Racing Wisely: Managing Expectations

April 16, 2014 – 5:28 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Race Reports, Training and Racing

Here’s an excerpt from my latest book, Racing Wisely, that seems especially germane as we hit peak spring race season.

Be sure you pay attention to your travel companions' needs during race weekend, too!

Be sure you pay attention to your travel companions’ needs during race weekend, too!

As you plan your travel, you also need to consider who is coming with you, what their intentions are for the trip, and how you can preserve both your good relationship with your travel companions and your own energies so you can race at your best. Being dragged from tourist site to tourist site while you’d rather be watching a movie with your legs up will do damage both to your performance and to your standing with your travel companion. Think ahead about how each of you wants to spend time and energy during the trip. There may be periods where you’ll split up and your friends will enjoy an activity without you while you rest, pick up your packet, or assemble your bike. Maybe there is a way to combine both your need to rest and your friends’ desire to explore: a bus or duck boat tour of a major city, for example, is a fun way to look around—off your feet.

The closer your relationship with your travel companions, the more is on the line, and the more clear you need to be about how you plan to spend your time and what you need from them. Is your family’s role simply to boost your spirits? To distract you and to keep you calm in the days and hours before the race? To act as porters, carrying your items? To act as cheerleaders on the race course? Be specific about what you want; don’t make them guess. Spectating a sport is not everyone’s idea of a fun way to spend a day. (As my husband puts it, “Why would I want to watch people exercise?”) Early hours, cold or hot and sometimes wet conditions, a lack of food and toilets, crowds, confusing directions, complicated courses—these elements combine to make watching a race a major physical endeavor. Add to that your friends and family’s concern for your well-being on race day. They have questions like, Will she be having a good day, or a bad one? Will she see me? What if he’s ahead of schedule? Worse, what if he’s way behind? What can I say or do to make a difference? Talking through these issues ahead of time ensures a smoother race day.

The one glimpse I had of my family midrace, Ironman Coeur d'Alene, 2009

The one glimpse I had of my family mid race—by design—Ironman Coeur d’Alene, 2009

Similarly, if you are traveling with friends who are also doing the race, before you depart, have an honest conversation about your plans for before and during the event. Training together for the same race builds friendships; ensure the health of that friendship by talking about how you plan to address the race. Will you run the entire thing together? What if one of you is having a great day, and the other isn’t? Will you stay together no matter what, or are there situations where one of you might proceed without the other? Being very clear on your intention will help you answer these questions. If your intention is to cross the finish line together, you’ll take one approach. If your intention is to help each other to your fastest finish, you’ll take another. The right answers are the ones that best serve your relationship.

To get clear on your expectations, look at the Race Plan Worksheet available at

Sage Advice: Mudras for Attention

April 16, 2014 – 8:16 am | Permalink | Sage Advice, Training and Racing, Yoga
Apana mudra

Apana mudra

Sharon in Paris wrote:

I am writing to ask you a very interesting question that a student posed to me this morning. I recently taught an apana mudra (index finger tucked, middle and ring touching thumb, pinky out) to facilitate deep breathing. I’m also a runner and one of my runner students asked me if having your fingers in that mudra while running would help the breath. What are your thoughts?

I think that the best way to help your breath is to pay attention, and that if the mudra reminded you to pay attention, then it’s worthwhile. As long as the hands can stay relaxed, it might be a sweet secret cue to the runner to keep the breath flowing.

Do you have any self-cues that remind you to use your best form and breaths?

Read: Balanced Breathing for Better Running

April 14, 2014 – 3:12 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Teaching, Training and Racing, Yoga

Get to know your breath and you’ll have a powerful tool for keeping yourself calm and focused on the run or anytime, as I explain in this piece at Competitor.

Your breath can have a profound effect on your nervous system. Consider the admonition to take a deep breath when you are upset—this has a basis in physiology, as deep belly breathing can help you relax. Long exhalations stimulate your vagal nerve, engaging your parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system dominates, the relaxation response kicks in and your blood pressure, heart rate, and level of anxiety fall. Conversely, when the sympathetic nervous system is in charge, you’re primed for fight for flight, with adrenaline levels, heart rate, and muscle tension all higher.

Read more at Competitor Running and in The Runner’s Guide to Yoga.

Read: 9 Yoga Myths, Busted

April 11, 2014 – 7:56 am | Permalink | Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

In the decade I’ve been working in the field of yoga for athletes, acceptance of yoga has grown exponentially. Once it was a hard sell to get athletes on the mat; now it’s mainstream. Some myths persist, though, and they are covered well in this piece at that quotes me and several colleagues.

Yoga might be an athlete’s best friend. The practice can help you improve your mobility, recover from intense training sessions faster, and even improve your proprioception, i.e., your awareness of how your body moves in space. But some people feel apprehensive about yoga, thanks to some popular myths and misconceptions. Like: I’m not flexible enough to handle yoga. And: What’s with the chanting? And : Must I wear stretch pants?

Read more at 

Read: Are Your Hip Muscles out of Balance?

April 8, 2014 – 2:06 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Training and Racing, Yoga

Are you sitting down? You could be contributing to hip issues, as I explain in this piece at

Most runners claim they have tight hamstrings. I see it all the time in the yoga classes I teach to athletes. But often, the problem is less in the hamstrings and more in the opposing muscle groups: the quadriceps and, more importantly, the hip flexors.

It’s not surprising that this should be the case. Most of us spend hours every day sitting in chairs and car seats, a position that can slacken the hamstrings and tighten the hip flexors. We then carry this position — an anterior tilt of the pelvis — with us into our sport, which can lead to all kinds of problems, from lower-back pain to hip, knee, and foot issues.

Read more at Competitor Running and in The Runner’s Guide to Yoga.

Sage Advice: Yoga During T2

April 7, 2014 – 11:33 am | Permalink | Coaching, Sage Advice, Training and Racing, Yoga

Eleanore asked an interesting question:

Is there a good pose to do during T2 [the second transition, from bike to run, in a triathlon]? Something to help facilitate the transition from bike to run? Not for a sprint tri, but more for longer distance races where an extra two minutes spent in transition might be regained by a faster start on the run.

While a yoga pose or a stretch wouldn’t make you faster at the start of the run (nor do we need to be fast at the start of a run in a half or full iron-distance race), it certainly could improve your comfort in the first mile or two of the run, and that might mean that you run more relaxed, delaying a degradation in form and keeping you more comfortable, both of which will yield a faster time overall in the run.

With that in mind, we’d look for something that is (a) efficient, since you’ll be standing still for it when you could be moving; (b) addresses the effects of riding, especially in an aerodynamic position, releasing places that get tight (chest, hip flexors); (c) preps the muscles to run (specifically, engaging feet and releasing the calves and hip flexors).

Crescent with side bend

Crescent with side bend

For this, I like a crescent lunge with side stretch toward the front leg, as pictured here. From the bottom up, you’ll:

  • engage the foot of the front leg
  • stabilize the knee of the front leg
  • stretch the sole of the back foot
  • stretch the calf of the back foot
  • stretch the hip flexors of the back leg
  • stretch the obliques and intercostals of the back-leg side, making more space for breath
  • stretch the shoulder of the raised arm

I’d hold for five or ten breaths per side. Better yet, you could be multitasking—changing your shirt, for example—while you do it.

Scheduled: Yoga for Athletes at Asheville Yoga Center

April 6, 2014 – 1:53 pm | Permalink | Teaching, Yoga

I’ll be visiting my friends at the gorgeous Asheville Yoga Center in glorious October for a weekend version of my teachers’ intensive on yoga for athletes. If you’re interested in my online course and certification in teaching yoga to athletes, this is a chance to get a sense of my approach in a three-day format. And the leaves will be beautiful to boot!

Yoga for Athletes with Sage Rountree
October 17–19, 2014


300hr AYC YA elective credit
All Levels Welcome
(Sign up by September 17, 2014 and save $50)
Register and Pay

Friday 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Saturday 9:30 am- 12:30 pm, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am – 12:00pm

This weekend is designed for yoga teachers interested in working with athletes of all sports. We will discuss the needs, abilities, and limitations that athletes bring to a yoga practice; investigate ways to modify classes for athletes of various sports and levels of experience; discuss the pedagogy and business of working with athletes; and practice yoga together each day.

If you are not currently teaching, you will still benefit from the workshop. PE teachers, personal trainers, and athlete/yogis will all come away with ideas about how to mesh yoga and training, and teachers interested in specializing in any population will learn how to build their niche.

This workshop will count for 12 contact hours toward Yoga Alliance continuing education, and on request we can offer CEUs for USA Triathlon–certified coaches.

Required Reading:
The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga by Sage Rountree

Read: The Triathlete’s Guide to Massage

April 5, 2014 – 1:52 pm | Permalink | Coaching, Media, Recovery, Training and Racing

One of the sweetest parts of my job is researching recovery modalities, from napping to restorative yoga to massage. A current hypothesis is that it’s impossible to get too much massage; I’m deep in data collection.

You need a massage, too. Here’s a piece I wrote for on massage for triathletes, but massage is great for everyone. For more, read chapter 14 of The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery (now available in German, Spanish, Japanese, and English e-book editions).

Massage for triathletes

You’ve got the date of your big race circled on your calendar and have planned a systematic approach to ensure you’re ready to perform at your best. But have you planned your rest and recovery, too?

As your training ramps up, don’t forget to take the time to lie still, out of the water, off the bike and away from data of any kind. As triathletes we spend a lot of time in front of our screens and considering numbers. To balance this activity, you need a quiet period to tune in to your body’s wisdom. And, with that wisdom comes self-knowledge, which is critical in endurance racing and in life.

Massage fits the bill nicely. For Type A athletes who find meditation, breath exercise, or aimless loafing difficult, massage is a good way to find deep relaxation while also smoothing out your muscles, fascia and psyche.


North Carolina Literary Festival

If you’re in central North Carolina this weekend, join me at the North Carolina Literary Festival at N.C. State University, where I’ll speak at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday, April 6). While the title of my talk is “Intention and Goals: Tools for Your Personal Best,” I’m looking forward to talking about whatever will be most interesting to those who come. Bring your questions!

And bring your running shoes, as we will be going for a three-mile fun run immediately after the talk, escorted by Ambassadors of Rock who’ll be happy to talk about the course for next weekend’s Rock and Roll Marathon in Raleigh. I’ll lead us in a quick dynamic warmup and post-run stretch, too.

After my PhD graduation—maybe this is what qualifies me to speak at the literary festival?

After my PhD graduation—maybe this is what qualifies me to speak at the literary festival?

Watch: Wall Folds Yoga for Athletes Short Practice

April 5, 2014 – 9:16 am | Permalink | Media, Recovery, Teaching, Training and Racing, Yoga

My latest class at Yoga Vibes is a half-hour practice for recovery and release through the hips.



Wall Folds: Yoga for Athletes Short Practice

Yoga Class Description

In this short online yoga practice for athletes and everyone, we use legs-up-the-wall pose as a home base for a series of stretches targeting the hamstrings and hips. Use a closed (and locked!) door if you don’t have free wall space, and finish by taking a relaxation period flat in corpse pose or with your legs up. (27 mins.)

Watch the full class at YogaVibes.