At age 35, Debbie Cropper, an elementary school teacher in Anchorage, Alaska, was suffering from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, hypothyroid disease, anxiety, and anorexia. Fifteen years later, Cropper had run 50 marathons (one in every state), taken control of her anxiety, and improved her flexibility. Running made her confront her eating disorder head on by realizing that she needed to eat to do what she loved. Her daily yoga practice allowed her to begin to take control of her anxiety and learn to better manage her chronic depression and fatigue. Cropper credits her practice with sustaining her both physically and mentally during her rigorous training schedule. Yoga not only helped her place in marathons in 38 states, she says, but also gave another dimension to her goal.
“Even though I was racing and wanted to place, the challenge became about the experience: slowing down, taking the time, and absorbing,” says Cropper about applying lessons from her yoga practice. “It became less and less about how I did in the marathon and more about what I accomplished when I was there.”
Despite struggling with yoga in the beginning and having to learn to relax, Cropper never missed a chance to fit in at least 15 minutes of yoga into her day while in training, whether it was a class at a nearby YMCA or a DVD in a hotel room. Thanks to her practice, she says, she was able to finish tough races that made her feel like quitting and to learn to handle the challenges and transitions in her life.
“Running 50 marathons in 50 states gave me self-awareness, acceptance, and humility. It really humbled me,” said Cropper. “There’s something about the running community that is accepting and nurturing, and it builds confidence. It helped me learn more about myself and how good people really are.”
Go the Distance: Post-run poses can enhance your running performance.
Training for a fall marathon? Make yoga your training partner. “Yoga helps you stay injury-free by cultivating a balance between strength and flexibility in the body,” says yoga teacher and running coach Sage Rountree, Yoga Journal’s Active Yogi blogger. Rountree suggests these four post-run poses to help you cool down, stretch and strengthen running muscles, and release built-up tension:
1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
2. Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III)
3. Malasana (Garland Pose)
4. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), using a table, tree, or fence as a prop