Friday, February 27, 2015

Adventures in Yoga Matting

In running, it's said the only gear you need is shoes.

A person can buy a pair of "running" shoes anywhere, right? That's what we all used to think.

We all started with a pair of shoes we thought we could run with. The same pair of shoes we went to the gym in, or maybe the same pair we mow the grass in.

For most of us, that one pair end-all-be-all solution didn't last long. Our achy feet and knees told us it was time to step up and in to a real running shoe. We traded in a Kohl's purchase for a specialty running shoe store purchase. We no longer pick shoes by color or price, but by feel and experience.

Much the same can be said for the yoga mat.

My yoga practice started about ten years ago at Lifetime Fitness. Back then, I used the exercise mats the gym had. There were a few problems with the mats - They were too cushy for balance poses, the smelled horrible and they were too short.

That Christmas, I asked for a tall person yoga mat. Santa brought me one which met exceeded my needs and had none of the Lifetime mat's shortcomings. A year later, I moved and shelved yoga for years.

Two and a half years ago, that old yoga mat came back out as Sara and I toured yoga studios in the city looking for the right place. I first talked about my yoga mat evolution at that time here, which lead me to purchasing The Mat by Lululemon.

The Mat is an amazing upgrade for anyone who sweats during practice. And for those of us who pour buckets in class, well, you love The Mat even more.

As months went by, the only problem I had with The Mat is there wasn't enough of it. As in, it's 72" length wasn't enough for my 74" tall body. Not to mention the shifting through poses in class which would position me far off the front or back end of the mat.

Santa answered my yoga wishes once again and brought me The (Big) Mat by Lululemon. Not only is it longer than a standard mat (84" long) but it's also wider (29").

The Big Mat (at 8 1/4 pounds) stays at the studio and my original The Mat usually lives at home or sometimes travels with me. That is, until last week when I decided it was time to wash the studio mat. I brought the regular mat to the studio and have been using it for the past week.

After using the standard length mat for a few sessions, I'm reminded what a difference that extra space makes on the longer mat! If you're tall (or find yourself in need of more mat space one way or the other), look into a bigger mat. It really makes a difference!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Marathoning [equals] Morning Person

If there is one life habit that marathon training changed,  is it's made me a morning person.

A grateful morning person.

I remember my Mom trying to make me a morning person in my teens. I would fight her on it. Why would I want to get up that early when I could sleep? She would tell me that I might be pleasantly surprised in becoming a morning person. Those who rise early can get their to-do list done and still have a day ahead of them.

Well Mom, you were right.

However, like most children, I had to learn that lesson for myself.

I couldn't learn it just through graduating college and entering the workforce.  

Or by how I almost always opt to buy the first flight of the morning when I travel.

Oh no, I had to learn this in a 20-week commitment - marathon training.

If I remember correctly, I fought the morning runs for as long as I could. I signed up for the latest (6:30am) Saturday long run group. I ran my midweek runs after work. 

But that summer of 2008 was a hot one. 

If there's something my body liked less than getting up early, it was humidity and heat. 

I slowly eased into early morning runs like one starts training. First, to try out a short three mile run. It's only three miles. A mere 30 minutes of time. 

From there, out of necessity and seeing the benefits of (to avoid being cheesy, but) starting out on the right foot, I continued with morning mid-week training runs for years.

Certain race days or weekend long runs called for an earlier than 5am alarm. I think that's when it really hit home how much running was changing my sleeping habits. I was up and running some mornings before the sun rose. Or, on one occasion, Jeff, Jen, Sara, Kim and I were heading to run Fort2Base (a 12 Nautical Mile run from Fort Sheridan to Great Lakes Naval Station) while people were leaving the bars in Wrigleyville.  

If there's one thing that's been truly strange about this past summer, it's that I didn't wake up before the sun rose to run. It was weird to sleep in past 6am during the week. I felt like I accomplished less last summer. That I missed out on weeks of mornings with a beautiful sunrise.

As I ease back into a running regimen (and while the city's sidewalks melt), I find myself looking forward to those spring and summer mornings.