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June 20, 2016

“And if you’re feeling like you’ve stopped learning, If the wood in your fire ain’t burning, You better spark up a match, start turning your wheel…”

                                                                    - Trevor Hall, “Good Rain”

Can you have it all? 

Strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and power? Sometimes we yogis who practice everyday feel like we’re missing something. Often, we can sweat it out on the mat and endure an intense class feeling strong, yet die running a couple miles.

Or perhaps us gym rats can curl and squat a great deal of weight, and feel strong, yet lack the ability to do a handstand-press, hold our bodies in a forearm-stand, and can’t even touch our toes! There are many areas of fitness that each require something different to excel.

So, as a practicing “yogi”, can you have it all? A great cardio game, strong cut muscles, flexibility, power, and balance? Yes, for sure. As a fitness guru who likes to do it all, here are my tips on how you can be fit in pretty much every aspect.

First, let me qualify myself.

One year ago I started yoga from scratch. Now, after just a year, I would comfortably call myself “advanced” in practicing yoga. I don’t owe this drastic progress to a dance or gymnastics background, however; I do have a fitness background. I owe a lot of my quick progress to not only intense daily practice, but the strength I had beforehand. I lift, I run, I train for a Spartan Race each year (9-13 mile military-style obstacle course race), and now I have added yoga to the mix. I didn’t stop doing anything I was doing before; I simply added on yoga (and fell in love with it) and I’ll never go back. Since I often get asked about exactly what I do,
here's what a normal weekly routine looks like for me:

  • Monday- Lift legs + yoga 
  • Tuesday- Arms/Back & core + yoga 
  • Wednesday- Spin class (or legs) + yoga, teach yoga at night.
  • Thursday- Arms/Back & Core + yoga
  • Friday- Legs + yoga 
  • Saturday- Run, hill training + brief yoga 
  • Sunday- complete rest day 

Now that you’ve seen how I do it, let’s talk about YOU! Here are 5 tips to help you balance cardio and strength training with yoga practice!

1. Make the TIME

Now, I know my schedule above looks like it takes a lot of time and IT DOES. How do I do it? I get up really EARLY. I go to the gym from 5-6am, then do yoga from 630-8am almost every day. I have to get it  all done while my two little boys are still sleeping and my schedule is not for everyone. You must allow your schedule to fit YOU. Look at your week and make note which days you will have more time and which days you will have less and modify.  You do NOT have to fit in cardio, weights, and yoga everyday. Maybe you want to devote three days to yoga, and three days to cardio and weights. Or three days you’ll run a few miles, and then follow it up with yoga. Or lift weights/strength train two days a week, run/cardio two days a week, and yoga two days a week. You get the idea - the options are endless!

Once you’ve figured it out, it helps to sit down and write out what you want to do each day of the week. If you only have 30 mins to 1 hour each day, in your house, you can still do something. Spend half your time on strength training mixed with cardio (fatigues your muscles) and the other half on yoga. No Excuses.

2. You DON’T need a GYM PASS

You don’t have to go to the gym to strength train, and certainly not for cardio and yoga. I spent a couple years without a gym pass just working out in my bedroom every morning. I bought a pair of ankle weights, a set of 12lb dumbbells, and an exercise ball. That’s all I needed. You can use your stairs, your couch, your bed, the floor, the wall, your garage, your backyard…the possibilities pretty much depend on your creativity.

Hint: Use outside resources where available or buy some exercise DVDs. YouTube has an ARRAY of FREE fitness videos, workouts and yoga classes online that you can try out before you commit to a studio.  Pick a few of them to do a couple times a week, there are so many out there you can choose a different one each time.

Here are some options you can do at home to stoke your Inner Fire with little to no equipment:

  • Burpees
  • Push ups
  • High jumps
  • High kicks
  • Jump Ropes
  • Chatarunga Push ups
  • Crunches and all Ab exercises
  • Wall sits
  • Jump squats
  • Air squats (or with weight)
  • Jumping Lunges / Air lunges (or with weight)
  • Pull-ups
  • Handstand Push ups against the wall/ Handstand holds against the wall
  • Bicep curls (dumbbells)
  • Military press (dumbbells)

Switch it up and be FLEXIBLE

It’s good for your body and muscles to do different workouts so you don’t get burned out. Maybe  alternate your cardio routine by going to Zumba one day and spine class the next. Or choose outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and rock climbing. I always devote my Saturday workouts to being outside, that’s when I love to trail run in the mountains.  

If you need to switch a couple days’ workouts to get in everything you want, then do it, and don’t stress. If you need to skip a day completely, do it. If you need to skip legs because you hurt your knee, do it. Don’t let a schedule get you down or out of your flow, just work around it.

4. Use it ALL

Incorporate cardio, strength, and yoga into a few of your workouts, so you’re hitting all three areas at once. For example, when lifting weights at the gym, I mix in a lot of body-weight exercises; pull ups, push ups, handstand push ups, and a variety of squats. I also mix in spurts of cardio like HIIT training (High Intensity Interval Training), with high reps of burpees and jump squats. After that, I may end the session with stretching and yoga, flow through some vinyasas and poses, hand-stands, forearm stands, etc., and BOOM, I just hit all three areas. If done right, with little rest breaks (meaning you’re always doing something), this will get you sweating, and fatigue your muscles. Consistently moving will also keep you warm for stretching or yoga afterwards.

5. Have a REST DAY

Your body and your will thank you. Sunday is my rest day and I don’t do ANYTHING as my body needs it. YOUR body also needs it, including getting a good night's rest. Your muscles repair themselves while you sleep, so good sleep is vital to a successful program. Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it.

I’ll admit I’ve overdone it on several occasions, and consequently ended up injured. Under these circumstances because I have pushed myself too far I’ve had to wait until I heal and can’t do what I want.  It’s a nuisance that could’ve been avoided had I backed off a little. If a muscle or exercise hurts or aches (beyond just being sore), leave it alone for a few days. If that means modifying your schedule, then that’s what you have to do. It’s important to listen to your body. Strength, endurance, and flexibility take TIME - don’t rush it or push yourself so far that you end up hurt. Be self-aware and patient.

Incorporating cardio and strength training with yoga is a superb way to stay completely fit. Cardio will keep your heart healthy, strength training will keep your muscles and joints strong, and yoga will prevent injury in the other two areas.

So, to review:

  • Make time for all 3 mentioned areas of fitness
  • You don’t need a gym pass; you can do it all at home.
  • Switch up your workouts and be flexible with yourself
  • Have days that incorporate the 3 areas
  • Give yourself a rest day

I hope my training tips have helped, I know I owe a great deal of my health, happiness, and self-appreciation staying fit and making time to do what I’m passionate about. If you have any questions, or want to see examples of at-home workouts, exercises, and yoga flow tips, follow me on Instagram at @yogoskenz, and my hashtag #skenztips.

Keep that fire burning!

Luminary Kenzie Morley