Monday September 24, 2012

Cool-down jogs are nothing new after long, tiring runs. The same goes for post-workout stretches.

For the Hoosac Valley cross country teams, another activity has increased in popularity after practices: yoga.

"I'm always looking for something new," Hurricanes coach Ron Namislo said.

Hoosac certainly seems to have found something that works well. They've started strong in the season's first three weeks, with the boys near the top of the South Division in Berkshire County and the girls above .500 in the North. Each side has an individual win, too -- Kalyn Alibozek for the girls in Week 1 at Wahconah, and Travis Ciempa for the boys in Week 2 at Taconic.

They're the two the Hurricanes can thank most for the introduction of yoga.

Ciempa picked it up at a summer running camp at Keene State College, while Alibozek was already doing it at home.

"It's kind of fun after practice and feels good with soreness," Ciempa said after his Week 2 win. "It's not like religious or anything. It's sort of like meditation. You have to be relaxed and peaceful. You just feel great afterwards."

Alibozek first saw yoga on television. She already knew from studying that stretching the muscles allows for a longer stride. Before the season started, she suggested yoga at summer practices.

Now, the sessions are quick after practice. Alibozek wants to get the team together for approximately 30-45 minutes after running to stretch. Namislo has even added meditation from time to time.

"We do the whole thing, relaxing, then walk the course," he said. "We talk about breathing easy, and that this is fun and feels great, and use that during the race."

Before practice gets slightly transcendental, though, there's running to be done. Alibozek does her best to keep pace with the boys as she runs, working with Chris Cardimino more often than not.

"I'd rather have someone in front of me in practice to look at ... than be standing by myself and not knowing when to push myself," she said.

For everything else, there's Ciempa. The two will often keep each other positive, and Namislo sees them doing many of the workouts together. When they run together, the coach knows Ciempa can keep a solid pace while giving Alibozek a challenge.

"They can talk with each other about the pressure of running first and second," he said. "Someone running fourth or fifth will never understand that until they're there."

Thanks to yoga, however, Ciempa doesn't feel a lot of pressure once his feet hit the cross country course.

"I don't feel as tight and everything," he said, giving a wave through the air. "I just feel loose."

To reach Matthew Sprague:
msprague@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6254.
On Twitter: @EagleSportsZone.