New Site: sageyogateachertraining.com

September 12, 2014 – 1:21 pm | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

syttfrontNew today: my professional development courses for yoga teachers have a home of their own at sageyogateachertraining.com! Whether you want to specialize in yoga for athletes or learn ways to up your game as a yoga teacher, you’ll find resources to sharpen your vision and confidence, jump-start your sequencing, and help you continue to grow.

Please click on over and let me know what you think!

The Value of Testing

September 12, 2014 – 9:37 am | Permalink | Race Reports, Training and Racing

Racing_Wisely_coverThis intriguing article in last week’s New York Times Magazine talks about the value of pretesting. The results of pretesting help refine the learning process and lead to better outcomes on final exams.

It strikes me that the same goes for endurance sports. There’s huge value in pretesting your training. The race itself should not be the only examination of how your work is going—just a final exam, and sometimes one that’s not that weighted. Testing isn’t always fun, but it doesn’t have to be hellacious. It’s a critical part of honestly assessing things as they actually are—and that’s mindfulness.

Racing Wisely, my book on mindful racing, covers testing in depth. Here’s a sample.

Testing

In order to adjust your training so you can achieve your best performance on race day, you’ll need to have a clear, concrete idea of how your training is working and what your abilities really are—not what you wish they were. Quantify and track your performance by repeating a time-trial test every few weeks. A time trial measures all three of our potential variables: intensity, time, and distance. Fix two variables of the test every time you repeat it, and look for improvement in the other variable. Depending on your sport and target race, tests could look like this:

  • swimming 100 yards or meters all out for time; or swimming 5 x 100 yards or meters on short rest all out, looking for the best average time per 100
  • swimming 500 yards or meters all out; or swimming 3 x 500 on short rest all out, looking for the best average time per 500
  • riding a 3K time trial as hard as you can and measuring time
  • riding a 40K time trial with your best effort and measuring time
  • riding a five-minute time trial as hard as you can and measuring distance or power
  • riding a forty-minute time trial with your best effort and measuring distance or power
  • running a mile at your best effort for time
  • running 5000 meters at your best effort for time
  • running 30 minutes at your best effort for distance

All of these tests should be preceded by a warmup that culminates in a few short, fast efforts and a slightly longer, target-effort interval. You can complete them during your regular stepback (or “rest and test” weeks), or wherever they make most sense. Spread them out at least three weeks. Repeat your tests on a fixed course: the track, an open stretch of flat road, a trainer or treadmill (use the same treadmill every time if you can). Give each test an honest hard effort, without excuses. You need to know exactly where you stand in your training. Your best effort in a test will leave you feeling quite drained by the finish. If you can speed up considerably at the end of the test or realize you had more to give, you’ve learned something useful; if you slow down or stop, you’ve learned something else useful.

Track your tests. This can be done in a notebook, on an Excel spreadsheet, or in an online program like Training Peaks (trainingpeaks.com). Watch your progress month to month. Don’t get hung up on a single poor test—we all have bad days. Often we learn more from the tests that don’t go well than from the tests that do. Bad tests give us the opportunity to look at the training cycle that led up to them and assess whether we should make adjustments. A downward trend of poor tests indicates a need to adjust the stress/rest and consistency/variety balance in your training. I outline these adjustments below.

Regular performance tests are wonderful for building mental skills. Repeating them once a month or every other month will give you a race-simulation experience, from the apprehension beforehand to the satisfaction after, while encouraging you to push yourself based on exactly what you have to give, not how others are doing around you. Pay careful attention to the mental process before, during, and after your time trial. Are you having negative thoughts? What exactly are you afraid of? Is it in your control, or out of your control? Can you recast your thoughts to see the time trial as an opportunity, not a crisis? I ran my personal best mile on the track in the midst of high-volume Ironman training, because I figured I had nothing to lose—I was training for long, slow distance. To be candid, I even asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and envisioned some cataclysmic outcomes that might happen. They didn’t. I did learn that there’s much more in my legs, lungs, and heart than I expect, which was a valuable lesson for the Ironman.

Read more in Racing Wisely.

Watch: Yoga for Athletes Teachers’ Lounge: Before, During, and After

September 8, 2014 – 10:41 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Training and Racing, Yoga

My newest class at YogaVibes talks you through timing. You’ll learn techniques to practice before, during, and after a workout, as well as hearing why I chose them. If you were at the free classes I offered during last winter’s tour of REI stores (thanks, prAna!), you’ll get a refresher on the sequences we practiced together.

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Yoga Class Description

In this class for athletes, teachers, and everyone, filmed on Day 4 of Sage’s Teaching Yoga to Athletes intensive, we investigate yoga to do before, during, and after a workout. Learn dynamic warmup routines; practice focus techniques that work in a training session or competition; hold static stretches appropriate for right after a workout; and explore a series of reclining twists for deep release and relaxation around the hips, spine, and shoulders. Along the way, Sage explains exactly why and how these poses benefit athletes. Have a block, bolster, and blanket available. (69 mins.)

Suggested Yoga Props

block, blanket and bolster

Watch the entire class at YogaVibes.

Read: Comfort and Affliction

September 6, 2014 – 1:07 pm | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

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To help students progress, a yoga teacher (or a coach) needs to know when to push and when to back off. I wrote a piece on developing this skill that’s online at the prAna blog.

Journalist Finely Peter Dunne famously said the job of a newspaper is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This double-pronged purpose applies equally well to social activists, coaches, clergy—and yoga teachers. Each student needs a teacher who’s ready to remove unnecessary suffering, whether caused by misalignment in a pose or a misguided notion that says something needs to look or feel a certain way or proceed at a certain pace. Teachers play a powerful role in helping students feel comforted and comfortable. At the same time, students need a teacher who isn’t afraid to challenge them to see things more clearly, to break them out of mindless habits and help them move toward self-awareness. Here are some ideas for finding the balance between comfort and affliction as you help your students grow.

Read more at prAna Life.

Read: How to Keep Your Teaching Fresh: Yoga Instructors Share Their Secrets

September 1, 2014 – 10:35 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

Yoga teachers will find some nice insider tips from experienced teachers in this post on Thrive, the Kripalu blog. I added my voice:

Sage Rountree, author of several books on yoga for athletes and yoga sequencing:

Our practice grows when we have a good balance of consistency and variety. First, we need the consistent elements of a class: a warm-up, standing poses, mat poses, and a closing sequence. Then, we need variety to keep students engaged and adapting. Too much consistency and the class gets stale; too much variety and the students are confused.

Read the full piece here.

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If you’d like to spice up your sequencing, join me at Kripalu later this month for Sequencing Yoga Classes from Welcome to Namaste. Or, if travel is out of the question, enjoy the course online anytime!

Read: “Stretching Is Overrated”

August 27, 2014 – 12:20 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

istolethetv/Flickr

I’m quoted in this nice piece in The Atlantic: “Stretching Is Overrated.” Despite its sensationalist title, it’s about pre-exercise static stretching being overrated, not stretching in general (although we could have that argument, too). As I told Ian, there’s certainly such a thing as too much flexibility; at some point stretching can become gratuitous. For my usual population of endurance athletes and others who either sit at desks or engage in repetitive movements, too much flexibility is rarely the problem.

Read the story here.

Watch: Yoga for Athletes Teachers’ Lounge: Releasing Hips and Shoulders

August 26, 2014 – 9:35 am | Permalink | Media, Teaching, Yoga

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Yoga Class Description

In this gentle yoga practice, recorded at the end of Day 3 of Sage’s Teaching Yoga to Athletes intensive, you’ll explore range of motions, compression, and tension in the hips, spine, and shoulders. These gentle movements will help you feel balanced, free, and ready to move on to other asanas—or right into savasana. Have blocks, a bolster, blanket, and eye pillow available. (21 mins.)

Suggested Yoga Props

blocks, a bolster, blanket, and eye pillow

Watch the entire video at YogaVibes.

Watch: More Free Yoga for Athletes Videos

August 25, 2014 – 10:46 am | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

Here are more of the yoga for athletes videos that accompany my August Yoga Journal feature on training for a triathlon:

Week 5: Healthy Wrists
Week 6: First Transition (T1)
Week 7: Second Transition (T2)
Week 8: Balance in the Water

Plus bonus videos!

Using a Mantra
Drishti for Open Water

The thumbnails are, as usual, hilarious.

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Racing Wisely: Why This One?

August 18, 2014 – 2:47 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Race Reports, Training and Racing

The biggest question in choosing a race is why. In this excerpt from Racing Wisely, we explore the big reasons.

RW thumbAs you commit to your race, take a few minutes to jot down or type up some notes about why you chose this race. They can be broad (“I’ve wanted to run a marathon ever since I heard Jen describe her experience, and the training will give focus to my summer”) or specific (“Running in Yellowstone is a way to honor my father, who served as a park ranger there for two decades”). You can revisit these notes when you need an extra lift in training, and they will help you focus on the really big picture as the race draws near.

Pay close attention to these reasons. If you find that they’re originating from a training partner’s enthusiasm, or from your own preconceived ideas of how an athlete’s progression in the sport should go, reflect a while longer. When you are very clear on what drives you to race and make choices aligned with your personal motivations, you’ll have a much better chance of being intrinsically motivated to succeed. When your motivation comes from you alone, not from others and not from some projection of what, how, and where you think you should race, you’re setting yourself up for a personal best.

Take a look at the very, very big picture. You aren’t winning prize money to feed your family, you aren’t setting world records—so why race? How does it help people and contribute to society? What do you learn about yourself and your perceived limits that you could then turn into a positive force for change in the world? Ultimately, it’s not about the race. It’s about what you learn about yourself.

To that end, keep the very big picture in mind if you find yourself always reaching for more and more extreme goals. It is easy to get obsessive and self-centered in sport (heck, it’s easy to get obsessive and self-centered in Western culture!) and to lose sight of the noblest reasons to train and race. At some point, what can be an activity with wonderful benefits for your health can begin to adversely affect you, both physically and mentally.

The culture of competition in endurance sports can overshadow these big reasons. When you are regularly racing against familiar competition in your age group, it’s easy to get caught up in a numbers game. Who’s best this year? This race? Worse, there can be a temptation to race in group workouts, which is a great way to ensure you don’t bring your best on race day. If you find yourself consistently underperforming, perpetually frustrated, or hating your sport, remember the big, big picture. If your original goals are to test yourself, be healthy, and do something exciting, perhaps you’d serve humanity better volunteering in park services, at a fire department, or as a member of a backcountry rescue team. That kind of work benefits humanity while meeting the goals of learning your limits in the great outdoors.

To guide yourself as you make decisions that affect your race, you’ll need to be very clear on two things: your intention and your goals. These are not the same thing. Intention is about input: what attitude will you bring to the race? Goals are about output: your time, or your place in the field. Intention is a quality, and can’t be measured; goals are a quantity, and can. Your reflections as you choose your target race will help you start to define both intention and goals.

Read more in Racing Wisely.

Quick Poll: 500-Hour Intensive Option

August 15, 2014 – 12:14 pm | Permalink | Teaching, Yoga
Sage, Mira Shani, and Lies Sapp

Sage, Mira Shani, and Lies Sapp

Yoga teachers: after loving the summer intensive version of our Carolina Yoga 200-hour yoga teacher training, we’re considering adding an intensive version of our advanced studies training (what the Yoga Alliance used to call the 500-hour level, and what is now known as the 300-hour). In this format, you’d be able to complete the bulk of the required hours with me and Mira Shani over the course of four weeks in lovely Carrboro, North Carolina.

Several of our currently enrolled advanced studies students come from out of town; all of them first connected through my Teaching Yoga to Athletes module (a part of the advanced studies program). We’d love to serve them and any teacher interested in furthering his or her studies of the art and practice of teaching and the glorious system of yoga, and a monthlong intensive may be a very appealing option.

If you would find an intensive appealing, please chime in via the comments section below, or on Facebook (/sagerountree) or Twitter (@sagetree). And if you are interested in learning from wherever you are, anytime, please consider these wonderful online courses, all part of our advanced studies curriculum: