Spending so much time doing the swim/bike/run grind we often neglect to pay appropriate attention to some of the finer aspects of our physical and mental health that can support our triathlon goals. A few years ago I started to dabble a little into the practice of yoga. My friends and I use to joke as I casually called myself the #flexiblewarrior. It is actually a title of a dvd by an American yoga instructor that we all used while on a training triathlon camp in Jindabyne. This was just the start for me.
In my triathlon community I have always been considered to have a good level of mobility (hence #flexiblewarrior). Whether this is a strength of mine or an area of improvement for others is yours to decide. The truth is I never really focused on mobility too much in my early athletic pursuits. I was lucky that in my younger years good coaches had me learn running mobility drills and specific strength and conditioning exercises that benefited my mobility without me really driving it.
Once I become an ambassador for Lululemon I began experiencing the different types of yoga, appreciating the mental and physical benefits of the practice. Now as I get older and continue to race Ironman, I take yoga practice more seriously. I have set myself specific goals and I adopt a lot of poses that I have learned in yoga practice to help keep me mobile and moving well outside of yoga class. Most of these poses are fairly easy to learn, can be adapted to suit any level of mobility as we improve.
I like to think of the benefits of yoga and mobility in my triathlon goals as a building process. The process starts small, but the gradual increases in elasticity of the muscles and connective tissue around the joints allows for greater range of movement. This greater range gives me the potential to increase strength over this range. This accumulation of mobility and strength will assist in efficiency of movement, less energy expenditure and an overall better performance. Easy right?
Here are my 5 Go-To Yoga Poses
Essentially these are all 'hip openers'. The key for all of these moves is to give yourself time to improve. For this to work and for you to challenge yourself, be patient and spend more than 10 seconds doing each of them. Take the time in the pose to relax your body, your breathing and allow the muscles to relax and joints to open. It's a big mental and physical challenge to stay in these poses when you are uncomfortable and you just want to stop. It's more amazing once you start seeing the improvement if you can get past that point. As you can see from the pictures I am still a novice and working on improvements in all areas.
(This is a big work in progress for me. I first attempted this pose 4 weeks ago min a Yin class with the aid of a block, rolled towels and a pillow. Now I am progressing to completing without aids. One day I may even get my legs flat to the floor?)
My final thoughts for you are about taking time to assess where the greatest long term benefits might be for your triathlon improvement. With my lifestyle and commitments, keeping healthy and injury free is a big benefit with the sometimes limited training time I have.
I do see mobility as a big area for improvement for a large portion of triathletes (also cited in athlete screening reports from the physio).
My challenge to you is to devote the time to improve your mobility and one of the best ways is under the guidance of an instructor. I am a huge fan of Yin Yoga and feel that the mental as well as physical benefits of this practice for triathletes would be a huge boost in training and racing performance for you all.