UWL track and field integrates yoga into their training


Photo retrieved from uwlax.edu.

Savannah Rygiewicz, junior short sprinter.

Julia Van Fleet, Sports Reporter

The women’s track and field team have captured one indoor and for outdoor national titles, as well as 34 outdoor and 27 indoor Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) titles. On the men’s side, the team has won 15 outdoor and 18 indoor national titles, as well as 45 indoor and 55 outdoor WIAC titles. 

However, the men and women’s teams have moved past just physical work and intense practice regimes to attain this success. The teams utilize yoga and visualization to help the athletes recover their muscles while also building up their mental strength to compete.  

One of the coaches for the women’s team, Kathryn Wagner, helps leads the team yoga that occurs on a weekly basis. Wagner is the women’s hurdles coach and has been on staff for 13 years. She also has been practicing yoga since her time as a college athlete and has been a certified pilates instructor for 10 years.  

“I still enjoy the physical practice such as improving strength, flexibility, posture, etc., but have learned to appreciate the mental and emotional benefits even more. It’s a great way to relieve stress and practice mindfulness,” said Wagner.  

Wagner has helped implement the weekly yoga as a way for the athletes to recover from their long and strenuous workouts and season. 

“As the competitive season progresses, we actually shift into more of a restorative practice. It’s an important weekly opportunity to take care of their bodies, but I think it’s even more important at this point that we are taking care of their mental and emotional state of mind,” said Wagner.  

In addition to the yoga practice, the track and field team works on breathing techniques, mindfulness and mental imagery.  

Wagner does see the correlation to athletes’ performances in lieu of yoga training.  

“When they [the athletes] learn how to shut out the unnecessary noise and distractions, they tend to be in more control of their ability to perform in that particular moment,” said Wagner. 

While Wagner does say that every athlete has a different attitude and mindset to the weekly practice, there are some athletes that have found great benefit in it. One of these athletes in junior short sprinter Savannah Rygiewicz 

Rygiewicz did not really understand the mental aspect of yoga before joining to UWL track team, but now sees improvement in her performance because of it.  

“Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the physical demands behind track and field, but we forget about the mental demands as well. Coach Wagner has taught us that we need to heal and prepare both our mind and our body and yoga is a perfect way to do that,” said Rygiewicz 

Rygiewicz recently competed in the WIAC indoor championship, which ended on Feb. 29, capturing first-place finishes in the 60 and 200 meter dashes, as well as a first-place finish in the 1600 meter relay.  

Another athlete who has found benefit in the weekly yoga is sophomore sprinter and hurdler Emma Lawrence. Lawrence captured a first-place finish in the 60 meter hurdles, as well as running on the 1600 meter relay team that finished first place. Lawrence has found a way to incorporate the weekly practice into her competition. 

“Doing mental imagery was something I was not familiar with before coming to UWL, but it is now part of my pre-competition routine,” said Lawrence. 

Lawrence notes that while yoga has been a challenge, it is something that she thinks is worthwhile. 

“Going outside of our comfort zones is something that we should become more comfortable with, even if it means trying new things like yoga, because you never know how beneficial it could be to your lifestyle,” said Lawrence. 

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