Trail running is a totally different game to road running. Stabilising muscles come into play more often, fatigue sets in differently and the concentration dial must be set to high.
Yoga has an interesting role to take in the preparation for trail running. But for an expert’s view on this LRY spoke to Ellie Greenwood, who practices yoga and is some what of a pro at all things trail running as Female North American Ultra Runner of the Year 2011!
What came first, running or yoga? (To you – not just in life, although that is a good question too!)
Running for sure. I ran long distance (half and marathon) for a good 7 or 8 years before I really got into yoga. I did a small amount of yoga earlier on but very little and not on a regular basis.
How and when did you first start practicing yoga?
One of my friends in a running club I belonged to is a yoga instructor. Katherine is a 2:47 marathoner and very passionate about yoga. I was experiencing some slight injuries and she encouraged me to come try one of her classes. I wanted to give it a go to improve my flexibility and it was good to be encouraged by someone who is very accomplished in both yoga and running. I knew that Katherine would be appreciative of my lack of flexibility from running and would understand my motivations for wanting to try it so it was not intimidating to try.
Is there a particular type of yoga that you practice?
When I first started yoga I would go to a hot yoga class, which I really loved. I found that the heat really helped me stretch and improve my flexibility, which was one of my main motivations to start yoga. Since moving to a smaller town there is no hot yoga available so I tried a few different classes and now regularly practice Ashtanga yoga.
How often do you practice yoga?
Once a week. In low season from running I try to go more often, 2 or occasionally 3 times a week, but for most of the year with running training and work, I usually only make it to a class once a week and I am still at a level where I prefer to practice in a class with a teacher than on my own.
LRY has experimented with doing yoga before a run, and also yoga after a run. How do you normally manage to fit yoga into your running routine?
I have given up ever planning to run after yoga! I tend to be too relaxed and chilled out and not full of the energy needed to run! I tend to go for a short, 45min or so, run prior to yoga as it helps me get rid of excess energy after a day at my desk and then I really enjoy yoga for a stretching session after my run.
When it comes to trail running where do you feel yoga helps the most in your preparation – not just in training, but also in racing?
Yoga makes you much more aware of your body – as a runner we can sometimes be oblivious or ignore little pains or niggles but I find yoga makes me much more aware of these and therefore more likely to address them. In racing I find that yoga breathing methods can help as well as the ability to stay relaxed, when you are pushing hard it is still possible, and indeed advantageous to be relaxed and calm, and also breathing evenly and effectively.
Have you ever had any yoga moments whilst out on the trail? Or vice-a-versa, any running moments during a yoga class?
In yoga class I don’t think about running at all. If I do my competitive personality emerges which doesn’t mesh well with yoga! I try to avoid pushing myself too much in yoga as that is my natural tendency from running and I have to appreciate that I am a much better and more experienced runner than yogi! I do sometimes have yoga moments out on the trail, in a recent race I seriously stubbed my toe and was in significant pain and my first reaction was just to breath and stay calm and relax just like I try to in yoga class.
Finally, do you have a few words of advice for people new to trail running and/ or yoga?
If you are an experienced runner accept that you are new to yoga and can’t expect to be good from the start! Yoga can look easy to runners but soon you will find out it is much more challenging that it initially appears and accept that it will take time and dedication to continue. For a yogi new to trail running, try and find other people to run with – you will learn a lot of useful tips and pointers and it also makes it much more fun. Do runs right on your door step but also go explore new trails as that is one of the most fun things about trail running!
Thanks Ellie for your insights! LRY will definitely be trying some hot yoga in 2012!
Ellie’s blog is full of great trail running accounts and race reports:
Ellie Greenwood, Trail Running Tales.
And Ellie’s next race is a 50k in Bellingham, WA on March 17th.
You can also listen a podcast interview with Ellie from UltraRunner HERE.