Fitness Travel: Interview with Leslee Schenk Trzcinski of Tune Yoga at Finger Lakes, NY

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When Carol took me with her to the Finger Lakes last month for a girlfriend weekend get-away, one of the things we wanted to emphasize was being physically active while we were there. I am an avid gym rat and personal trainer in-training, and Carol and I have shared workouts on many occasions. Our Finger Lakes host, AJ, came through big time by arranging hiking, kayaking, cycling, and what was the absolute fitness high point of the weekend: lakeside yoga taught by Tune Yoga owner Leslee Schenk Trzcinski. I’ve been practicing yoga for over 15 years, and this was one of the best yoga experiences I have ever had. Leslee herself has a very interesting story and is the go-to person for Finger Lakes yoga and cycling, both. I decided to interview her about her fitness philosophy and what she has to offer Finger Lakes visitors, and here’s what she had to say:

1. Please tell me a bit about your background and how you came to be a yoga instructor.

I was a pro cyclist and very active at a national/regional competitive level in many other sports. I always used a routine of stretching and visualization for my cycling when racing at the international level but did not attend yoga classes until I retired from racing and did some marathons for fun. The yoga was a huge benefit to my running and general well-being. I was also working in sports marketing then and logging a ton of hours in the office and in the field promoting events. It was hard but rewarding work, and the yoga helped keep both the body and the mind in balance. I loved it. I didn’t take my teacher training to be an instructor until years later when I wanted to take my personal practice to the next level. I was – as they say – drinking from the firehose to get as much learning and immersion as I could as the yoga was so transformative. Then a group of cyclists asked me to do a workshop for them – and it sold out – my first one. So I figured I had something here with this yoga for athletes. It has been an incredible journey so far.

2. Tell me about Tune Yoga and the kinds of classes or other services you offer clients.

TUNE yoga ( www.tuneyoga.com) was born when I realized the amazing linkages between sports and yoga – first personally with my own sports participation, and then working with others who were benefitting so greatly by even just a little instruction/guidance from me. I also love to teach and am a lifelong learner myself with a restless curiousity so I am constantly trying to learn more/incorporate more/explore more and that applies to how to help athletes and those athletic – whether recreational or competitive – to take their sports to the next level. No matter where they desire to go.

I teach a wide variety of classes – mainly focused on three things for athletes:  FOUNDATION (core strength, reducing muscle imbalances and strengthening underutilized muscles that can cause injury);  FLEXIBILITY (lengthening overutilized muscles – whatever the repetitive motion of your particular sport, realigning the body front to back, side to side and top to bottom): FOCUS (deeply listening to the body to read it and reduce injury, fatigue and increase results, using breathwork to tap the energy of the breath – a critical tool to power the body and calm the mind, and concentration to get in the ‘zone’ and reach your goals.)

I do teach people who are not fully focused on sports – and with great benefit to them and their lives, and I offer gentle classes and restorative yoga for slower practices and more recovery.  I do special workshops throughout the year on nutrition or specific sports focuses (cycling, running, golf, ball sports, etc.) I go into schools and work with sports teams right in their gyms or on their fields (e.g. the lacrosse team, football team, track teams or swim teams). That is incredibly rewarding.

And, last, I am a USA Cycling national level cycling coach and I do private and group cycling training on the road with aspiring and highly competitive cyclists of all ages. I do camps and rides throughout the warm weather season and indoor coaching and training in the winter.

3. Have you ever seen yoga change someone’s life?

Absolutely. Almost daily. First, it changed my life in so many ways – mentally and physically. Many times you don’t even realize the impact of the practice on you until you have done it a while and start manifesting deeper focus, more fluid stride and movement, greater outlook on things and a profound sense of relaxation and coping mechanism.

I am so honored to work with people who share amazing stories of how the yoga has transformed them – and how my teaching has really spoken to them. Because I work with athletes, they are not “yogis”….many of my students have never done yoga before and are looking for the pure physical benefit. But they get so much more with the control of their breath and ability to relax at will to be in control of their energy.

One specific example is actually the kids/students I work with. They are athletes and do the yoga through their respective sports teams, but what I hear back from them, or the coaches or even the parents is that they are sleeping better, doing better in school, feel more in control, feel more focused and relaxed. Wow, now that is what makes me smile!

The yoga brings you into the present and makes you assess other parts of your daily regime – such as diet, sleep, etc. So many of my students have changed what they eat as well. It is what I call “the other 23 hours” – the time off the yoga mat or outside of the training that greatly impacts how you feel.  I have a silly, simple saying – “It feels good to feel good.”  Being a catalyst for someone’s quality of life is just so rewarding and I am thankful every day.

 4. What do you like best about yoga in the Finger Lakes area? (Or, more generally, about being active in that area.)

I have lived all over the US (Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, California, Arizona) and traveled to nearly every state in US for both my cycling and other work. I have also raced all over the world. But I have to tell you that one of the most amazing places in the world is the Finger Lakes region. We specifically chose to live here because of all it offers. It really is “nature’s health club” and any enthusiast can find what they are looking for here. And the scenic vistas, views and gorgeous terrain are amazing. The lake country is so unique – each Finger Lake is different, yet part of this system that makes the region. The way the hills drop down to the lakes is so spectacular. You feel like you are a in a different country.

Cycling here is some of the best in the country – honestly – that is not an exaggeration. There is great yoga here from the various studios that offer a wide range of styles. During the summer, doing yoga along the lakeside is so special and relaxing. And, I am exploring stand up paddle (SUP) yoga too!! How fun.

5. What do you (or would you like to in the future) offer visitors to the Finger Lakes that would enhance their stay?

The stand up paddle boarding and yoga is taking off around the country so that will be something I will be offering this summer. I will also be doing regular scheduled yoga lakeside classes both in the morning and evening so that will really enhance people’s time near the water and really get a unique flavor of this gorgeous area. I am also offering more cycling clinics for all levels of cyclists – even very recreational as well as some for women only and some combined competitive clinics. And, I will be incorporating more nutritional focus into the classes so even for those from out of town can tap the power of what I would call “super foods” to optimize that “feel good” factor!!  Combining a wonderful place to stay with gorgeous scenery, physical activity tailored to YOUR level – with some yoga and breathing to wash away and stress, combined with phenomenal local foods and wines make this an amazing destination.

 6. Why should people practice yoga as part of a fitness program?

Yoga is truly the perfect elixir for health and wellbeing. It fully compliments ANY other fitness or sport regime, or by itself gives one all they need. It impacts EVERY system in the body from the muscular, skeletal, nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system, circulation, immune system, lymphatic system, cardiovascular, etc. More and more traditional healthcare providers are strongly recommending yoga as clinical studies and hard data are proving its benefits, combined of course with all the anecdotal responses from the 20+ million who currently practice – and that number grows daily.

7. Do you teach one specific type of yoga,  or several, and why? What do you see as the benefits of each type?

There are many types of yoga. I teach a blend. My training is in the Iyengar style which puts great emphasis on precision and alignment which is critical for sports and general safety in the practice. The poses tend to be held longer.  But I also teach a vinyasa flow style – where we link the poses together and flow from one to another. I do what is called a “slow flow” making it a very mindful practice so even though there is more movement from pose to pose it is done slowly and very carefully to ensure full benefit while safe and each pose set up properly as to ensure no injury. The last thing you want is for people to get injured doing yoga when they are using the practice to optimize other parts of their lives. There are many other styles of yoga from Ashtanga, Kripalu, Jivamukti, Hatha, Anusara, Kundalini, Virayoga, etc. Each has a different focus – some more about the spiritual aspects of the practice, some very slow and meditative, some more active and rigorous. The web site www.yogajournal.com is an excellent, general resource for all things yoga.

Editor’s note: To learn more on Finger Lakes adventures, please read: Weekend Getaway to the Finger Lakes and Indulging the Foodie at Finger Lakes.

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Laurie Junkins

Laurie is a writer living in New Jersey with her husband, three children, and way too many pets. She's enthusiastic about fitness, naps, inappropriate asides, wine, and laughing out loud in public. You can follow her on Twitter @LaurieJunkins

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