Men are creatures of habit, and nowhere is this more evident than in the gym. In my personal experience, I have seen guys do the same routine not just for weeks or months, but for years. They know the day of the week by the body part they’re working on. Chest, arms, shoulders/back, legs – rinse and repeat. They do their sets in the same order, even if they have to wait for equipment. And cardio guys can be even worse. They migrate not only to the same type of equipment, but often the same exact PIECE of equipment. Cardio row is as predictable as the barstool line-up on Cheers. Norm!

Yoga photo

Believe me, I am not making fun of my fellow male fitness brethren. I give them credit for being there, that’s more than most people do. But there has to be more, right? We just need to a reason to make a change. For me, it was a realization that man must not live on strength and stamina alone. There is a third point on the fitness triangle: flexibility.

Unlike the loss of speed or a decline in physical power, which most guys notice and grudgingly accept as part of the aging process, increased muscle tightness and inflexibility kind of sneaks up on you undetected. For me as a person who discovered distance running later in life, tightness in my hips, hamstrings, and calves began to surface as the demands of the road became greater in training for longer races. Sprains, strains, micro tears, and muscle pulls can blow a huge hole in even the most tightly structured running plan. Luckily, I discovered a way to stay on schedule with “Intro to Yoga with Nancy” at Club Julian!

Cards on the table, I knew ZERO about yoga walking into that studio for the first time on a Sunday afternoon. To me, the word “Yogi” evoked images of either the cartoon bear or the guy who used to play catcher for the Yankees. But Nancy really makes it easy to get started. “That there are fundamental skills required to begin yoga is a misconception embraced by many prospective students,” explains Nancy. “No skills are required, unless one includes a desire to attempt something new and the patience to feel better while practicing yoga. Just bring you, as you are.”

Nancy is the absolute perfect instructor for the beginner’s class because she takes the time to learn everyone’s name, demonstrates and explains the various postures and poses thoroughly, and is extremely observant and patient in correcting form. The class is challenging at first, but gets easier as you become acclimated. The atmosphere is serene and supportive, a pleasant deviation from most of my gym workouts that revolve around grunting and the clanging of weights. Against the backdrop of Eastern mediation music and the calm of Nancy’s voice, you learn the basics, from downward dog to sunflower. You also learn the importance of controlling your breathing, which is critical to runners.

But what really struck me about the class was how you feel afterward! When you clear your mind and get the blood flowing throughout your entire body, it is invigorating beyond description. You can feel yourself improving with each session. It really is true that you “practice” yoga. And I have also noticed the benefits in my half marathon training. “Long distance running tightens and shortens various muscle groups,” says Nancy. “Yoga elongates tense and contracted muscles and translates into greater flexibility, range of motion, and more fluid movements. Stretched and relaxed muscles equal longer and stronger running strides. Oxygen accelerates the healing process and Yoga protects the body from injury.”

“Intro to Yoga” is open to all Club Julian members on Sundays at 12:30pm. Nancy also teaches a basic “Senior Yoga” on Fridays at 10am, which despite its name is open to people of all ages. Other excellent beginner yoga classes at CJ include “Yoga with Sharon” at 6am on Tuesdays (tons of guys in this class!) and “Basic Yoga with Sharon” on Wednesdays at 3:30pm. You may also want to check out “Aroma Yoga with Colleen” on Monday nights at 8:15pm.

And guys, just so you know, the group fitness room is that big room to left of the stairs. I am betting some of you have never been in there!