Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Athlete's Guide to Yoga

The more I read and the more I begin to practice what I'm reading, I'm becoming a firm believer in whole-body strength including a strong core, balance, flexibility, and the mind-body connection. Developing all of these areas helps build endurance as well as provide you with a built-in "back-up" system, because each area supports the other. A strong core supplies the energy and supports the legs. Flexibility and balance helps prevent injury. Having a strong mind-body connection helps a runner become more aware of his/her body, knowing when to pull-back or push-through without injury. I'm also learning how important breathing is to the endurance athlete.

Yoga is a time-honored discipline that helps pull all of these areas together. Through Twitter, I've befriended the creator of two new tools for athletes. Sage Rountree is the author of The Athlete's Guide to Yoga (Velopress, 2008) as well as the DVD of the same name from Endurance Films. Sage really knows her stuff. She's a registered yoga teacher as well as a certified USA Triathlon and USA Cycling coach. She's also a runner having run everything from 5Ks to the half-ironman to the marathon, including Boston, with a PR of 3:39.

I am a complete novice to the practice of yoga. I began my first yoga experience a few months ago reviewing the DVD, Yoga for Runners and got hooked. I'm still a novice and have a great deal to learn, but the added flexibility and breathing control that I've gained so far have been very helpful in my running. That's why I was so excited to have learned about Sage's book and DVD.

For many, myself included, yoga can be somewhat overwhelming and intimidating because of the way it's often portrayed on TV—the meditating guru in a contortionist pose that you know you'll never be able to achieve. Well, like many things in the media, that's not a realistic portrayal of yoga. There are many beginner-level yoga classes, books, and DVDs available the will help you get started.

I was immediately drawn to Sage's book because I knew it was geared for athletes. In the preface of her book, she says she hated her first yoga class. With this kind of honesty, I knew right then, this author could relate to the runner and wannabe yoga student. We runners often can't see the point of doing something that doesn't involve aerobic exercise or strength training. Why do we need yoga? I stretch after I run. It will take precious time away from my training.

There are some good books available on yoga for runners and athletes, but The Athlete's Guide to Yoga goes a step further. This book explains how incorporating yoga into your training routine can benefit your overall strength, flexibility, and endurance. Not only does it explain the benefits of flexibility, strength, balance, injury prevention, and mental training, it shows you how to incorporate it into your training routines.

If you're a triathlete, you already know how hard it is to get in the needed training for the three events (swim, bike, run), so trying to add strength training and yoga into your already busy weekly training routine can seem daunting. Sage does the work for you by providing sample weekly workout charts including the strength and yoga elements for the base period, building period, and the peak period weeks of your triathlon training. She also provides similar workout charts for runners training for the half-marathon.

The book provides a wealth of photos showing each pose and the content is written in a very user-friendly tone. I'm a bit dyslexic with following directions so, if I can figure out the poses and be successful in completing them, just about anybody can.

Another added benefit is the home routines provided at the end of the book. Sage has provided several routines for warm-up, core -strengthening , cool-down, restorative, etc. This handy guide provides miniature photos of each pose in the routine as well as the page number in the book where more information can be found regarding each pose if needed. I actually ended up pulling this section out of my copy of the book and I use it as a quick reference when doing the various routines.

A sample DVD is included with the book which provides a preview of the full DVD version of the book. The sample DVD actually provides a complete warm-up & cool-down routine. The full DVD version mimics the book in its simplicity and non-intimidating ease-of-use. One great advantage of the DVD is that you can use the preset yoga routines that are provided or you can arrange the segments on the DVD to create your own personalized workout. Almost like having your own personal yoga instructor.

I highly recommend you try out Sage's book, The Athlete's Guide to Yoga and the DVD. A whole new world of strength, flexibility, and focus will be opened up to you that will definitely benefit your running. Look for her new book, The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga, coming out soon!


Amy said...

I own this book and ABSOLUTELY love it!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Amy! Thats great! Sage told me that the new book "The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga" is coming out in late June or early July. The format is spiral bound so it will lay flat. It has all new art and again divided up in sections like "warm-ups," "hips," "core." There's a link with more info at the end of the postin.

Jessica Lane said...

Thanks for posting that. Very often, I forget that training isn't just cardio. Yoga is a good way to help prevent injury as well.

Mark said...

I am interested in this! I've been dealing with consistent core pain and I think this could help. good post!!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jessica! Yep, I'm learning too that there's a lot more to running than just the running. Good stuff!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Mark! Yep, definitely check out the book and DVD. Might want to check in the the doc too if that core pain is constant. Keep me posted!

JenZen said...

Our running coach promotes yoga too. He says it really helped his running strength and flexibility.

Patrick said...

Thanks for the tip on Yoga for Runners- Is it helping to take away normal aches and pains associated with running?

Love the blog-- I'm a first timer but will be back.

Check out my blog if you get a chance-- would love to get some feedback.



RunnerDude said...

Hey JenZen! That's great to hear! I think more and more coaches are seeing the benefits of yoga.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Patrick! Welcome to the blog! Answer to your question is yes. It's not going to make every ache and pain magically disappear, but you'll be surprised how much better you feel after your runs when you add yoga into your regular weekly routine. It helps keep your body flexible on a regular basis, not just stretching after a run. That stretching is still important, but the yoga provides so much more.
Checked out your blog and I'm enjoying reading it. Great "Cheat Day" post!

Petraruns said...

Just found your blog - great work. And went straight ahead and bought the DVD. Post-London and pre-Berlin I need to do something on my non-running days and I think it will really help. Keep up the great work!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Petraruns! Awesome! Let me know what you think. Man, London and now Berlin! I'm green with envy! One day, I want to do an international marathon. One day.... It's on my bucket list. LOL!