Injury prevention, improved recovery and mindfulness are some of the reasons Nicky – triathlete and lead coach at Chichester Westgate Junior Triathlon club cites for regularly practising yoga. They are also reasons why she asked me to come and lead a number of short yoga sessions at the Junior triathlon club training, which I was delighted to do. Nicky is a regular attendee at my yoga classes in Chichester and she felt it was important to introduce yoga into the training schedule for the young triathletes.
There are many physical benefits of combining yoga with cycling, running and swimming. Yoga can benefit by improving your flexibility, posture and strength. Lengthening the muscles which naturally shorten as a result of these activities is also a key benefit. Stretches such as lunges (runners lunge, crescent lunge) release the tightness in the hip flexors.
I was surprised to see how many of the juniors triathletes were tight in their hamstrings or let out a groan when they were in a runners lunge and really felt the stretch in the hip flexor area the asana was targeting. Many of the children regularly participate in other sports and I am convinced are not spending enough time stretching out after their activity.
In terms of the mental benefits, increased mindfulness which carries you through a training session is not to be underestimated. Triathlon is a very physically demanding sport, and training can be gruelling, tri-athletes will be spending a lot of time on their bikes or running. If you are always thinking about your speed or the number of miles you are clocking up you might be missing out on the beautiful scenery around you, especially if you are training outside. Bringing mindfulness into a training session can shift the focus, if you are really present and aware of the sights, sounds, the air temperature and smells around you, you might end up enjoying the training more.
Surprisingly, Savasana – Corpse pose was the favourite asana by the Junior triathletes, they loved the deep rest on their mats at the end of our flow and many asked if they could stay there for the rest of the morning. Triathlon is high intensity and very often the children will be encouraged to go a little faster than they have done before or put in a bit more effort. Savanasa allowed them just to be, to listen to an uplifting track from a well known film and for the first time in their training session to be still.
When planning for the session I hadn’t allocated enough time for a long Savasana, but I definitely let them have more time in Savasana next time and I will bring lavender eye bags and also blankets so they can get the full benefit of the best and most valuable asana in the yoga practice.
Is yoga good for triathletes? Yes it can really compliment your triathlon training, help you recover quicker from events and reduce your chance of picking up an injury. It might also help you gain more enjoyment from your training by being more present in the moment.
What are good yoga poses for triathletes? Any lunges, hip openers such as Half Pigeon and also quad stretches. As with my experience with the junior triathlon club – Savasana was by far the favourite and probably the most needed.