Ultrarunner Travis Fitzgerald: Using Movement to Surprise Yourself; Mind, Body and Soul

This week on the blog, I had the pleasure of interviewing Travis Fitzgerald, an ultrarunner and yoga enthusiast with a fantastic Instagram page and blog that will appeal to anyone interested in moving outdoors. Travis and I talked about his motivations and philosophy of movement as it relates to running and life.

Sending a BIG thank you to Travis for his time and advice!

If you were at a cocktail party and someone asked “What do you do?” How would you answer them?

I have no idea, I make it up as I go along! All jokes aside, its not far from the truth. The guy I became was not the guy I thought I would be 10 years ago. Both my professional career and my athletic career have been filled with surprises and twists.

I suppose that is why I am so drawn to ultra running. When I’m out on the trail, the world make sense in a strange way. It doesn’t matter how much planning or preparation I put into the event – things change in a blink of an eye. My body has highs and lows, I get too tired to lift my feet and I trip, I make mistakes and am forced to overcome them and adapt.

With all that comes the sweetest highs, from the exhilaration of conquering mountain tops, to watching the last light of day trickle through the trees as I chase the moon across the sky.

What got you started toward a lifestyle of ultras and yoga? What is your background with the two sports?

I started running 4 years ago to be a healthier person; to quit smoking, eat, live, and think better. I was drawn to it naturally. Once I started running I found [ultrarunner] Dean Karnazes, and the book Born to Run. Those were the seeds that took hold in the soil of my childhood; a lifetime of outdoor appreciation with my family, my enjoyment of time to myself, and the search for something BIGGER.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, but those books open the door for me to exactly what I needed. I started running barefoot/minimalist, while reinventing myself. I started running in trail events and this distances got longer and longer.

I started yoga after taking up ultra running to build strength and flexibility; when you’re running on the trails you have to constantly adapt to the terrain. I saw yoga as a way to build strength and resilience for that. When I started it, I was going through some things in my life and found that I was forced to confront myself and issues in smaller bite sized pieces than I took on while running. It was like my practice gave me a daily booster shot of the solace I found on the trails, while giving me strength and confidence as I took on new physical challenges.

Do you have a personal philosophy of movement? If so, what is it?

Move with the Earth, with mindfulness and good intentions. Adapt, and smile.

How do you incorporate movement into your lifestyle? What advice do you have for people looking to incorporate movement into their lifestyles?

Surprise yourself; mind, body, and soul. Be smart and don’t risk personal injury – but go out and push yourself. Scramble up a slope, climb up to a new peak and look out over the world. Reach and pull with your arms, climb with your legs. Run, and duck under branches. Go on an adventure and move like a human.

Why ultras? What is the draw to an ultra beyond that of another distance?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a nice half or marathon, but there is something transcendental about setting off on the trail for a full day or longer, without any idea of what lays between your next step and the finish line.

You’re also involved in yoga. How has this practice influenced your approach to daily life?

Standing on your head for the first time even is pretty intense, and doing it every morning after that is a pretty good way to bring your world into a calm, but intense, focus. There is more to it than just neat poses though.

Even some of the more ‘simpler’ poses are almost impossible if you do not have a calm and collected mind, and to that effect, yoga is not just about posing and flexibility. It is about a way of life; living good, with good intentions.

Whether it is at the start of the day, the end, or anytime in between; a little meditation, breathing and fluid movement can do wonders for the mind and body.

Do you think it’s necessary to suffer during movement/exercise? Or should it be a pursuit of finding comfort through motion? Or a little of both?

One should never suffer in movement, that’s a one-way ticket to injury. Start small, start easy, and stay loose. If you’re running, don’t push yourself in time or distance – work up to it. If it’s yoga, don’t force yourself into painful poses. Breath through the motion, and ease back. It will come with time. Natural motion should be comfortable, it’s what you were born to do.

What are you up to these days? How can people find out more information about you if they are curious?

The last month gave me both ends of the spectrum – I won a 50K race in June, and then just finished the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile endurance event 5th from last after a strange and eventful weekend. With that said, I finished strong and was feeling fluid and fit enough after 34 hours of movement and 100 miles too RUN to the table to collect my finishers buckle.

A few days later and I feel great, I’m still making sense of everything that happened, and will post the rest of the story to my blog http://wingedling.com, or if Instagram is your thing find me at the_winged_ling where I post daily exploits running, practicing yoga, hiking, camping, running, or enjoying an active life with my family.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Live with passion! You have one life, spend it doing good things with good people.

Featured image from: Pixabay.com 

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