When did you decide to incorporate Bikram Yoga into your training as an ultra marathon runner, and why?
I fully incorporated Bikram Yoga into my training in December of 2010 thanks to its tremendous benefits, which happen to be the very things one needs to be a better runner: focus and letting go, discipline and perseverance, stretching and strengthening. Since merging Bikram Yoga and ultra running I’ve won every 100-mile race I’ve participated in, won the Calgary Marathon and finished second at the 2011 World Ultra Trail Running Championships.
How does Bikram Yoga fit into your training these days?
Each week I run over 145 miles and do three to seven Bikram Yoga classes. While there is rarely a class that I don’t also run to and from, I often go off of “feel,” fitting in whatever is best for that day. I also take my development as a runner into account, as well as certain physical and mental aspects I feel that I need to focus on in preparation for my next race.
Has Bikram Yoga made you a stronger runner?
Actually, Bikram Yoga has made me a better man all around. To me it’s almost as if the two are no longer separate or different … but if I had to name the improvements specifically, they would revolve around increased efficiency in my body, my mind and even my soul. For me, the spiritual power of embracing my breathing and letting go of my thoughts ties directly into my potential as a runner.
Any tips for runners who want to incorporate Bikram Yoga into their training?
Whether you want to run casually or your goal is to race more seriously, you may feel that your development as a runner are limited; happily, incorporating Bikram Yoga into your training can push your potential much, much further. The most important thing is to remain “open.” As an athlete, if there is too much trying or effort taking the place of technique or true focus, you close the door on reaching your true potential.
Having said that, I can tell you that I am now at a point where I can do a long run (over five hours) immediately after I practise. I can even run to and from back-to-back yoga sessions. But it was really important for me to build up to this point.
Like any aspect of training, Bikram Yoga must be integrated into your training in a balanced way – if you want to successfully unleash its full potential. How do you that? The following tips worked for me, and I hope they can do the same for you!
Tips on Bikram Yoga for Runners
Start by separating your yoga from your running, in order to allow your body to adapt. Keep it simple: try one day of running followed by a day of yoga. Once you’re sure that your body is OK with the mix, start to shorten the gap between the two activities or change the intensity/time or type of your running. For example: do a week of run, rest, yoga, rest; then a week of run, yoga, rest; then a week of run, yoga, run, rest; etc.
The effort put into your Bikram Yoga practice should always be the same – only your focus should intensify. The key for success is to “simply focus and focus simply.” Don’t do any extra movements between the postures, go in and out of each posture with as much intent and concentration as when you are holding the poses, breathe deeply in and out through your nose and, above all else, hold Savasana (its power is beyond thinking). The intensity of your running in combination with your yoga can be improved by adapting the different aspects of time and type.
Start with only easy running while adding Bikram Yoga, then advance to closing the gap between the two activities. Time mostly relates to lengthening your running sessions in relation to how soon after (or before) you practise Bikram Yoga. Build up and back off as needed, or as your body demands.
Once that’s done, go back to separating the two activities, adding in “quality” training sessions such as a tempo run done at your lactate threshold or around 80% of your maximum heart rate. Then do both yoga and running on the same day with both at an easy effort. Then the final level is making that running a quality session.