One short word, four little letters, five short minutes. Yoga belongs in your triathlon training regimen.
That’s because yoga trains both sides of the body to balance muscle strength and flexibility. The benefits include increased core stability, injury prevention, improved range of motion and better balance.
Yoga has only recently found acceptance among elite athletes.
“The uptight jocks of the past, who thought of yoga as something only for incense-burning hippies, have been replaced by today's more open-minded trainers, who will try anything that promises to improve their competitiveness,” according to runtheplanet.com.
Unlike other strength training methods, yoga relies solely on the body as an instrument. The body works against gravity to build strength naturally and safely.
It is important to train the body evenly; athletes often experience overuse of certain muscles and underuse of others. In addition, most athletes train in the frontal plane in forward movements, limiting range of motion and mobility in other directions.
Yoga increases dynamic and static and improved posture, which pays off in competition. Better elasticity means fewer muscle injuries.
The best time to practice yoga is immediately after a workout, when muscles are warm and less likely to pull or tear.
Yoga stretches should be held, without bouncing, for a minimum of 30 seconds. The longer a stretch, the greater the benefit. Tightness in particular areas of the body often leads to pain or discomfort in another. For example, athletes tend to use hip flexors and other areas around the pelvic/hip region while running and biking. Lack of flexibility in this area often leads to chronic back pain and lower back injury.
Increased range of motion allows athletes to swim, run, and bike with fewer cramps and less discomfort. It’s an activity that can be done anywhere and is beneficial regardless of the duration. Adding just five minutes of post-training stretching will help prevent muscle injuries and enable you to perform more efficiently.
Here are three basic positions, courtesy of runtheplanet.com:
Chin Press Breath
Sit cross-legged and put your hands on your thighs. Lift your shoulders toward your ears and roll your shoulder blades together down your back, keeping the natural inward curve in your lower back. Lift up through your spine, as if there were a string threaded from your tailbone through the top of your head. Maintaining that alignment, close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose as you count to five, hold it for five counts, and exhale through your nose for five counts as you gently lower your chin to your chest. Raise your head as you breathe in for five counts, and repeat the process five times.
Move to your hands and knees. Keeping your hands directly under you shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Point forward with your index fingers and grip the ground with your fingertips. Tuck your toes under and spread them out. Lengthen and straighten your spine parallel to the ground. Breathing in through your nose, lift your chin and tailbone to the sky and put your heart to the ground while rolling your shoulder blades together. As you exhale through your nose, do the opposite: drop your head toward the ground and round your back up toward the sky. Repeat this action five times.
Wide Leg Forward Bend
Stand straight up, extend your arms to the side and spread your legs as wide as your hands. Keep your feet parallel. Inhale through your nose and gently lift your head and chest up and back as you deepen the natural curve in your lower back. Bend at the hips and lower your torso toward the ground as you exhale through your nose. If you are stiff in the back and hamstrings, support the forward bend with your hands on your upper thighs. Otherwise, reach down and forward until you can get your hands on the ground. As you hold this pose for five breaths, keep pushing your quadriceps back into your hamstrings. If you are flexible enough, walk your hands first to your right foot, twisting your trunk slightly toward the front, then to your left.
Zoom Performance is a professional endurance coaching company working with athletes from beginner triathletes to Ironman World Championship qualifiers. Certified coaches provide customized programs along with metabolic testing, bike fit, one-on-one analysis, clinics, and sports nutrition programs to allow athletes to take it to the next level.