Ask the Trainer: Renee Harrington
YogaFit’s own Renee Harrington is one of the top amateur athletes in the country. This long-distance runner competes in the duathlon (run-bike-run) as part of Team USA against teams from all over the world. She also teaches yoga and is a YogaFit Master Trainer. Below she answers questions about how yoga fits into her training and her life.
Q: I understand you are on the US National Duathlon team, which is running and cycling, correct? Tell us about your journey to that impressive feat.
I qualified for Team USA which is made up of the top amateur athletes in the United States. Athletes on Team USA represent the United States and compete in ITU’s World Championship race against athletes from other countries.
In June I competed in Aviles, Spain in the Duathlon Worlds for the Olympic distance and next year in September I will compete in the Long course Duathlon Worlds in Zofingen, Switzerland.
Q: What attracted you to the run-cycle-run duathlons?
As a long-time runner I liked the added challenge of the cycling transitions between the legs of the race.
Q: How does yoga support/enhance your training and performance?
On so many levels—physically and mentally! On a physical level, yoga asana is incredibly helpful in stretching out tight muscles and helping to correct muscle imbalances. My hips get very tight with all of the running and cycling that I do.
I have noticed that a regular asana practice helps me to perform better in training and races. Mentally, I do visualizations and create a focus that help me during competitions. Pranayama is incredibly important to me. I practice nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) before a race begins. I have noticed that it specifically help me to be calm and relaxed at the start of a race and to equalize my breathing so that I can have a fast start without getting breathless.
Countless times I have passed competitors early on and maintained the lead, and I am sure it is because of the breathing practice.
Q. What yoga advice do you have for other athletes?
My advice for athletes is to make time to get just a few postures in at the end of a workout. Think of it as a reward for your body for doing the workout. Athletes often neglect stretching so they can have a few more minutes for the workout itself. I’ve been guilty of that myself. But in order to stay healthy enough to continue to compete, we need to take time for our bodies to recover.
Also, it is important to remember that yoga is more than just stretching. It helps you become aware of your body and mind. I definitely have better and more effective workouts—and fewer injuries—when I take the time to check in and see how my body feels.
Q. You are a Master Trainer with YogaFit. Tell us why YogaFit, in particular, works so well for athletes.
Because YogaFit really believes that yoga is for everybody. And it emphasizes that there is no perfect posture; that you need to find the best place for your body on any given day. I think those are especially important for athletes who may be having difficulty with some poses.
Our 100-hour YogaFit for Athletes training is coming soon LEARN MORE. In the meantime, check out Beth Shaw’s short sequence, created specifically for runners: Yoga Rx for Runners or grab her book The YogaFit Athlete.