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Leslee Schenk Trzcinski:
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Leslee Schenk Trzcinski

Episode 16

“it’s about making the container bigger, the container. It’s about making your world bigger, your worldview bigger. And I mean your worldview as an athlete.”



This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan sits down with Leslee Trzcinski, an old friend and a jack of all trades, and they discuss yoga for athletes, the importance of mindfulness, and the relationship between rest and power.


Follow Leslee Schenk Trzcinski

Website: https://tuneyoga.com
Instagram: @tune.yoga
Facebook: @leslee.trzcinski
Twitter: @lesleetuneyoga


Leslee Schenk Trzcinski
Leslee Schenk Trzcinski

Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom, along with my cohost, athletic director Andy Lakatosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. I’m your host, Joan Hanscom, executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, and I’m doing solo duty today. But have no fear, Andy Lakatosh will be back. Today we’re joined by a woman who really has done and can do it all, Leslee Schenk Trzcinski. Leslee, sorry about butchering your name. Leslee is the owner of Tune Yoga and joins us today from Rochester, New York, where I’m sure there must be more snow on the ground in here in the Lehigh Valley, though that would be saying something with our current 30 inches of snow on the ground.

Joan Hanscom:

Before we get the conversation really rolling, I want to give our listeners a bit of information about Leslee because it is incredibly impressive. Leslee’s a certified yoga coach who has completed both 200 and 300 hour training, has deeper training in both anatomy and biomechanics. She has studied yoga for Parkinson’s, yoga for arthritis, and yoga for peri and post-menopause. And in addition to that extensive sort of background specific to yoga, here’s her sporting biography. In addition to being a USA cycling coach, she’s coached talent ID camps with my coach, Bill Elliston.

Joan Hanscom:

She was a professional cyclist, she rode with the US National and Olympic Development Women’s Program, the 7-Eleven Lowery’s and Celestial season teams. And she rode in residence at the Olympic Training Center. Two time World Championship medalist, three time world champion team on the road and team time trial, and has multiple international stage wins. You were a Nike sponsored athlete and you were featured in the original CLIA winning Nike commercials Bo Knows, which I think is awesome because Bo, of course, as we all know, also knows cycling. Colorado State Champion, Colorado Woman Athlete of the Year. You served on the US Olympic Committee. You’ve raced triathlon, you are a nationally ranked swim coach, swim champion. You’ve run marathons, you are a lifelong skier, equestrian soccer player. And you are also an experienced broadcaster in cycling.

Joan Hanscom:

So when I say to our listeners, you can do it all, you can do it all. It’s an incredibly varied and impressive background. So, welcome to the pod, Leslee. We are delighted to have you.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Wow, it’s just a delight to be here. And thank you, Joan, for the intro and for taking over at the [inaudible 00:03:12] town track, as I have felt for many, many years, it’s really a gym and the sport of cycling, and under your leadership in the last few years. And of course, I’m a little biased that you’re a woman. Really great things. Unfortunately with COVID, it’s maybe slowed your pace a bit. But I think you guys have been super creative in how you’re trying to maintain programming and initiatives and doing unique stuff and providing opportunity for people. And that’s I guess really part of what aligns with my philosophy is I am just trying to provide opportunity for people, for athletes of all levels, using some of the movement modalities like yoga to provide opportunity for people just to be better at whatever level they’re at. So, really superduper to be here.

Joan Hanscom:

Better, perhaps, and more balanced maybe, which I think in the time of COVID balance is an incredibly important thing. So, we’ll look forward to seeing you down here when COVID permits, we’ll get you down here, get you out for a ride, and maybe even up on the track, and see if there’s ways to integrate you with our women’s Wednesday’s programming. I know we’d love to have you. So yeah, we need all of this mash to clear up so that we can do even more integrated stuff here for our athletes.

Joan Hanscom:

So yeah, let’s jump into this, yoga and yoga for athletes and yoga specifically for cyclists. I have a pretty robust yoga practice. COVID has actually been great for that. I went from not having practice yoga in many years to practicing three days a week now, which is amazing because Zoom has made that possible and working from home has made that possible. I notice a huge difference. We talk about the application of a yoga practice into cycling training and your training schedule, I feel like it’s kind of having a bit of a moment.

Joan Hanscom:

When I lived in Colorado, I worked with sort of renowned coach athlete and bike fitter, Colby Pierce, on my bike fitting. And one of the questions he asks in his rather extensive questionnaire is, what’s your daily mindfulness practice? And he’s spoken extensively about yoga. And as part of his really in-depth physical assessment of flexibility and strength and balance, Mountain Bike World Champion, Kate Courtney’s talked a lot about her yoga practice and her meditation practice. Meditation app Headspace has a partnership with the NBA.

Joan Hanscom:

So I think mindfulness, which is a huge part of yoga, and breath work is a huge part of yoga is really coming into vogue with athletes in a way that maybe it hasn’t experienced to this level. The book Breath by James Nester was a New York Times bestseller. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it was a fantastic, really powerful read I thought. So, in your words, Leslee, let’s talk about it. What’s up with yoga and how do we use it as a tool to become better athletes?

Leslee Trzcinski:

Yeah. So all great, great setup. Yoga for athletes is kind of having a day. Pro teams, Tom Brady, who is headed to the Super Bowl again for the I don’t know how many times, he’s won like seven times.

Joan Hanscom:

10th.

Leslee Trzcinski:

10 times.

Joan Hanscom:

Lifelong New England and right here.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Yeah, I mean, it’s unbelievable. So pro teams of all sports, Olympic level athletes, a lot of cyclists, of course, at all levels. Yoga for athletes is really kind of having a day. Yoga, at the end of the day, the historical or the heritage of yoga, is really a study, a self-study, it’s really a practice of self-study. Yoga’s origin comes from mind focus. The earliest days of yoga were using the body and movement to settle the body so that we could settle the mind. Be the early Asana, the structural shapes, like a warrior two or something, those were to just kind of get some tension out of the body so that people could sit for hours and hours to meditate.

Leslee Trzcinski:

It wasn’t until like the 30s that yoga kind of moved into the Western world. And once we adopted it, we kind of turned it more into a physical practice. And then over the years, it really got embedded into the physical world and kind of a triple A personalities of the Western world, and it became kind of more of an exercise.

Leslee Trzcinski:

The way I approach yoga, and I think I have been very successful in the work that I’ve done, is because I treat yoga like science. And I think that the successful yoga for athletes and kind of the rubric with which yoga for athletes is taught, is teaching yoga as a science not as an exercise and not as a religion. And so, that really resonates with athletes really at all levels. So you’re trying to attract new riders to come to the track and try introductory programming, or you’re working with high UCI level athletes who have been training at just the highest levels of their sport and highly specialized.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And at the end of the day, some of the premise of yoga for athletes, mindfulness for athletes, and really what I would say almost movement quality for athletes, I almost don’t even want to use the word yoga sometimes because it puts people in a box in their. I love to chant on for example, there’s a huge release with roaring. But a lot of times when I try to pitch yoga to coaches or athletic directors or teams, I mean, again, it’s better now because there are front page articles and headlines about Superbowl champions doing yoga, or Kareem Abdul Jabbar or whomever. And so, it’s getting easier to sell.

Leslee Trzcinski:

But, the early days, I mean, I’ve had my small business for about 11 years, and in the early days, I used to pitch to the New York State Association of Athletic Directors, I used to do webinars and try to educate people on what we mean by yoga for athletes. I could keep talking, let me just make a couple more quick points.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So, when we talk about yoga for athletes, if you were to just walk into a yoga class, a general yoga class, there are some universal cues that might happen depending on the type of yoga, I mean, there’s all different types of yoga. And I know what we’ll probably get into that in a minute. But with yoga for athletes, there are no universal cues. It’s really a very individual practice because at the end of the day, everyone brings a different body, a different set of skills to the yoga mat. And while athletes tend to be really self-aware and can be coachable and have sport-specific knowledge base or specialty about cycling or whatever their sport is, there are some detrimental aspects that athletes brings to the yoga mat.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So for example, one of them is they’re very impatient. They want to see change very quickly. It can take six to 24 months [inaudible 00:10:35] effective in the body. And right at the end of the day, what are we doing? We’re trying to break patterns. We’re trying to analyze patterns. Patterns are not sustainable in the body. So we’re trying to analyze and then break patterns. And then we’re trying to impact movement quality. And so, athletes tend to be on a timeline, which is bad, and they tend to be competitive. And if they’re not competitive with others, then at least competitive with themselves.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, this is a place where you have to break patterns. And so, probably one of my biggest, it’s not really a tagline for my business but it’s a tagline, kind of a mantra is, when I talk about yoga for athletes, it’s about making the container bigger, the container. It’s about making your world bigger, your worldview bigger. And I mean your worldview as an athlete. So, it’s just forcing you to think about more tools in your toolbox, and make the container bigger, make your training philosophy bigger, make your mentality bigger. Expand how you think about yourself as an athlete and then how you’re going to deploy certain strategies and tactics to make you even better at what you do.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So that includes the mindfulness piece that you mentioned. It’s not just about, oh, I’m going to stretch my quads. It’s about the meditation and mindfulness, and then that great book, and the data coming out places like Harvard Medical School and other places that talk about the power of the breath, the power of the mindfulness and the power of the breath are huge. Those are not to be mitigated behind the physical part. It’s really like a three-legged stool.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I think it’s so interesting. One of the things that I have found as an athlete, and again, I am not a cyclist on your level. I am very firmly in the enthusiast amateur realm, but I still want to get better, I still want to improve. And I’m still in that athlete mindset of being hypercritical of my performance. Am I on track, am I maximizing what I can do at this age, for example? And what I found is that that can tend to be negative. When you’re analyzing your performance, when you’re when you’re taking this very sort of, because you’re so close to it and you’re so close to your performance goals, and you’re so close to wanting, this feeling of just wanting to succeed, that can be really detrimental to making gains as an athlete.

Joan Hanscom:

And what I’ve found through the yoga practice that I do is that it almost helps calm the mind so that I’m analyzing each workout differently. It takes the emotion out of, it just puts you in this headspace, it says, okay, I can step back and analyze performance more objectively when my mind is quiet, instead of letting the emotions of like, oh, I wasn’t able to make the numbers on my power meter for every interval this week. Instead, I kind of can fall back on this ability that Yoga has provided to sort of quiet the mind, and then look at things more objectively, almost like you take your body away from your mind, and you can analyze a little bit differently. And I really credit the yoga practice with that and the breath work.

Joan Hanscom:

I think the other thing that so many athletes always talk about, when you’re training and competing, is this notion of being completely present in your effort. And people refer to it as flow, they refer to it as a whole bunch of other things. And not to get all precious about the flow state, but I do think that having a breath practice that you have in yoga really does help you then almost be able to put yourself in that state when you’re training or competing. It’s just a tool that through the repetitive practice of yoga, you can apply it in different aspects of your sport.

Joan Hanscom:

So you’re almost training yourself to have that ability to be present in other sports when you have the ability to be present in your yoga practice. But it’s a much easier place to find it on the mat when you’re not in the red zone gasping for breath and full of lactate. You have an opportunity in yoga to practice that flow state when it’s easy to get there. And then it’s much easier to apply when you’re under duress. So for me, that’s been a huge upside of my practice. And so, not to hijack where you were going with that, but I think that you can’t underestimate that. Along with yeah, my hamstrings and quads need stretching. That mental piece has been really powerful for me as a person who practices yoga, and then trains hard on the bike.

Leslee Trzcinski:

I mean, you’re nailing it, you couldn’t be more eloquent. And I think the anecdotes are always helpful to be able to apply how the practice. It is a practice. I mean, it is a sense of training. So, what I would say is that, developing habits take, over 60 times you have to do something. So, to break a habit or a pattern, you have to do the new thing 60 times or more, to break that pattern. And so, when I work with people to, especially people who are, like athletes who are coming to us because a coach is making them or maybe they read, again, in a medical journal, or again, on the cover of Time Magazine, instead of like, well, I’m looking for that last little bit so I’m going to try this.

Leslee Trzcinski:

The way we learn things is we’re unconsciously incorrect doing things. Awareness is the first step to change. So then we become consciously incorrect. Then we realize, oh, now I see myself doing these things wrong. Then we become consciously correct. So we go from consciously incorrect, that we have the tools to fix so we become consciously correct. And then over time, the goal is to become unconsciously correct.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So, if you think about yourself on a track bike, like on a Fixie, no brakes, you’re maybe in your first points race, or you’re trying to master a track stand, you hopefully are getting to a place where you’re doing things right, whether it’s the rigidity of the core, and you’ve got enough core strengths to maintain good alignment for your breath, and that your force production and your pedal stroke is going to be rock solid so you’re going to kick butt. And you are making decisions unconsciously, you’re breathing a little deeper. When we have bad posture, we are reducing our lung capacity by 30%.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So, think about how many cyclists, even if we, all this time working up our core strength, we tend to have a role shoulder position. And I’ll get back to the mental piece in a second. The other really big premise that people I think just don’t really understand is that I kind of Trojan horse the outer body. So athletes were all about, again, the physicality of it. So, I Trojan horse some of these pieces, Joan, that you’re talking about, like the mindfulness and the breath work. We start with the outer body because that’s what we can relate to, not even athletes but weekend warriors, or even, I work with a lot of corporate people and I do a lot of private work with injured athletes, or a lot of private work with really stressed out CEOs that are having trouble focusing, you’re talking about focus and performance. It could be even just sitting at a desk performance.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, we kind of Trojan horse the second and third pieces, the mindfulness and the breath piece, and let athletes spend a little time on a mat holding a yoga pose or being in a restorative pose or some dynamic movement. I do want to get to a little bit of, I do a ton of foam rolling and myofascial work. And so, let people kind of get into their bodies a little bit, and they start to see a mental shift. And as the yoga teacher’s reminding them in the yoga pose to keep exhaling, the exhale is a more important side of the breath cycle. That’s where we tap the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest, the relax, the restorative side of the breath cycle.

Leslee Trzcinski:

But that’s the mindfulness piece. I mean, yoga helps develop something called intuitive anticipation. And so, our intuition gets really heightened, it helps to heighten our awareness, intuitive anticipation. It helps us to be more aware of our surroundings and more aware of our body. So at the end of the day, what is my goal? My goal is to help people be more self-aware. To be self-aware of like, is my left leg tighter than my right leg? The bike demands symmetry. We’re on this piece of steel or a carbon fiber or whatever it is. And the bike demands symmetry in the body. And so, at the most basic level, I want people to start to analyze how is your body upper to lower, front to back, and most importantly, side to side? So we can kind of analyze force production.

Leslee Trzcinski:

But then the next piece of it is, what are my patterns in my brain? Do I have that negative self talk? And analyzing how often you have the negative self-talk, or what are the patterns of your thinking process? And it just goes back to sports psychology. I mean, when I was at the Olympic Training Center back in 85, 86, 87, I had exposure to some of the top sports psychologists in the world. And some of these premises still haven’t changed. And so, my ability to be able to bring sports psychology and meditation and mindfulness, and the word meditation can be scary to people. It’s like, oh God, I can’t sit still for 20 minutes and meditate. No, I’m talking one minute, three minutes, five minutes. And it’s a practice.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, doing it on a yoga mat, where you’re maybe laying there after you’ve done some stretching and some analysis of your body, maybe you’ve opened up the pectoral muscles so the breath feels a little more free, then you spend three to five minutes initially. And moving from there into the next level. So it shouldn’t be scary. There are no barriers to entering this process. And a lot of people think there are barriers. People think I’m not flexible enough. I can’t go to yoga, I’m not flexible. That’s like saying I’m so hungry, I’m not going to eat.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s awesome. Yeah, correct. What a way to look at it. Yeah, I think that that’s, I love how you sort of, how you talked about Trojan horsing it, because we’re all as athletes, so familiar with the physical side of it. And if you can use the, if you can not hide it, but if you can find your way to this other piece of it through the physical piece where we’re all comfortable. That’s where we’re all comfortable. We all understand how to use our bodies, we all understand how to challenge our bodies. But if you can use that, then as a way to segue into this other sort of deeper piece of it, it’s amazing.

Joan Hanscom:

You said something super interesting to me, which is that, as athletes, we’re all competitive, whether it’s with our self or with others. And then it sort of becomes this, yoga has, in some, I’ve seen it, at least, become almost like feats of strength. And I remember very, very distinctly, I think the first time you and I spoke was like in 2010, and I was training much harder than I am now, and I was doing a lot of yoga. And you were very clear, is the practice that you’re doing right now actually benefiting your sports training? Or is it too hard? Are you picking the wrong classes because you’re so attuned to doing the hard things that you go immediately towards the hard yoga classes?

Joan Hanscom:

And you sort of made me think, like, oh, wait, maybe what she’s telling me is that there’s a specific type of yoga for a specific point in the training cycle, there’s a specific type of yoga for where you are in the training year. And it really opened my eyes to the fact that, maybe doing this vinyasa flow in 114 degree room was not the smartest thing when I was training really hard because that too was training really hard. So maybe talk about that a little bit and finding the right practice for where you are as an athlete.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Super great question. I mean, [inaudible 00:23:53] if I had FAQ on my website, which I should. There’s no punitive, oh, duh kind of thing, because we think about yoga, again, bringing freedom to the body, bringing freedom and space. I mean, that’s really what it is. Literally, we’re creating more space for the nerve endings and the blood vessels, we’re creating more room for the circulatory system to deal with stress. So obviously, as an athlete, again, when you’re talking about trying to hit your power numbers and feel better on the bike and feel more freedom. So there’s no question that the Yoga has some clear and direct benefits.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Absolutely, yoga for athletes must be periodized. And it is not something that’s intuitive. And I get athletes all the time. I mean, whether it’s Olympic level rowers or the local hotshot high school basketball team, whomever and whatever level. It’s not intuitive to say, as my specialization increases through Q1, Q2, I’m kind of foundation building my cycling training, moving into racing. Then your yoga practice should be the opposite of that.

Leslee Trzcinski:

You’re talking about vinyasa flow and kind of power yoga, I cannot endorse that enough. I mean, using the body’s own weight is one of the best ways to build strength, and something we call proprioception. It’s kind of learning how your body moves through space, it’s huge for balance, it’s huge for kind of deep subconscious or unconscious ability to balance your body. I mean, what better when you’re in a pack setting on the bike, or again, trying to nail a track stand or trying to have explosive power, trying to understand your own power.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, vinyasa practice is phenomenal, but it’s like an off season thing. It’s a cross-training piece. And the thing about hot yoga, which I’m a huge proponent to, but a lot of athletes get hurt in hot yoga because we push ourselves too far. There’s an over-stretching, the hot room makes us feel good, we’re used to sweating, we’re used to being a high cardio, a high output athlete. And so, you have to be extremely careful.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So what I would say about vinyasa, two things. First of all, it’s an offseason. Now you could go to a slow flow vinyasa maybe at the beginning of the season, be very careful. But here’s the thing about the vinyasa flow, it is a more advanced practice. So I get a lot of athletes that will say to me, oh, I tried yoga once and I went to a class and I didn’t know what they were doing. They were going super fast, I didn’t know the name of the poses. That would be like me saying, I went skiing the other day, I never got off the chairlift, but I saw people doing it. So I put on my skis and I didn’t take a lesson. I figured out how to get on the chairlift and the guy was holding it for me. I love the color black so I [inaudible 00:27:03], I was attracted to black diamond.

Leslee Trzcinski:

I used to teach skiing, and I had some people that friends took them up to a black diamond first run. That’s what a vinyasa class is like. And I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. What would be like one of your brand new people come into the track and you put them on a track bike, and then you say, okay, you know what, there’s a points race coming up. Let’s get you in a mass start race.

Joan Hanscom:

Good luck to ya.

Leslee Trzcinski:

That’s what a vinyasa practice is, a more advanced, you’ve got to go through the training, you’ve got to learn the foundation. And so, am I saying that in a self-serving way? Absolutely not. Yes, I’m an alignment yoga teacher, I’m Iyengar style teacher, we hold the poses, we do sequence poses, vinyasa just means linking poses together. But the power yoga, again, so please, listeners, if you’re interested in trying a yoga class, in fact, what I do is I’m happy to, give me your zip code and I will find a studio for you, well, it’s not COVID, I’m offering that in a non-COVID era, but I’m happy to say to people, I do this all the time where people are traveling, give me the zip code of where you’re going to be and I’ll find some good studios for you.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Right now, like Joan said, OMG. I’m working with people now all over the country because I can on Zoom. I actually had a Zoom business prior to COVID because I do work a lot with private one on one or small group training, I work a lot of injured athletes. Sorry I’m being super long-winded here.

Joan Hanscom:

No, it’s great. This is the meat of the stuff. This is what we wanted to talk about. So yeah, no. And by the way, listeners, if you go to Leslee’s website, you can sign up for Zoom classes with her. So, there is the option to join a Zoom class and check out the yoga for athletes online through Zoom. Even if you’re in California or New Zealand or wherever you’re listening to the pod from, I encourage you to check out what she’s got going on on Zoom because it’s pretty cool.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Or just message me. First class is always free but just message me and let me know what your objectives are. I’m happy to kind of steer you in the right direction. I mean, yoga is also about chemistry. I never take it personally when people don’t come back to class or they might say, I really liked your class but I’m practicing over here. I mean, at the end of the day, my style is that people study yoga with me, but they a lot of times practice with another teacher, or other teachers. I’m really an anatomy nerd. I have a whole skeleton, I have a bunch of bones that I show, because I find that the more people know about their body, the more enlightened they are, the more awareness they have, the better they are as athletes, the better they can understand their own bodies and what they need, the better they can relate to coaches and physiologist and massage therapists, and again, even just themselves.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, that’s just a really, really big part of it. And just one quick point back to the styles of yoga and that kind of power vinyasa piece of it is, at the end of the day, the different types of yoga, there’s kind of a dynamic movement where there’s more dynamic yoga, which would be kind of that power or that vinyasa. Then there’s kind of more of the isometric, where we hold, and then there’s more restorative. And what I would say in a yoga for athlete’s philosophy, you need all of those. And I just wanted to kind of finish that point that there, to your question about periodization, as we move into being more specialized in our sport, you would go from the harder yoga to the more restorative yoga.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And that can be hard for athletes too, to lay around on a yoga bolster for five to 10 minutes. Some of the best athletes in the world are the ones that know how to recover, that know how to take the time, and how those moments of recovery and deep tissue change and mental recovery, and feeling and understanding the power of the breath.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I think that that’s a piece that, particularly for amateurs like me, this notion of you should be recovering as hard as your training is sometimes lost. It’s something that we’re so wired to think that we have to just be getting at all the time. And one of the things that I found that the yoga practice has enabled me to do is I am getting at it just as hard, but I’m getting at recovering. It’s finding that sense of, oh, if you’re getting at the training really hard and you’re doing a bunch of VOs in a week, then you should probably be getting at the recovery just as hard. And that took me a long time to get to, probably a decade since we last talked, it took me to get there.

Leslee Trzcinski:

I mean, you’re like a representative example. People just don’t realize that the adaptation happens when you’re resting. I mean, you’re not getting stronger when you’re pushing, you’re getting stronger when your body is recovering. And so, that’s probably one of the biggest points, if I could name five points on one hand, that’s probably one of the biggest points around the yoga practice is the sense of recovery and using that time on the yoga mat for kind of that recovery, that repair, the muscle repair time.

Leslee Trzcinski:

If you think about it, as you’re working on your power numbers, or you have goals that you’re trying to meet, and you’re trying to kind of have an apex or go up the top of the mountain for a really basic analogy, if you don’t also go into the valley, if you don’t have these times where you’re literally bringing it down, everything starts to become kind of this mediocre middle place. How many times have we seen or heard stories of athletes that get in a rut or they get over-trained or they’re in a plateau?

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Or like the great one is that you’re just medium fast all the time. That’s the takeaway. And I think you really need those highs and lows to get past that point, to be very relevant to our audience. Tell us a little bit of, so if we were to do your yoga for athletes practice, what does it look like in a nutshell?

Leslee Trzcinski:

Yeah, so, again, as I was saying, there are really no universal cues. I mean, my classes are interesting. If I had you in front of me, pre-COVID or post-COVID, once COVID canceled, I’m excited to get my hands back on bodies. I talk a lot about biomechanics and alignment. But that’s different for everyone. So, my Zoom classes, I tend to come to my mat a little more than I would. Like a lot of times when I teach in person, I’ve never even on a yoga mat, I never even roll out a yoga mat. I might have to demo a pose to people, particularly newer people. But typically I’m walking the room and I am not doing hardcore adjusting of people, but I’m giving little directional taps.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And that’s also [inaudible 00:34:23]. So I use a lot of props, and I might ask the class either on Zoom or in person to put a yoga block in between their knees. And the reason being is that I want their body and their brain to really talk to each other. And sometimes we don’t have a sense of bio intelligence until we train that bio intelligence. And so again, how that applies to athletes is huge. And again, I have all these anecdotes and testimonials about how I’ve changed athlete’s lives, helping them sleep better, helping them perform better in their sport, helping them feel more focused, even helping them in their relationships because of that idea of self-study.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, I use props, I use a strap a lot, and you don’t have to have a yoga strap, you can use a dog leash, or a row belt, or a bungee cord or a tie. You can even use a beach towel. And so, I use props a lot, which props used to be considered like you were cheating, or that you were lesser. Oh, I’m not good at yoga so I need the props, or I need the chair. Absolutely the other way around. In fact, some of the hardest classes I’ve taught like arm balance classes, and handstand and big back-bending classes, I use a chair. And I’ve gotten people to say, oh, I’m in the wrong class, I didn’t want to come to chair yoga. And at the end of class, they’re like, holy moly, I learned more in this class about alignment and body structure than I ever have. Or that was the hardest back-bending class I’ve ever done because I make them put their feet on the chair and their hands on the ground, and lift into their back bend a little differently.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So my class is very different. So again, people tend to study yoga with me, they tend to study biomechanics. Biomechanics is just force production on the body, it’s how force is applied to the body and movement. I mean, how more applicable is that to a cyclist?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely.

Leslee Trzcinski:

So I might look at joint structure, I might look at a cyclist who is hinging from the middle of their back, the thoracic spine versus the lower hip point. So how do you maintain a neutral spine and hinge from the hip so that the central nervous system is operating as most efficient as possible? And so, that the core doesn’t become an energy leak, especially later in a race or later in a ride. Even now, when we’re training indoors, or you might be racing indoors, and trying to up your numbers, or just keep yourself interested and have goals and opportunity, again, during COVID. I mean, COVID is this psychology of the unpredictable. And we just don’t know what’s happening in the world around us. So, we’re just trying to control our own world.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And again, so what I would say is that the yoga practice or the movement practice is just another opportunity to learn more about ourselves. So many athletes have come to my classes now because one, they’re getting a sense of community. When I first started teaching on Zoom, I was getting about 65 people in my classes. I shut that down right away because I come off my mat, I just stay on my mat because sometimes people would be like, I don’t know what the hell to do. So I have to show them on the mat. But then I’ll come and I’m literally close to the monitor, I have a really big Apple monitor. So I can see the thumbnails really well. And I will say, I say to people prior, I might call you out in class. I really hope people put their video on but I also give people, absolutely don’t have to have your video on.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And I’ll say, hey, Joan, can you bring your right hip back a little bit more? Don’t lock your right knee, I want you to bend your right knee in your mind, I say kind of interesting cues. I want you to give me a soft bend in the right knee because I want you to draw the right hip back because your hips are out of alignment right now. And if we don’t analyze the structure on the mat, it’s happening on the bike.

Joan Hanscom:

Absolutely.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s the particular benefit, again, of yoga is that that alignment practice, that balance practice. I can use an actual real life example, again, about myself. Power distribution is really pretty close to 50/50 at this point, but it wasn’t prior. And I have seen how the yoga practice has really balanced out that power distribution in a really measurable way. I have actual data that says, oh, you’ve gone from 52/48, or whatever, to really 50/50. I really credit the yoga practice for balancing out a lot of that imbalance stuff because look, as Colby Pierce said, look, we drive with the right foot. The gas pedal is the right leg. So we’re automatically getting into a position of imbalance if we’re spending a lot of time in the car. We’re doing things all day long mouse hand that puts our body out of alignment. And that all has a negative impact on performance.

Joan Hanscom:

And so, I can really credit personally the yoga practice for reestablishing a lot of balance that I’ve been able to just measure because we have the tools to measure it. So yeah, I think everything you’re saying is super fascinating to me as an athlete because when you get to be my age and you’re competing against 20 year olds, you look for every advantage you possibly can find. I think it’s a great tool in the toolbox, physically and mentally. I love what you’re saying about that type of alignment cue and that rebalancing of the body because you’re stronger and more powerful when you’re not out of balance.

Leslee Trzcinski:

I love the use of data. At the end of the day, even again, the newbies coming in, people want to be efficient with their time and maybe dollars spent and energy, and time is money. Looking at where are the results, I want to see some results. So I love having the anecdote around data to show your power differential, left right. I mean, it is incredibly common. I mean, something like 95% of the entire population has a leg length discrepancy. And again, we could be exacerbating that. If you have an anatomical difference in the body either genetically or you’ve had an injury or you have a chronic movement pattern, or even more common is a kind of holding pattern, again, whether you’re driving or whatever it is, and then you put that on the bike, which demands symmetry, you’re just exacerbating this patterns.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, it absolutely is going to impact your force production. And so, the alignment cues and the things that I have people lay a block on their low back when they’re in a tabletop position, or even lay a foam roller on the back and try to do the bird dog, and really analyze, can I hold that, can I stay still? And we’re kind of the intrinsic deeper anatomical or the physicality piece of it. Can I keep my breath flowing? So what are the biomechanics of the breath? I mean, I do all kinds of crazy stuff where I have people just try to do upper low breathing, and I get into a yoga pose, just a classic side bend, and try to keep the breath high, try to keep the breath low. Can you expand the ribs? The ribs are made to flare, they’re made to just expand. And yet we have to kind of retrain those premise. Again, what are the goals on your bike?

Leslee Trzcinski:

I do want to just quickly mention that there’s a lot of research that have come through the decades of yoga for sports performance. But what I can tell you, Joan, and what I’m also keeping my finger on the pulse of is exercise science research. And some of the top research coming out of Columbia University and places, researchers will stand up in front of their audience and say, in a few years, research I’m going to present about 50% of it will be refuted and changed. But I don’t know what 50%.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And so, the cool thing about yoga and biomechanics and myofascial release with foam rollers and tennis balls, is that there’s a ton of new data coming out. And a lot of the pro teams and a lot of top athletes and even at the Olympic level, more and more dollars are being spent in looking at yoga and movement quality and myofascial release and fascia for sports performance. So, at the end of the day, there’ll be people even listening to this who will say, there is research that shows for track cyclists, someone like Andy, who’s like Uber fast guy, some people argue that yoga or stretching takes the snap out of the leg. There’s track runners, I’ve worked with track people. Some people argue it’s for more endurance sport. So the research says yes and no.

Leslee Trzcinski:

There’s research that shows that you can make a case for either side. So at the end of the day, it’s also, again, about that bio-individual side. It’s about what is working for you. What I would say to people that maybe are saying, I’m not going to stretch my quads, I’m not going to stretch my power path on the bike, my glutes or my quads, then think about two things for cycling. Think about back-bending and twisting. And I don’t mean back-bending like Simone Biles winning a gold medal in the Olympics, I mean some very basic back-bending, which is simply bringing balance to the body after we are over the bike hinging from the hip over the bike. We’re trying to just maintain a sense of homeostasis in the body, we’re trying to bring a sense of balance back to the body.

Leslee Trzcinski:

And then twisting the thoracic spine, especially for tracks because trackies tend to like to lift weights, love to be in the gym, and in the weight room. They mobility of the thoracic spine, the mid back is incredibly important when you’re lifting. And that directly applies over to your position on the bike. So, the thoracic spine mobility is a big place where I focus a ton of time. Do I teach traditional yoga? Absolutely, we do a ton of standing poses, we do a lot of isometric work. We do a lot of work on the mat. I do a lot of balancing. I make people do even just a standing split. I might throw in a little arm balance crow pose which is a really hard arm balance. I do it a ton with athletes because athletes want to try something hard.

Joan Hanscom:

They want to find the edge. You always want to find the edge of what you can do.

Leslee Trzcinski:

I make them put pillows on the floor all around them and somersault out of it and find the edge. That’s what it’s about, finding and learning the edge, and then continue to self-study. And we’re constantly changing, constantly changing.

Joan Hanscom:

Leslee, we could talk I think for five more hours. I could go on and on with this forever because it’s fascinating and it is data-driven and it is sports science. And it’s incredible. I think I’m going to put you on the spot here on the pod and say, maybe because you mentioned foam rolling and myofascial release, maybe one of the things we should do coming up is a video where you can lead our followers through an Instagram Live, and take our crew through this on an Instagram Live. And let’s do it, let’s show folks this stuff. Let’s just keep this whole dialogue going because it’s fascinating. When we are at past COVID, post COVID, we’ll get you down here to the track and we’ll do it in real life.

Joan Hanscom:

But I think this is such an important topic for training and athletic performance that we should keep this going again, because it’s, again, I think it makes a more balanced athlete. And if you are of that high performance mindset, you want to do … I think we talked about this in another pod, high performance means doing every bit of life with excellence, right? It’s not just the time on the bike that you do with an excellence mindset. It’s every component of life is part of that high performance mindset. And this is just one piece of that high performance thinking that I think people are really starting to appreciate and understand to your point. So let’s do it, let’s let’s do more. And today, let’s just say a huge thank you. And hopefully people find this as food for thought.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re going to put links in the show notes to your practice at Tune Yoga. And we will hopefully drive some folks there to learn about what you’re doing in greater detail than we can ever talk about here because they can experience it for real. And we’ll have you back because this is amazing. Thank you.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Thank you so much. And again, we didn’t even talk about the myofascial piece of it, which is huge, using the ball specifically for better accuracy. I mean, again, track is all about accuracy and data. There’s so much about that, again, that could be another two hour show. We didn’t touch much about the breath and kind of the diaphragm, comes down into the psoas, the psoas is the primary hip flexor which lifts the leg in cycling. How we maximize our breath.

Joan Hanscom:

We need a weekly show with you, Leslee.

Leslee Trzcinski:

When we’re texting [inaudible 00:47:37], we’re under-utilizing the lungs by 30%. You can’t have good posture on the bike if you don’t have good posture off the bike and you’re being a texter all the time. I mean, there’s just so many key data points. And I just appreciate your personal anecdotes, Joan. So let’s do that, I would love to do an Instagram Live.

Joan Hanscom:

Instagram Live is it listeners. We’re going to have Leslie on to take you through the ball and the roller. We’ll get that scheduled because I think everybody here will really tune in and love it. So not to make a bad pun on tune, but I did.

Leslee Trzcinski:

Thank you so much.

Joan Hanscom:

All right, everybody. This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. We’re so happy to have our guest, Leslee with us, and we’re going to bring her back for you more and more.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast with host Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode brought to you by B. Braun Medical Inc. Head on over to our website, the velodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode.