Detroit Bikram Student Spotlight

Mami Kato, Detroit Bikram Student Spotlight Mami Kato

TO ALL runners, marathoners, and athletes.... this is worth the read! Our yoga student Mami Kato gets remarkable results from just one Bikram Yoga class per week! Mami, we are proud of the great results you are getting in your life, and we love the great attitude that you have towards your yoga practice and your passion for running!

"I'm a classically trained pianist turned attorney. I discovered Bikram Yoga about ten years ago around the same time I began running casually. I wish I could say I maintained a steady practice since then, but that's not the case. Consequently, my story begins about a year ago when Bikram Yoga became an integral part of my newly discovered love affair with long distance running.      READ MORE...

In 2012 after running my third half marathon with practically no training, I had the audacity to think that I could run a full marathon, and run it well. After all, it can't be that hard if I could run a decent half marathon without training, right? Long story short, I learned to respect the distance the hard way - I struggled to pace myself and hit the dreaded 'wall' at mile 16 with more than 10 miles to go. Despite the painful experience, I didn't want this to be a 'bucket list' thing - I wanted to run a good marathon.

The following year, I joined Running Fit 501 Training Team, met some like-minded (read 'crazy') runners, and felt that I could shoot for 3:40, 5 minutes under the Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group. The race day came, and the wheels fell off at mile 19 due to dehydration, electrolyte deficiency, and…something else. My calves completely cramped between miles 23 and 24, and I missed my BQ by 6 minutes. In a Monday morning quarterbacking with my coach the following week, she asked me a question that changed everything: 'What did you do to train your core strength?'

Despite the decent (though not enough) miles I logged last summer, I didn't pay any attention to my core or flexibility. The 'something else' that killed the race was my weak core that put more burdens on my legs than they could handle on their own for 26.2 miles. I could still qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon by running a qualifying time in the spring of 2014, but something had to change in my training.

Prompted by a Thanksgiving weekend special, I attended a Bikram Yoga class after a hiatus of more than a year. The notion that Bikram Yoga was the answer to my coach's question didn't even enter my mind then. After a frustrating (I used to be able to do this pose!) but rewarding (wow, I actually survived the entire class!) initial class, I signed up for one month (why not, it can't hurt). Two weeks and 6 classes later, I noticed something incredible during one of my routine Saturday long runs at Kensington Metropark. I wasn't struggling to run up the hills anymore! I generally avoided the hills during the summer because, well, they are hard and Detroit is a flat course. I routinely struggled behind my teammates on hills, breathing as if my life depended on it. But that Saturday, I was pulling ahead of my teammates, keeping up with one of the faster runners. I was breathing hard, but within a reasonable range. And my quads weren't burning either.

Mami enjoying the hills at Kensington Park

And this wasn't a fluke. We ran a few more hills that Saturday, and it was the same story.  Ever since then, my teammates grimace at my enthusiasm for tackling the hills. It didn't take long for me to put the pieces together - the only thing I changed for my winter training was to add once (or twice) a week yoga practice.  I got faster throughout the winter despite having to train in the Polar Vortex. Hills became my friends. And I was injury free.

By the time spring marathon rolled around, my coaches were confident that I could reasonably aim to run a 3:30 marathon.I toed the starting line of the Glass City Marathon in April, knowing that I did everything I could to get there including keeping up with my yoga practice. Mile 20 came, and I didn't hit the wall. My legs got tight at the end, but they didn't break down. And I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 28 minutes, and earned my spot in the 2015 Boston Marathon. This summer, I upped my mileage, but made sure to get myself into the hot room at least once a week. After 750 miles of training runs and 20 or so Bikram classes, I crossed the finish line of my third Detroit Free Press Marathon in 3:21:25 with steady negative splits. Bikram Yoga will most certainly be an integral part of the training for my first Boston Marathon next April.

Mami in Standing Bow Pulling Pose

As a runner, Bikram Yoga has given me a number of physical benefits: train my quads and core strength, and increase my lung capacity as well as flexibility. I routinely find that I'm breathing much easier than my teammates running the same pace. I last longer at a faster pace while maintaining good form, and you know my affection for running up the hills now. Mentally, my yoga practice has taught me to be patient and listen to my body. We have all heard our teachers tell us to listen to our body on that particular day in that particular class, and not to compare ourselves to fellow yogi around us. 26.2 miles (even 13.1 miles) is a long way where anything can happen. I could do everything right in training, but still have a bad race day. I have to be attuned to what my body is telling me, and pull back if necessary. Maintaining my pace and resisting the urge to chase other runners in early miles require tremendous discipline and patience.

Running high mileage, flexibility is a constant struggle in my yoga practice. I have to be patient, week after week, knowing that whatever millimeter improvement I might have accomplished that week in my yoga practice could be wiped away by 55 miles of hard running by the end of the week.  If I feel tight after days of running, I have to pull back and not push too hard in the room. Fixed firm pose will always be a torture - my knees will probably never touch so long as I keep up the mileage. My yoga practice is not without its share of frustrations - I don't know if my lifted leg will ever lock in the standing head-to-knee pose. But I know for certain that I could never have run the two marathons in 2014 as successfully as I did without my yoga practice, and that makes all of the frustrations totally worth it.

Post-race at Glass City Marathon

I've heard that some elite runners swear by Bikram Yoga for preventing running injuries, and I agree with that assessment. But my experience tells me that Bikram also makes you a stronger runner, both in speed and endurance.  Runners are generally inflexible bunch. We have to be careful and listen to our bodies when practicing Bikram because the hot room could bring out our competitive nature and lead us to over extend ourselves.  The discipline it teaches us is invaluable.  And I know that my yoga practice will get me to many more Boston Marathons and even faster half and full marathons in the near future.

Happy Running!"

~ Mami Kato