Why do I recommend adding yoga into your training regime?
Yoga is an excellent practice for developing:
- overall flexibility and ease of movement,
- core stability,
- structural balance and alignment,
- improved blood flow and lymphatic drainage,
- supportive breathing patterns, and
- objective self-awareness.
Most people think yoga is just about being stretchy and it’s a well-known fact that static stretching improves flexibility. As an athlete, you need enough length in your muscles and connective tissues to give you a good range of motion in your joints. Tight muscles can inhibit your ability to move power efficiently through your limbs and can also contribute to chronic pain through structural misalignment of joints – such as swimmers’ shoulder, runners’ knee and lower back pain.
However, too much flexibility can also lead to soft tissue damage if the joints are not strong enough to handle the force being applied through them. I know this first-hand because when I started training for Ironman, I had to teach my bendy yoga body how to become stiffer and stronger in order to handle the repetitive stress involved in swimming, cycling and running for hours on end. Fortunately, yoga had also given me solid base of strength, stability and ease of movement that was easy for me to build upon.
I believe this foundation gave me an edge, and it can give you one as well. How?
- Specific yoga postures done with a functional approach can help you to develop optimal range of movement and core stability for your sport. This translates into efficiency, power, endurance and resilience.
- By improving your breathing patterns and fine-tuning your internal awareness of physical sensations and mental thought processes, you can positively change how you respond to discomfort and stress.
- Yoga is an ideal rest day activity as it stimulates the neuromuscular pathways without adding extra load and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes relaxation and recovery.
In upcoming posts I’ll be showing you key yoga postures that complement swimming, cycling and running. Some of these have been slightly adapted to be more functional – that is, sports specific.
I’ll also talk about breathing, relaxation, stress and awareness as these all affect your performance both in training and racing.
I recommend doing yoga at least twice a week to gain the best results. The routines I prescribe will only take you 20 – 30 minutes, and they can be easily fitted in with your other training priorities. Commit to doing yoga twice a week, for just four weeks, and you will notice the immediate benefits.
CAUTION: If you’re planning on trying out a yoga class, be aware that there are many styles of yoga, and not all of these will be appropriate for athletes who are training regularly in high volume and high intensity sports. Yoga that involves extended holds of static stretching and passive stretching using props will not be suitable, as this focuses primarily on lengthening muscles and joints. Instead look for more dynamic flow forms of yoga such as Astanga where holds are short and breath control is emphasised.