Most humans and recreational athletes think of yoga solely as deep stretches and concentrating on your inhales and exhales, which on the surface, sounds perfect for a distance athlete. However, to fully maximise the benefits of yoga for triathletes, we need to break down the yoga styles and the athlete’s needs.
Freestyle swimming requires excellent breath work, a healthy spine and strong shoulders. Cycling needs strong hip flexors & glutes that can handle a large amount of lactic acid. Finally, distance running benefits from excellent strength through your glutes, hips and muscles of the feet. Please note that in preparation for distance events, athletes do not simply require their muscles to be as flexible as possible. Therefore, a VINYASA class is the perfect foil for triathlon training, maximising performance and reducing injury risk.
The Benefits of a Vinyasa Yoga Class
To those who don’t know, a vinyasa class is dynamic movement with breath, where a student flows through many end range and isometric postures, while concentrating on their inhales and exhales. Each position is held briefly, allowing joints to move towards their end range of motion, increasing their active mobility, without losing any of their elasticity.
• Most classes will include balancing postures, where you must move through a myriad of positions, while balancing on one foot, removing any weakness that might be hiding within the lower body.
• Calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors, adductors, spine, pectorals and shoulders all “mobilise” in every angle, either while weight bearing or while having to support themselves, which creates a physical environment where bones, connective tissue and muscle are less likely to become inflamed or injured.
• Every movement is governed by a nasal breath. Learning the ability to control the breath is simply essential through endurance sports.
Recovery! If you plan on doing one event, then retiring to the pub for the next six months, then you’ll probably stop reading at this point. But if you want to remain uninjured and go from strength to strength, then you know that recovery is essential. Inflammation needs to be reduced and lymph glands need to be drained. For this we look for RESTORATIVE or YIN based yoga. Classes are far less dynamic, will concentrate on basic poses, designed to lengthen muscles and fascia.
The Benefits of a Yin Yoga Class
• After intense training or an event, the body will be inflamed and in need of a rest. For many young athletes, they lose the ability to take the foot off the gas and overtraining is the biggest problem. Restorative yoga will reduce all signs of overtraining and actually increase physical output.
• Moving meditation. If you are going to spend hours with nothing but your own support and fortitude, then you need to start training that brain of yours. Restorative classes are very difficult for some because they can’t stand simply sitting and breathing, with no external stimulus. If you are able to cultivate the meditative focus from a yin class and transfer that into a swim or a cycle, then you have just found your X-Factor.
There you have it. Dependent on where you are in your training, the addition of a vinyasa or restorative class to your training, will set you apart. The frequency is dependent on your schedule, but with the ability to take a class anywhere, then less than once a week is simply avoidance.
This article was written for Warrior Addict by the awesome Dylan Salamon; yoga teacher, triathlete, competitive rugby player, personal trainer, crossfit and powerlifting coach!