more.

One reason is that although I’m only about a centimetre taller than I was four years ago, I’m several inches away from fitting into my Leavers’ Prom dress. And it was a very nice dress. The prom itself was rather a mixed bag of drunken friends, embarassing dances and painful goodbyes, but the dress was and still is lovely. Pity I can’t fasten the zip any more.

This is the best my hair has ever looked, before or since

Another reason is that I have a faint memory of maybe, at some point, possibly quite enjoying exercising. I’ve got the glimmer of a memory of getting up before dawn in the depths of winter to trek across town and exhaust myself skating around in the freezing cold air, and then running three million times around an 800m track while other, sylph-like, greyhound people whizzed past me. Even now, my traitorous legs sometimes start to twitch with an increasing insistency and will only be satisfied when I shut down the laptop or turn off the TV or close the book, and walk out of the house.

This is definitely not the best my hair has ever looked

But the main reason that I brave the unpredictable elements and staggeringly steep hills is this:

"Are you busy? You don't look very busy..."

Somehow the thought of a pink dress or the memory of my team isn’t as effective as those chocolate eyes and the quivery anticipation in his tail when I look like I might be thinking of going out, and the sheer exhilaration when he realises that YES we ARE going OUT right NOW in the GARDEN for a WALK is much better than another ten minutes on Facebook. Even if Facebook doesn’t come with flies and hills.