Skiing (or biking, depending on conditions) to Mcgrath in the Iditarod Trail Invitational has been a dream of mine for over ten years. After three Susitna 100 wins on skis, as well as a handful of 24-hour mountain bike and ski race wins, this event became the next challenge I wanted to do.
But alas, about five years ago my body gave me a reality check with a herniated disc in my lower back (an MRI revealed a few actually but only one causing significant difficulty). After five years of on-again off-again bouts of pain and immobility, I feel as though I’ve got a good enough grasp on things to compete in an ultra-marathon again. However, if I’ve learned anything at all it’s that I need to go into this event prepared.
My approach is complex: consciously balancing endurance, strength, and flexibility with a healthy diet, mental clarity, and an intelligent approach.
As an athlete, I don’t utilize yoga for the workout. I don’t need a hot room and a lot of movement to make me sweat after I’m tired from a long ski or bike ride. The typical thought about yoga is that it increases your flexibility. Maybe. It can if that’s your focus but it can do much more than make you limber. First I’d like to acknowledge that flexibility does prevent injury. A rigid body can be very strong, but once it’s forced beyond it’s normal extent it’s more likely to break. A limber body has the flexibility to be pushed beyond it’s normal range without as much risk for injury.
The main thing yoga does for me is bring focus and clarity into what I’m trying to accomplish. Restorative, Yin, and Yoga Nidra can all be used to reduce tension and stress in the body as well as the mind. A stressed mind results in a stressed body. Period. A clear mind allows for the creation of clear intentions that allow you to more fully achieve your desired goals. DEHA Yoga is the best place I’ve been to that provides the right atmosphere and instruction to be able to center my mind, clarify my intentions, and relax the body enough to let go of the physical and mental stress that inhibits recovery.
Fitness classes can be a great way to get into shape. However, I’m active every day either hiking, biking, skiing, running, etc.- something outside goes into almost every day of my life. (My dogs make sure of that.) With a deteriorating disc in my lower back, I’ve got to keep my core muscles strong to compensate. What fitness classes provide for me are structured and varied workouts that activate and engage the core muscles that aren’t utilized in my everyday activities. Honestly, I’ve never been much for working out in a gym or taking classes, but I am quickly realizing the importance of expanding my general fitness. Aerobic capacity isn’t everything!
I’ve started working out at Uptown Athletic to get my core stable, strong, and balanced for the 350 miles it’ll have to endure in February. They’ve got early morning classes that allow me to get a workout in before the work day so I can get out and ski or bike in the evening. Perfect!