How does a woman successfully go from a PhD in English to becoming an authority on yoga training for endurance athletes? Ask Sage Rountree. Among many hats, Rountree is a yoga instructor, published author of four books, accomplished triathlete and ultramarathoner, regular contributor for Yoga Journal and Runner's World and other leading publications, co-owner of a successful yoga studio (soon to be two) in Carrboro, North Carolina, endurance coach to athletes from novice to Olympian, entrepreneur, wife and mother of two. Her journey to success is proof that achievement in all aspects of life is accomplished with passion, purpose, discipline and mindfulness.

I was first introduced to Rountree's work when I read her book, The Athlete's Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, and Restore for Peak Performance. I was immediately impressed with her level of authority and expertise and her ability to successfully demonstrate the tangible benefits of yoga for the goal-driven athlete. During my interview with Rountree, it quickly became apparent that passion and purpose are the lifeblood of her multi-faceted career; whether as an author, coach, entrepreneur or athlete. This passion and purpose has served as the catalyst to her success and I was thrilled when she agreed to share her journey with PFP. In my interview with Rountree, she inspired a few thoughts that I believe will resonate with all fitness professionals in their quest for success.

Lesson 1: Master the ability to recognize a need and fill it
Sage Rountree is the quintessential example of mastering the ability of recognizing a need, capitalizing on her skills and education, and penetrating a niche she's passionate about from all angles. In her own words, "I know that many athletes are turned off by yoga because it seems too easy (and becomes boring), too hard (and thus painful and intimidating) or out of sync with their training (leading to fears that they're undermining their hard work)." Because of Rountree's intimate understanding of the athlete-mindset, she saw the need to introduce yoga to endurance athletes in an approachable and understandable way; she knew she could fill that space and she has been blazing the trail since.

Rountree began running in graduate school primarily for stress relief. Realizing the benefits of yoga as a complement to her endurance training, she began teaching classes based on triathlon training principles and ultimately pursued her yoga certification. About eight years ago Rountree's friend was opening a yoga studio. Rountree asked if she could teach prenatal yoga, but her friend had already filled the position. Rountree then suggested a "Yoga for Athletes" class. Two years ago, Rountree and a business partner bought the yoga studio and she continues to teach that same class.

Along with her yoga training for athletes, in 2005 she anticipated the new media wave of podcasting. Utilizing production skills she learned while working in public radio in college and graduate school, she produced a podcast of short post-workout yoga routines and put it online as the Sage Yoga Training Podcast. She was able to capitalize on many of her skills -- yoga, endurance sports and radio production. Rountree was well on her way to establishing herself as a recognized expert in the field of yoga for athletes; and she wasn't done yet. 

Lesson 2: Embrace yourself as an authority
Offering her yoga class for athletes and producing that first podcast was just the first of many needs that Rountree was destined to fill. One day Rountree mused to her husband, "I wish there were a book on yoga for endurance sports." Her husband responded, "Aren't you the expert?" Just a few days later, she pitched her book idea "The Athlete's Guide to Yoga" to VeloPress publishers and they were immediately interested. This was the first of four books she has had published and a catalyst to her coaching program, yoga training certification programs, and opportunities to contribute to national magazines.

But claiming herself as an authority was not always part of Rountree's self-perception. When asked about her biggest challenge, Rountree says, "... caring too much about negative feedback, especially when it's just one negative voice in a sea of positive ones. My husband would say that it goes along with a misdirected modesty -- with not fully embracing my role as expert as he thinks I should. This is definitely part of the fear of being exposed as a fraud that many successful women have." Though Rountree has a background in publishing, was professionally trained to write and earned the proper yoga and coaching education and certifications, she says it is still often difficult, as it is for many fitness professionals, to fully embrace herself as an "authority."

She continued to build her credibility through her writing, coaching and teaching, and was reaffirmed that she had captured the attention of a niche that was largely untapped. She credits her emphasis on having an authentic voice and sharing her discoveries, which enabled her to integrate her passion for yoga for athletes into all aspects of her career. Rountree has since become a recognized authority on yoga for athletes and a highly sought-after coach for endurance athletes of all levels who compete in running, ultramarathoning triathlon and MTB racing; she continues to embrace the position she's earned as the go-to expert. 

Lesson 3: Do it all, but mindfully and with purpose
Sage Rountree seems to have a knack for doing it all, and doing it all well. Her strategy? Prioritize; Batch; Replicate. Rountree commits to starting her day with her workout and practice. She batches her work so she can remain focused -- she does all the work for the studio one day and focuses on her writing on another. Replication is a crucial timesaver. She creates boilerplate copy so when answering reader or client questions, she can personalize her answers, but draw on her templates.

One cannot help but be impressed by Rountree's sincerity and purpose when speaking of her future plans. She and her business partner are expanding to a second yoga studio in the next year. She sees the multitude of opportunity for the industry in the realm of online classes, courses and trainings both for clients and for fitness professionals to continue their education and stay up-to-date on new approaches and current science. Her online courses, "YogaVibes" is set to grow exponentially, including her Yoga for Athletes teacher training and certification program, and her online endurance coaching continues to thrive. Though her hands seem to be in many pots, she is purposeful and mindful with each of her endeavors and undoubtedly this continues to be a key to her success.

Sage Rountree is a leader. She is a leader to her peers and a leader to the success-driven athletes she coaches. With her perfect approach of pushing the body while delicately balancing presence of mind, she seems to have accomplished the essence of mind-body balance; for what so many of us strive. She is a tenacious risk-taker, but with a zen frame of mind and one could argue that this perfect combination is a quality that makes for greatness.

Company name: Coaching company: Sage Endurance; Yoga studio: Carrboro Yoga Company

Certifications: PhD, E-RYT (Yoga Alliance); USA Triathlon Level II Certified coach; Road Runners Club of America Coach; Star 3 Spinning Instructor; certified mat Pilates instructor

Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Bodhi Tree studio in Charlotte, N.C.

Favorite healthy snack: PowerBar Nut Naturals, which I keep in my car in case of emergency snack needs. They work well on long rides and runs, too. Also: dried mango. But it’s dangerously addictive.

Favorite quote or saying: "Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." —Mark Twain


How much of your time would you estimate you spend growing your business?