Fitness Check-in: Ann Mazur of Runners Love Yoga

Posted on July 18, 2014 by

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Ann Mazur has run 21 races so far this year. She was the first woman to cross the finish line in 17 of them.

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Ann Mazur runs towards the finish line of the 2014 Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C.

This past April, she placed 3rd in the Nike Women’s Half in D.C., running the 13.1 miles in 1:22:58. Less than a week later, she ran up the side of a mountain to win the Montalto Challenge 5k.

The sprite-like Mazur, who is also a 200-hour Certified Yoga Teacher and the mind behind Runners Love Yoga, attributes much of her success to her cross-training routine: yoga helps her running, running helps her yoga.

A natural endurance athlete, she has been running since high school, though she initially wanted to be a swimmer. Says Mazur, “for my 14th birthday, my mom put a runner on my birthday cake, and I cried, because I wanted a swimmer on my birthday cake!” She can’t help but laugh at the memory, especially because she has had such great success as a runner.

It’s no secret that running can be hard on the body. Mazur ran cross country and track for Notre Dame, and she says of her college practices, “we would go out and pound every day.” She noticed that when she stretched before practice and at night before bed, she felt better when she ran. She then began leading team stretching at Notre Dame. “The year that we instituted [group stretching], people got hurt less. We only stretched for maybe 15 minutes, but it made a difference.”

She began practicing yoga in 2005, while still at Notre Dame, and began teaching in 2009. Her training included ashtanga, iyengar, and anusara methods, but Mazur considers herself a vinyasa/flow teacher. “I’m really into creative sequencing,” she says. “The fun part of yoga for me is figuring out fluid ways to get from one pose to another.”

Mazur enjoys the physical benefits of yoga, but as a newly-minted Ph.D. in English, she’s quick to promote the mental and emotional rewards of a regular yoga practice.

“It helps to have this time out within your life. In yoga, you’re not competing with anything; [that’s] the point. If you’re being competitive in yoga, you have to step away from ‘Oh, I’m going to push through this,’ because you learn that it’s hurting yourself, and then you’re not being a good yogi.”

“If you’re striving for the best in yoga, you’re really listening to your body and breathing, and learning to move with your breathing.”

That mind-body connection learned through yoga, says Mazur, translates well into running and run training. Runners have to be in touch with their bodies in order to perform their best. It’s important for any runner to know when he can push himself and when he should back off, when he can run longer or when he can take it easy.

Yoga helps with “flat-out injury prevention. There are a lot of injuries you can prevent if you have a regular yoga practice,” Mazur says. It helps with IT band injuries like illiotibial band syndrome (she has a whole set of IT band stretches on her site) and plantar fasciitis. It also helps build spine strength and core strength that can prevent other bodily imbalances.

One-legged inverted staff pose variation (ekapadaviparitadandasana in Sanskrit).

One-legged inverted staff pose variation (ekapadaviparitadandasana in Sanskrit).

Practicing even once or twice a week makes a difference, says Mazur. Stretch before bed, or before a run for more fluid movement.

Just as yoga can help keep a runner injury-free, running can help deepen a yogi’s practice. Running warms the body up so that it can achieve greater flexibility and depth of posture.

Mazur’s Runners Love Yoga program, available on DVD, helps runners of all levels stay healthy and injury-free. She chose the posture sequence carefully. “It’s the most efficient running yoga workout, with the basics that you really need,” says Mazur. “So there’s not a lot of fancy, extra stuff in there. I thought really hard about the series… that’s the yoga sequence you should to do help you with your running.”

Next week, Mazur will lead a free yoga class at the NTeleos Wireless Pavilion as part of the Michie Tavern Downtown Mile/Runners Love Yoga Healthy Living Expo. She hopes to inspire runners to do more yoga, and maybe yogis to do more running.

We asked Ann to show us a sequence to help you warm up for your next run. Click through the slideshow below to learn the poses and flow through at your own pace.

 

 

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