Yoga for Runners

We spoke to Yoga Tree’s Ramona Gellel about how her yoga practice has complimented her extensive career of long distance running. Ramona has completed more than 40 marathons, including twelve Boston marathons and three 100km Ultra Marathons.

How did you get into long distance running?

Ramona Gellel: As a child and teenager I played competitive tennis for many years. Once I turned 15, I noticed that I had to work on my fitness so I started running thirty minutes a day, five days a week. Even though I had always run cross-country at both my elementary and high school, I never loved running until I was just doing it for myself without the pressure of racing. It was time for me to decompress, think and enjoy the fresh air. 

What were your feelings when you started running marathons? Were you intimidated?

RG: Funny enough I ran for almost 15 years before I ran my first marathon at 28 years old. I never thought I could do it even though I had run a few half-marathons. Back then I used to drive my car around the neighbourhood to calculate distance and I ran with a Sony- Walkman for music! I will never forget lining up in Toronto with all the other runners to begin my first marathon. I was petrified, not knowing what to expect. Would hit the wall? Would I finish? Crossing the finish line is still one of my best memories. I was very proud and obviously relieved! 

How has yoga improved your running?

RG: I would not say yoga has improved my running or made me faster, but it has helped keep my injuries at bay and makes my recovery much quicker.

Have you experienced injuries throughout your career? How did you recover from them safely?

RG: I have been very lucky, in over 35 years of running I have had very few injuries. My chiropractor plays a big role in keeping me on the road as well. As soon as something is bothering me (for example my IT-Band) I go and see him for treatment. The only injury that has ever kept me off the road was an Achilles tendon issue which again was resolved within a week with the help of acupuncture. I also go for massages, practice yoga regularly and strength train.

You have run over 40 marathons, which is an incredible achievement, what is your favourite thing about running marathons?

RG: This is an easy one! My favourite thing about running marathons is the training! I love to train and I actually did like racing as I get very nervous. I also love the finish line! 

How has yoga’s focus on the breath helped your races?

RG: Breathing in running and yoga is very different but because I have had to focus on my breath in running, the yoga breathing helps keep me calm at the beginning of a race. I also practice belly breathing when I get a cramp while running.

What advice would you offer to new runners or people looking to start training for longer races?

RG: The best advice I can give is not to run too much too soon. Everyone seems to want to go from 0 to 100 overnight. Long-distance running is very hard on the body, especially if taken up later in life. Start small and never increase your weekly distance by more than 10 percent from the previous week. Take your rest days, stretch regularly and eat well. I would also recommend finding a running group, to train with a group and have a coach to assist you.

 Interview has been edited for length and clarity.