April 6, 2018
This won’t be the first time you’ve read that you ‘should be doing yoga’ as part of your race training, and like many, you’ve probably not been sure why and how you’re supposed to fit this in to your time consuming training plan (and life!).
Well, we’re here to help. The first thing you need to know is that yoga is not about being flexible enough to touch your toes or standing on one leg. ‘Not being flexible enough for yoga’ is like saying you’re too dirty for a shower. A lack of flexibility is one of many reasons you should be taking to the mat, even for just a few minutes every day.
Yoga can help us unpick some of the over use and stress that we put on both our mind and body. Some of the best athletes in the world have acknowledged yoga for its role in their sporting success, including Ryan Giggs, Anthony Joshua and Andy Murray.
One of our students is U23 World Champion and World Cup Medal winning British Slalom Canoeist Adam Burgess:
‘Yoga has added another gear to my training and performance. My physical practice has made me stronger and more robust whilst the mental / spiritual teachings reinforce crucial race day skills: calming my mind, focussing on myself, and a healthy perspective on life beyond the white water.’
So, now that you’re a little more interested, how can yoga really help you?
Movement: We’re all limited by our current range of motion and as the body is over used, aged, fatigued and worn out, things get tight and muscles get short. The introduction of slow focused movements and repetitions will undo some of this tightening and help to stretch and even out some of those muscles. When it comes to your joints, regular articulation of the spine, hips, shoulders (and the rest!) does the job of oiling and lubricating each joint to support healthy movement, just in the same way that you oil your bike.
Strength: Holding and moving through a sequence of yoga poses can be effective for building functional strength. As easy as it may seem compared to lifting weights, holding your own body weight in yoga poses for long periods of time (at least 5 breaths) can strengthen all of the smaller supportive muscles as well as impact on targeted areas of the body.
Better Breathing: When you first get started with yoga you’ll be enlightened by the new understanding and relationship you have with your tight muscles, but this is just the beginning. In less time than you think, yoga will become your all important breathing coach. That’s right, we’re all walking, swimming, cycling and running around this planet without enough attention to our breath, especially when we’re under exertion and 20 mins into a 30km hill climb!
Adam Burgess adds ‘we’re particular about diet and hydration but actually the thing that we consume more of is air and we rarely consider how we do that…’
Establishing a controlled pattern of breathing, a deep inhalation and full exhalation, calms your nervous system, keeps you relaxed and efficiently delivers oxygen to your muscles when you’re digging deep.
‘Pranayama’ the element of yoga which teaches you about your breathing, offers new skills and techniques which will support in your training and race day performance.
Mindset: Any good athlete knows that the race day difference lies in your mindset, just as we flex our biceps, we need to flex the ‘muscles’ of the mind. Meditation, quiet time, mindfulness, call it what you like, yoga and its teachings can get us closer to a place where we start to understand more about ourselves and our motivations. A stronger vision, sense of purpose and answer to the question ‘WHY’ might be exactly what you need in those crucial final moments of a race.
So, there we have it, four excellent reasons to roll out a yoga mat, and not one of them is about touching your toes.
A few quick tips for getting started:
- Don’t worry about making shapes or what you look like, just do it!
- Try a few different teachers and styles, no yoga teacher is the same, find a teacher that suits you
- Yoga is NOT a sport, it’s a way of life
- Once you’ve had a few classes and built up some confidence, doing yoga at home on your own terms is the easiest way to integrate it into your routine long term
- It all counts, 5 mins or 60 mins, it’s all yoga
- Don’t worry about any fancy equipment, just move and breathe
Written by Aletheia Katharine Hunn, Director of Founded Wellness.
You’ll find the Founded Wellness Yoga team at all of our 2018 UK races so don’t miss the chance to join them for a stretch.
About Founded Wellness
Founded Wellness is a workplace wellbeing provider dedicated to bringing the benefits of yoga and other holistic health activities out of the studio and into the workplace, to some of the people that need it most. The aim is to get everyone moving, breathing and living better at work.
Founded Wellness Director Aletheia Katharine Hunn has a personal interest in working with triathletes having raced competitively in her early 20s. During training for the London Marathon in 2005 Aletheia started yoga and found it to be the missing link in improving her athletic endeavours and has been practicing yoga ever since.
To support this interest, Aletheia completed a dedicated ‘Yoga for Athletes’ training in 2017 with Sarah Ramsden who is responsible for introducing Yoga to Premier League Football over 10 years ago.
These days her races are few and far between but she still has a passion for competing and will be joining the swim only race at Hever Castle this season. Aletheia launched Founded Wellness in 2016, after leaving her 9-5 career in health promotion.
You can read more about Founded Wellness here: www.foundedwellness.com