When we focus on breathing

Everything hurts.

While I have trained for, ran in, and even finished a marathon, I realized today that my training was very specific. Now this may seem like an obvious thing — you train for what you are trying to get better at. But when you do something that’s related to what you have trained for, you really see (and feel!) how different terrain has its own challenges.

trail running - takamizusanzan 2

This is not where I ran today, but I did run where there were lots of roots on the ground. (Photo credit: Matthieu LIENART)

Today was the start of trail running, and more yoga. Trail running is amazing here. You get to run through amazing West Coast forests and mountains with amazing views. You also get to run uphill and gain a lot of elevation, quickly. On today’s run we gained almost 600m of elevation in just under 4km (2,000 ft in 2.5 miles). That’s a lot of running up.

You don’t really notice this as you are running. You do notice when you stop at a look-out and later see how much different the view is from another vantage point. You are so much higher that you see so much more. When you are running, you’re mostly focused on not tripping and where the hill might possibly end. (There are always false summits where you turn a corner and it’s just more hill). What I noticed, at the top of most of the hills, is how hard I was breathing (still battling a bit of a cold) but also how much my legs were screaming. At one point my quads hurt more, for a moment, than any hill workout we’ve done in recent memory.

You don’t notice how many steps it takes you to go so high, or so far. When we are only focused on the results or a destination, we forget all the little steps that get us to where we are. I don’t mean to say we need to focus on every little step, but sometimes we can reflect that there are so many steps. So many times we re-commit to ourselves and so many times we continue to take those little steps. So many times we give up something else to keep going. So many times we choose to keep going and push ourselves a little bit more. And we take those steps, and then we can see farther than we have before.

RCTP & RVTraveller - Gowland Todd Park Vancouv...

This is definitely a worthy view. (Photo credit: SonnyandSandy)

The result of going up to magnificent views also means going down. Coming down always seems like a breeze; it’s faster and less energy. But it’s your legs that keep you in control and keep your speed manageable and it’s using those same legs that just ran up so far.  There are times where I feel like I’m running so slowly uphill I could walk faster. Sometimes this is even true. There are also times when I feel like I could not run another step, but give me a few minutes to catch my breath and suddenly I can run faster than before. This is a cruel and tricky mind game for me. I am spent and tired, but my recovery is getting faster and I can exert myself more. But my consistency (endurance) for going up a hill is not quite there yet.

So I ran with view points, surrounded by nature, and really using my quads to make it a great first trail run. There was no rain and even though it poured and poured yesterday, the trails had enough cover on them that they really weren’t even muddy yet.

I got home, showered, and did my quick Sunday turn-around to head out to yoga.

I  felt a little frustrated after I got home from the trail run and before I got to yoga. Just one of those days where you compare yourself to others, or don’t like yourself, or don’t like the way someone else is driving on the road. In general, petty frustration. But I took it to heart and was feeling like I was wearing myself out.

I got to yoga and tried to feel serene. It does take me a while, but it does happen. With all that focused breathing somethings gotta give, and usually it’s your ego that has to learn to step aside.

I’m someone who is pretty physically flexible and I like to feel like I am physically strong. If you ask me to do push-ups, I’m not going to get on my knees and do them. Yoga is not about being strong; or, not in the way that I tend to think. I feel more like a bull crashing around with my thoughts and unbalanced body and tight muscles than a Yogini. Their strength comes from within, and they can out-strength me because they know HOW to use their body to do it.

Today we worked on controlling our diaphragm to support our torso and body as we did our poses. Trying to become familiar with my floating ribs and how my diaphragm moves up and my breath moves down made my head spin. Never mind that after we had our breath moving down into our feet we would stand on one leg and, not moving our torso, transition into a warrior pose. I could definitely sense the difference between having your body aligned and ready for the pose and allowing it to be graceful (and correct) in contrast to locking up your back, moving into position, and then trying to breath and hold the pose. I realize it’s only been my second class, but I’m still not sure if my mind or my body processes more during the class.

Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

Even sitting cross-legged hurt, never mind the lotus pose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I appreciate it, as it’s teaching me patience. I am short on patience.

And now, I am also really tired and everything hurts. I think my body has not been over-exerted, but exerted in ways it is not routinely used to, and this is more tiring and taxing. Funny how we can do something so well, but try something a little different and we need to learn and re-learn all over again. I think we call this growth.

* How do you access your inner strength? (yogic or otherwise)

* Do you ever feel like you are in miserable shape when you try to do something out of your normal routine?

* Do you ever feel petty frustrations but just can’t seem to shake the feeling?


13 thoughts on “When we focus on breathing

  1. Hi Tania. Yes, I can relate with feeling out of shape when trying something new. Changing up a routine can be frustrating but liberating at the same time. I’ve recently had to take time off, let go of old, silly running habits and trust a new training plan. Tough initially, but I can see the benefits now. Those hills will feel easier to you in no time, and good for you fitting in yoga as well! Hope to hit the trails with you soon…Thetis relay? 🙂

    • Hi Alex,
      I think trust has a lot to do with change. When we compare ourselves to others (a bad, bad habit of mine) we tend to see differences. We rarely focus on what strengths we have in common and what is working for us. You are smart to go with a different training plan – one that works for you!
      I know my body will adapt and things will get easier.

      Not sure about Thetis. I may be out of town.

  2. So nice to read about your trail running. It is an entirely different beast. I’m regularly amazed at how strong I feel when I run on the road, and I know it’s mostly attributable to trail running. I can only imagine those wonderful trails you have to run on. Mine are mostly flat, full of roots, and somewhat claustrophobic. Not complaining, just lamenting!

    Yoga provides a great balance to trail running. I am trying to “find the time” to add some meditation to my practice. I know yoga is also considered a type of active meditation, but I truly struggle with sitting meditation. That tells me I need to do more of it. Balance in our lives is so tough to achieve these days.

    • This was a great comment! I know that trail running tends to feel much slower (because it is). I also remember getting back to the pavement and reminding myself that I had to get going! Definitely going up all those hills will make you stronger.
      I’m also liking the yoga serenity. As you say, “finding the time” to do more is so hard. I’m still getting up at 5am to be able to swim, but I find it’s really hard on me when I don’t get enough sleep.

      You could try as little as 5 min of meditation each day and just leave it be what it is. Maybe you will then create time as you need to.

  3. I am really enjoying your blog. So glad you were FP’d, otherwise, I may not have found you. 🙂

    I am not a runner, not by any stretch of the imagination; however, I do *get* what you’re saying. Five years ago, I returned to ballet. Every Wednesday I attend an evening adult ballet class. I never know from one week to the next what my body is going to do or how it is going to feel. Sometimes, I feel like I am on top of the world, every position, every movement is done with precision and perfect flow; other times, I feel like that ballet dancing hippo in Disney’s Fantasia (I think it’s Fantasia – my mind isn’t what it used to be). My body betrays me at every turn. I feel clumsy, clunky, heavy and uncoordinated.


    The human body is a mystery. Would you agree?


    • So glad to have you along as well!
      Yes, when we are so used to how we do something we assume time means nothing. Like I could just sit on the couch for a year and then bust out and run a marathon and not feel a thing. Yeah, that’s not going to happen (sad).

      I agree that the human body is a mystery. I think by using it we learn more. Good for you for getting back into ballet, Fantasia or otherwise. 😉

  4. Enjoyed your writing.

    To experience and appreciate the “life force” within our breath is the greatest source of personal peace, because living within the conscious feeling of this power will tame our wandering mind and allow us to be who we really are – our true self – in peace and love.

    The gift of breath is everything – the beginning and end of human life. This is not something to be taken for granted, but is a reason, every moment of our life, to feel appreciation and infinite gratitude.

    Those who are motivated from the longing and thirst withing, will find the way – it is their destiny.

    This is a life long journey and we have this whole life to practice. The results DO come but perseverance is the key.

    All dreams come true – in their own time.

    • Breath -breathing- is such a central part of who we are that it is easy to take for granted. But to be aware, and present in a moment is much harder than it seems. To quiet the mind to allow only breath is something we need to actually practice.
      I find after my yoga practice I am sometimes more tired than after a run simply because my breathing was more focused and purposeful. But I feel my Inner Calm, and am thankful for that awareness.

  5. Thanks so much for this. One of my dreams is to run a big M and your helpful run down will help me run it down. My body isn’t letting me at the moment… A year ago I was so close to going for it, now I grieve for those months.
    I mustn’t cry. But when I’m not running to my potential I feel like doing that.
    I wish we could train together. One day…

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