I've corresponded with this week's Runner of the Week, Sage Rountree, a few times over the past year. Back in May '09, I posted a review of a book she had written The Athlete's Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2008)as well as on the video of the same name by Endurance Films. Then the following July, I posted another review on her newest book, The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga (VeloPress, 2009). I was impressed by Sage's knowledge of yoga and running as well as her willingness to share the information with me. After all she's written for top publications such as Runner’s World and Yoga Journal and has published articles in Running Times, Inside Triathlon, and Endurance Magazine. I finally met Sage in person, a couple of weekends ago when I attended a USA-Triathlon sponsored workshop on supplemental training activities triathlon coaches can use with their athletes. The workshop was divided into three parts-Yoga, Resistance Training, and Running Drills. Sage lead the Yoga portion of the workshop. She was very personable and even though I was the only participant that needed a little "help" in a yoga position or two, she guided me in a very supportive manner. My body felt awkward but not my being. Thanks Sage! Read on to learn more about Sage and her experiences as an internationally recognized authority on yoga for athletes and an expert endurance sports coach as well as being an athlete herself.
RD: You're located in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC area. Are you originally from that area? Sage: I've been here ever since grad school, having been sucked into the university town vortex. Happily, it's a great place to be stuck. Before living here, I grew up in Winston-Salem, NC, and I was born in chilly Buffalo, NY, long enough ago to vaguely remember the Blizzard of '77.
RD: I'm sure people ask all the time, but is "Sage Rountree" your birth name? Sage: Yes, they do, and I can see why, especially since I became a yoga teacher! I was born Sage Hamilton (my parents, in search of a flower name, got my name from the Burpee Seed Catalog), and I married the wonderful Wes Rountree for my last name. He tried to convince me not to take his name, because it's so hard to spell (there's no "d," and he's no relation to the very cool Richard Roundtree).
RD: I see you have a Ph.D, but I seem to recall you telling me it was in something like English Literature. What brought you into the world of yoga? Sage: Prenatal yoga, when I was ready to feel the connection that yoga fosters. Before that, I'd had a few frustrating experiences with yoga—frustrating not because they were bad, but because I found them much harder than expected.
RD: What are the benefits of yoga to someone who runs? Sage: Yoga confers whole-body strength; flexibility for fluid range of motion through the running stride; and mental focus. All of these directly complement running.
RD: If a runner (who's never experienced yoga) wants to join a class, what's the best form of yoga to look for, if there's not any sessions specifically geared for runners or athletes in his/her town? Sage: It can be tough to choose a class, because without guidance you might stumble on something that's too slow-paced (and therefore boring), or too fast-paced (and therefore disheartening), and think that's all that yoga has to offer. My best advice: keep trying till you find the right fit. To help in that, you should look for classes that will teach you the proper alignment. These may be called "Hatha," "Beginners," "Alignment-Based," or "Iyengar." I really like the Anusara style as a good fit for runners; it focuses on alignment and on plenty of backbending, which, done carefully, can have huge benefit for runners.
RD: Your books The Athlete's Guide to Yoga and the The Athlete's Pocket Guide to Yoga are great tools. How did writing the books come about for you? Sage: I'd long wished aloud to my husband that I could find a book that explained how to mesh endurance sports and yoga. One day, he posited that I should write the book myself. All the books on my shelf at the time were published by VeloPress, so I approached them, and the rest is history.
RD: In addition to being a renowned yoga instructor and frequent contributor to Runner's World and Endurance Magazine, you're also a triathlon coach. How long have you been a triathlete? What drew you to the sport? Sage: I did my first triathlon in 2005, thinking the training would be a welcome break from training for road marathons, and it was.
RD: What got you into Triathlons? Sage: The fun of the new, and a desire for cross-training after a season where I incurred a stress fracture. I came for the variety, and I stayed for the friendly people and the crazy joy of doing three things in one event.
RD: What do you enjoy most about the tri? The swim? The bike? The run? Sage: I like funky swims, like the 53-degree rough chop we enjoyed at the 2008 Age-Group World Championships. Like yoga, they put me totally in the moment (the drive for survival will do that!). But the run is always my favorite part, both because I love running and because my cycling is so mediocre that I get to feel fast as I catch the cyclists who don't like to run.
RD: What are your favorite training foods? Sage: Plain old original PowerBars (the classic, chewy ones, called PowerBar Performance Energy), in Peanut Butter or Honey Roasted Nut. Tried and true, they've worked for me for so long. I'll eat most of one for breakfast before a race or hard workout, or as snack or lunch on the bike. I've also come to love, much to my surprise, the flavor of the PowerBar Double Latte gels. They don't taste so much like coffee to me as like caramel. Ah, sugar! Speaking of sugar, I'm also very partial to afternoon tea—scones, muffins, and the like—when I'm in heavy training. My children were completely spoiled as I trained for Ironman Coeur d'Alene last year; we went to various bakeries and coffeehouses for snacks almost daily. RD: Scones for training. I like that! Now I have a good excuse when I pick one up with my morning coffee. Guess I need to find a race to train for too, huh? -
RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each? Sage: Both. I have a fantastic group of women I run with most weeks; I love it for the camaraderie, for the humor, and for the extra push. I like to dissociate and focus externally in the early stages of a workout or race, and I can be very chatty. I also like the work of bearing down and focusing that I get in my solo runs. To that end, my ideal long workouts—bike or run—involve riding or running to meet a group, doing the middle section with them, and continuing on alone.
RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run? Sage: The Frosty 50K at Salem Lake this January was run on a very, very cold day—14 degrees at the start, and not much warmer at the end. For hours, I enjoyed listening to the sound of the ice on the lake. Sometimes it gurgled like a toilet in distress, which was funny; sometimes it wailed like a musical saw, which was odd. That sound really stands out as a memory from that day.
RD: What’s your biggest running and or triathlon accomplishment? Why? Sage: It's cliché, but probably requalifying for the Boston Marathon at the Boston Marathon. RD: That's an awesome accomplishment. I'm still trying for the qualifying time to get there in the first place. Maybe this fall at Marine Corps it will happen for me.
RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why? Sage: I've been running in the Adidas Supernova Glide for a while now, and I really like them. My favorite shoes ever were the Asics Gel DS Trainer 12s. Rest in peace, friends. RD: It's funny, but the discontinuation of a faithful running shoe, is like the death of close friend.
RD: Do you have a favorite race that you run each year? Sage: The UNC Wellness Center Super Sprint Triathlon, which takes place across the street from my house, is a logistical favorite. While I prefer long-distance races, I actually place better, comparatively, at short races. Some of my past favorites are gone now, the Coach Bubba 20K in Durham and the Carrboro Classic Long-Course Duathlon. They've gone the way of the Asics Gel DS Trainer 12s.
RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say? Sage: Work together. Accountability and positive peer pressure will help you build the consistency you need to let your body adapt to the (good) stresses of running.
RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared. Sage: I was a very nonathletic child and came to running while in graduate school. We had a big chocolate Lab who needed a lot of exercise. I'd take him on walks in the woods, then run to stay with him. That running grew very slowly, and what a gift that was. While it's noble to set a lofty goal—couch to a marathon, say—your body will adapt better if you take things slowly, organically, and for the pure joy of it. Keep it a treat, like running in the woods with a beloved dog, not a chore.
Thanks Sage for sharing with us a little about your amazing life and your gift of yoga that you share with athletes of all levels. To learn more about Sage, be sure to check out her website as well as the new website for The Carrboro Yoga Studio. The clip below gives a sneak peak into the studio.