three yogi runners answer 5 questions about yoga, running & their connection
Meet the yogi Runners
Tara Spaw Fronczek
Physical Therapy Assistant/ Dance Teacher/Barre, salsa & sangria and Chair Yoga Instructor
number of years since first doing yoga: 22
number of years running: 6
stay-at-home mom, yoga instructor, trail runner, coach & owner of inhale, exhale, run, llc
number of years since first doing yoga: 17
number of years running: 24
yoga instructor/massage therapist
number of years since first doing yoga: 12
number of years running: 10
1. How do you incorporate yoga into your running routine?
TF: I use yoga as much as possible to maintain and improve my flexibility. Even if I don’t practice a full yoga class, I at least use several yoga poses (my favorites, you know, the “feel good” ones like down dog and pigeon) after each run.
BC: I use the physical aspect of yoga to warm up before runs, cool down after runs, strengthen, stabilize joints, rest, recover actively and passively, to cross train and to set the tone for my body each morning. I use the mental aspect of yoga to focus in races, on long runs or on tough training runs and to set intentions and use running as a form of prayer or dedication. I use pranayama to find deep relaxation in order to decrease recovery time and to exercise my lungs and breathing power when I’m not running.
LS: In the summertime, one of my favorite things to do is run some of the trails around Ohiopyle, run directly to the community center for 90 minuets of yoga and then finish with swimming across the river. In the wintertime, I’ve found that I’m generally less sore when I take the time to warm up my muscles with some gentle yoga before I head out.
2. Was running love at first step? If so, describe how it felt. If not, why?
TF: Running was not love at first step for me. It was HARD! But over time it got easier, I began to feel accomplished, and I learned to appreciate it. There are many days I have to force myself to go but there’s never been a run that I didn’t love afterward. Every time I think, “I’m so glad I did that.” Since running a full marathon in November 2016, my running practice has dropped off drastically. I was burned out and felt unmotivated. BUT the LPS running series has given me the drive to get back at it.
BC: Absolutely. At age 11, it was a moment of profound happiness, as if I had found my dharma in life. As an incredibly shy child, running gave me confidence and boosted my self-esteem. It made me feel strong, empowered, calm and balanced, and it became an expression of who I was. Running taught me to love myself as a young girl. The creative outlet and time spent alone yet with a team brought me a sense of worth and belonging.
LS: Ehhh... I remember crying and begging my mother to let me quit the team. But I’m pretty sure that’s just because practice was at 7 a.m. or something ridiculous (I’m really not a morning person). Even though I liked it, I definitely didn’t appreciate it in the way I do now.
3. Were you a runner or a yogi first?
TF: I was first exposed to yoga as a dance major in college. I LOVED it because it felt like a slow piece of choreography to me. Yoga is perfect for building strength and increasing flexibility, exactly what every dancer (and runner!) needs.
BC: Runner. After remaining undefeated in the 400-meter dash and breaking the school record in the event as a senior at Uniontown Area High School, I sought out yoga because I was told it was beneficial to athletes. It was during that time, at age 18, when I began attending yoga classes at the YMCA and doing yoga between and during track meets. After attending college, I ditched the yoga practice for a long time and didn’t return to it until my mid-20s, when my running body was screaming for it.
LS: These two things go hand in hand for me. My mother made me do both with her when I was young, and I didn’t really have a choice. I stuck with both as I got older, and I used both as a negative outlet in a difficult part of my life- it was a way to keep me skinny, or something I would pressure myself into doing, and I would judge myself if I didn’t follow through. I gave up on both for a few years. But when I started to make big lifestyle changes and began to grow into the person I have become today, running and yoga were two things that I missed equally. I approached both in a way I never had – slowly, gradually, knowing that I didn’t have the strength, balance or endurance that I once had – and it taught me that both yoga and running are great ways to show self-love.
4. What are the greatest benefits of doing yoga as a runner?
TF: Yoga has been a saving grace to my body especially after becoming a runner. It has helped me maintain as much flexibility as possible and is great for improving mental clarity and minimizing stress.
BC: The versatility of yoga is what makes it the perfect complement to running. All and any type of yoga is good for runners. Then, once yoga becomes an integrated part of a runner's life, it is then that the practice can be altered to suit any stage of a race training cycle or running schedule. TIMING yoga to suit running is when the most benefits are reaped from both disciplines. Furthermore, yoga acts as a barometer for the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual sides of running. For instance, a pose or the breath can indicate where strength needs to be built, or where anxiety needs reduced or burnout in the mind or feet needs addressed.
LS: Injury prevention. I see a lot of runners with problems (specifically in the feet or hips) and it’s like, dude, do you stretch?! We put so much strain and stress on our muscles, and it’s important to take the time (even if it’s not before or after a run) to give them love! Releasing tension in your muscles or myofascial tissue is crucial for preventing injuries. And it’s only going to improve your abilities.
5. What are the greatest benefits that running has brought to your yoga practice?
TF: Running has given me a new appreciation for the physical benefits of yoga. Quickly after becoming a runner, my hamstring flexibility decreased drastically. (I was a dancer so my hamstring flexibility was well above average.) Yoga feels much different now, and I see just how great it is for increasing mobility. Every runner should do yoga as often as possible!
BC: Running balances my yoga practice and acts as a means of literally taking yoga principles off the mat and into the daily life of a runner. Running clearly shows how yoga is transferable by finding yoga principles, such Tadasana alignment and drishti, for instance, while running. From there, yoga becomes even more transferable - if I can apply these principles to running and racing, then I can apply them to other aspects of life.
LS: It helped me find my breath. That probably sounds weird because you typically find your breath in yoga and then transfer it into other parts of your life, but I had a really tough time following my breath in class (something I still struggle with on off days). I was taught as a runner to control my breath, to inhale and exhale with purpose, instead of just gasping for air. Once you do that you can find rhythm and link that to the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground. Even further, you can calm your body down until you feel your heart beating, then you can slow your breath down to control your heart rate. The feeling you get when your breath, feet and heart rate are all in sync is arguably the greatest high ever. Finding that feeling and applying it to yoga is what made me the yogi I am today.