By Caree Vander Linden
Many of the runners I know have discovered yoga and used it as a tool to complement their training or recover from injury. My path was a little different: The practice of yoga led me back to running after a 30-year hiatus. Now, I can’t imagine one without the other.
Back in my 20s, I experimented with running, in part because my boyfriend (now husband) liked it. We ran together and even did a couple of 5K races. Frankly, I hated it. Running felt like work to me, largely because I could never seem to get the breathing right. Once I discovered group exercise, I became an instructor and ditched running in favor of step, cardio dance, kickboxing and other high-impact pursuits.
Fast forward to my mid-40s: I was juggling two kids, a day job, and a part-time teaching gig at the gym. I had very little time to myself, I wasn’t in my best shape, and I was feeling a little frustrated. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a yoga studio owned by a former acquaintance, and the timing was perfect. Here was a workout that strengthened my body and soothed my busy mind. I was hooked! Within months, I had signed up for a 200-hour teacher training program.
After a few years of teaching yoga, I realized that was my true calling, and decided to give up the step classes for good. But I still needed to keep moving. One day in 2016, I saw an email from the Steeplechasers about their free training programs, including one for a women’s 5K race. I thought about my long-ago running days, and wondered if I could even run a mile, let alone three. But I was intrigued, and I also knew the coach because she took my Friday night yoga class, so I figured I’d give it a try.
That training program was a blast! I participated in the Frederick Women’s Distance Festival, made lots of new friends, and kept running. Since then, I’ve completed about two dozen 5Ks, a handful of 5- and 10-mile races, and my first half marathon—something I never would have contemplated without the support of my running community.
As my journey continues, I’ve come to realize that yoga and running have a lot in common. Yoga and running can each be practiced solo (though they’re usually more fun in a group), and both require minimal equipment (a mat, a pair of shoes). More specifically, both rely on breath, core strength, and mindfulness.
My yoga practice teaches me how to breathe, and that’s made a big difference in my ability to run. Yoga also strengthens my core, which helps me to hold standing poses and to run with better form. Finally, yoga allows me to focus on the present moment, without judgment and without expectations. That’s especially useful during a race, when my mind constantly wants to jump around and anticipate what’s next.
“Sangha” is a Sanskrit word commonly translated as “beloved community.” It’s used to describe a group of yoga practitioners who are engaged in serving and bringing joy to one another, and who inspire each other to contribute. I believe that is also a perfect description of our club, and I’m so grateful for this running practice that brings all of us together.