The Rant

The Zen of Running

Who needs yoga? I'm never more at peace or in tune with my thoughts and body than when my feet are connecting with the ground.

My friend Joan recently headed off to Massachusetts for a weekend retreat chockfull of healthy, nutritious foods, spa treatments and time in nature. All of which sound fabulous to me. But at the heart of her retreat was yoga and lots of it. That's where she lost me.

While a weekend of yoga appeals to what feels like the entire world these days, it kind of makes my hair stand on end. It's not that I haven't tried yoga; for a time, I kind of enjoyed it in small doses. But these days, I've come to realize me practicing yoga is like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

Part of this, I know, is that I found my activity of choice years ago, and it's running. I know plenty of runners find yoga to be the perfect complement to our sport. But I don't. And here's the thing: I'm tired of yogis aggressively shoving it down my throat. Kind of breaks with the whole Zen thing, you know?

I understand that yoga can be a beautiful time to connect mind and body. A peaceful break from the stresses of life, a grounding force for when you return. A contemplative hour or two to center yourself, breath deeply and fill your well.

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Do you know why I understand this? Because this is exactly what I get from running. I am never more at peace or in tune with my thoughts and body than when I am connecting with the ground at 180 steps per minute. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature, kicking rich, brown dirt up onto the backs of my legs as I descend down single track deep in a forest.

But runners are so tight, you say. Yep, we are. Studies even show that runners are better off with a little inflexibility. Too much bendiness and your stride loses the elastic recoil it needs to efficiently propel you forward. So, I have no desire to strive for a Gumby-like existence. I can't reach my toes and I never will.

While I'm at it, I have to wonder what's going on with yoga these days, too. Have you noticed the trend to add on all sorts of crazy things to yoga classes? Goats. Cats. Pots. Beer. And nudity. Why in god's name, if yoga is such a perfect activity, does it need accessories? Especially live accessories that like to bite—a frightening prospect if you're naked, I might add.

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Running, on the other hand, is good to go all by itself. I've got my watch and my shoes. Maybe a hat. Then I walk out my door and do my thing.

I think running is just about as perfect as it gets. It boosts my cardiovascular fitness, builds muscle and connects me to nature. It has a decidedly meditative quality to it, too. You might say it's rather Zen. I love it.

My non-running friends will tell you, however, that I never suggest they should try it. If they like yoga, but don't want to run, I don't insist they are missing out on incredible heart-pumping sessions. I never say they need some cardio to complement all that slow-paced movement.

To my mind, we each need to find our own activity and as long as that benefits you physically and mentally, we should leave it at that.

So, yogis, how about we strike a deal? You do you, and I'll do me.