Student Stories: Adding Bikram Yoga to a Marathon Training with Gayle

I started doing Bikram yoga in 2011. I had run a marathon and I promised myself that when I got through the marathon that I was going to take a break and find something else that I enjoy. I knew a couple of people who did Bikram and liked it so I decided to try it. Of course like most people, I found a Groupon and started going. I just loved it from the start. I felt like it was a really good complement to my running, that it definitely strengthened my running. I decided to run a marathon the following year using Bikram to help me train. I took over a half an hour off of my marathon time and ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I did the Boston Marathon in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Most runners, especially marathon runners think that it’s more about mileage. That you have to put in a lot of mileage in in order to succeed or even just to survive a marathon. A lot of people are old-fashioned and they think that everything you do is running and maybe weight machines. If training, in a perfect world I would probably run 4 days a week and do Bikram 2 days a week. You do have to get some miles in. But, I am over 50 and at this point in my life it’s really important that I don’t put that mileage in and that I find something else. That’s what Bikram has done. I feel like when I am doing Bikram I am the strongest that I’ve ever been. So I’m a big believer and I think that doing Bikram has allowed me to run longer, run more, and it just keeps me healthy. When you get older you can’t even put on one pound a year because that’s 10 pounds in a decade. So in addition it helps me manage my weight, my cholesterol is down 30 points from 3 years ago. I feel like yoga has something to do with it.

When I tried this studio (Bikram Yoga Hampden), I just felt a lot more comfortable. I have always liked all the instructors and I really like the atmosphere. I think it’s worth it to do to a studio that you like. A lot of people think that yoga is just about the stretching. People don’t think about how much strength it gives you. It wasn’t a good year for me, I think that doing more yoga would’ve helped me qualify successfully [to the Boston Marathon]. I really think that more runners should be aware. There is a big running community and I think that Bikram is a tough workout and particularly beneficial for that reason. When you are training for a spring marathon or race of any length, you train all in cold weather and you could go out the day of the race and it’s 95 degrees. I’ve always thought “If that happens, I’ve got Bikram under my belt.” I am used to being in the heat which is another aspect that you get from it. I think there should be a market for runners and Bikram. I certainly tell everyone I know.

There are a lot of yoga poses I still can’t do and some of that has to do with my running. I always joke with Sarah (the owner) that yoga is so good for my running and running is so bad for my yoga. My thigh muscles… I just can’t get my foot up. But I am not going to quit. I think it helps with mental toughness. You go into that room and you know it’s going to be hard and hot and you’re going to sweat like crazy but you go in anyways because you know that by the time you finish everything will be a little bit better. Today Sarah was talking about the balance between determination and patience. You do want to be determined and you do want to get that pose but you have to be patient with yourself. That definitely helps with running.

I got a knee injury and haven’t seem to be able to make much progress with it so I am running a lot less. In the yoga room though I feel like my knee is progressing. I think that people only have so many miles on them and I think that I’ve hit that limit. Most knee doctors would agree with me on that one. I have a relative who is a knee specialist and he always says “your knees were not built to run 26 miles.” Some people can do it longer than others. For me it has been a matter of accepting that I am in my 50’s and I just feel like yoga is the best thing that I can do for myself. When I want that combination of yoga and really feeling like I’ve gotten a workout, I do Bikram.


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