Kerry McCarthy is senior writer for Runner's World magazine. He has run 10 marathons, raced Usain Bolt and trained with Paula Radcliffe - but he hasn't been able to touch his toes since he was a child.
Hello and welcome to our new Yoga for Runners blog. If you're a regular reader of this website or Runner's World magazine you'll know the importance of stretching and flexibility in helping to make you a better runner and ward off injury.
After three years of on-off injury I decided that my new year's resolution this year was to see a little less of my physio and a little more of the great outdoors, so working on the premise that what's good enough for Ryan Giggs is good enough for me, I took up yoga. At first I thought - as I imagine many guys would - that yoga was either
a) A hobby for Birkenstock-wearing, dream-catcher-toting hippies.
b) For women.
How wrong I was. A month in (one session a week) I have already seen improvements in my running, my daily posture and my core strength - and I'm excited to see what improvements I make over the medium- to long term. So, to business.
There are numerous different branches of yoga, some more strenuous than others. This blog will focus specifically on Bikram yoga.
What exactly is yoga?
5000 years old, yoga in each of its forms is a series of intense stretches and poses designed to improve your body and mind. It strengthens your muscles, increases suppleness and flexibility, boosts oxygen flow to your muscles and brain, and improves concentration and relaxation.
The great thing about it is that, while there is a perfect way of doing each pose, few of us will ever do a pose perfectly - so the pressure's off. Although you see gym classes with 30 people all doing yoga together (and yes, with plenty of men in there as I've discovered), it's really a solitary pursuit. How quickly you progress and how hard you push is up to you. A person who progresses quicker than the person next to them is not necessarily better since our bodies are all different and we all start with different issues and aims.
What is Bikram yoga?
Bikram yoga is 26 postures, done in a certain order, and practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees fahrenheit.
The order the poses are done in is specifically designed to work all parts of the body - the nerves, the muscles, the veins, the ligaments, the internal organs - to their maximum without causing injury. The heated room obviously makes you sweat heavily, which helps to flush away toxins and impurities and improve circulation.
Over the next 12 months, we will post a fortnightly blog which will describe, using text and images, each of the 26 poses, explain which parts of the body they benefit and show you how to do them properly in the comfort of your own home.
We'll offer beginner and advanced options for each pose - so whether you've never tried yoga before or you've been practicing for some time, there'll be something there for you.
And don't worry, you won't need to install a sauna in your house to get a decent Bikram yoga practice. Simply turn the central heating up to maximum 10 minutes or so before you start and you'll definitely get enough of a sweat on to help you bend your way to a fitter you.
We'll be using advanced yogi and keen runner Olga Allon (check her out at www.hotbikramyoga.co.uk) as our resident expert offering tips and tweaks to make your experience better, and once every so often she'll pop onto the forums to answer any questions you may have.
Right, I'm off to go and sit in the lotus position for an hour...
Kerry is training with the help of the team at www.bikramyogauk.co.uk