Yoga for Triathletes – How Yoga Can Optimize Your Recovery by Jeff Grace

Time is at a premium for any triathlete. Training for three different disciplines, warding off injury and making time for recovery all in addition to everyday life is a lot for anyone to take on.

Although improving strength, increasing mobility and optimizing recovery are important they often take a back seat in the quest for faster race results.

For that reason when incorporating another modality into your training regime it needs to be efficient. This is where a yoga practice designed for multi-sports athletes comes into play.

A yoga practice designed based on the biomechanics, physiology and overall periodization of a sport is an extremely effective way to supplement your core training.

You do not need to take an hour out of your day to include a sport-specific yoga practice and it can be as simple as doing just a few poses.

So how can yoga help you optimize recovery?

The Breath

How is yoga different than stretching?

There are many differences. The biggest being the way you work with your breath. By working with the breath you allow the parasympathetic nervous system (the side of your nervous system responsible for recovery and restoration) to activate.

It also brings a mindful quality to your practice, which allows for not only physical recovery, but mental restoration as well.

When doing these poses bring the following qualities into your breath:

  1. Breath through the nose to slow the speed of the breath as well as clean the air as it enters the body

  2. Focus on breathing through the entire body

    1. Come through a three-part breath. As you inhale feel the stomach fill, the ribs widen and the chest rise. On the exhale feel the chest fall, the ribs narrow and the stomach empty

  3. Allow the exhales to be a little longer than the inhales

Yoga for Triathletes Poses for Recovery

These poses are gentle and increase mobility as well as promote recovery. You should feel a stretching sensation, but stay away from forcing yourself into a pose. Instead think about allowing the body to come into the posture.

There is no such thing as the perfect expression of a pose. Work with your individual range of motion and be patient with your ability to relax into the pose and the development of your mobility.

Poses can be held anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.

As described these poses should not be done before another training session. They should be used either after a session or in a separate session focused on recovery or mobility.

The poses have been chosen based on the demands placed upon triathletes as outlined below.

Swimming - Lengthening and releasing through the back while increasing shoulder stability. Increasing mobility in the thoracic spine while opening through the chest and shoulders.

Cycling - Lengthening and releasing through both the hamstrings and the quadriceps.

Running – Opening the hips by lengthening and releasing the hip flexors as well as the glutes.

Active child’s pose

Cues:

  • Start on your knees
  • Place the top of the feet on the ground with your big toes together and your knees out wide

  • Fold forward at your hips bringing your head down onto the mat

  • Allow your seat to fall back towards your heels

  • Fully extend your arms out in front of you

  • Once you come to your full extension through the arms press down into the ground with your finger tips and feel as if you are pulling the mat back towards your arm pits

  • This pose targets the lats while at the same time creating shoulder stability

 

Thread the Needle

Cues:

  • Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over elbows, elbows over wrists and your knees right under your hips

  • On an inhale lift your right arm up and out to the side twisting through the mid-spine and stretching through the chest and shoulder

  • On an exhale your right arm moves under the left bringing your arm and shoulder towards the ground

  • Repeat the movement above three times. On the third time place the head and the right arm on the ground extending the left arm out in front of you

  • Repeat this pose on both sides

  • This pose targets the mid-spine (thoracic spine) as well as the chest and shoulders

 

Lying hamstring

*You will need a strap for this pose (a band, belt or tie are great substitutes)

Cues:

  • Start by lying flat on your back

  • Bring your left knee in towards the chest and extend the right leg long on the ground with the heel down and the toes curled back towards the shin

  • Place the strap around the ball of your left foot

  • With a bend in the knee bring your upper leg bone to a 90° angle at the hip socket

  • On an exhale start to extend your leg working with your own range of motion

  • To bring some intensity into the calves kick through your left heel while curling the toes towards the shin

  • Repeat this pose on both sides

  • This pose targets the hamstrings and the calves

  •  

Cat pulling its tail

Cues:

  • Start on your left side

  • Support your head with your left hand

  • Bring your right leg out in front of your towards a 90° angle at the hip

  • Bend your left knee bringing your left heel towards your seat

  • Hold onto your left foot with your right hand stretching the quads of the left leg

  • To find more intensity you can bring the left knee back farther or bring your right leg further out in front of you

  • Repeat this pose on both sides

  • This pose targets the quads and hip flexors

 

Upright Dragon

Cues:

  • Start in a low lunge position with your right foot forward and your left knee back

  • Have both your hands on the ground on either side of your right foot

  • Make sure your right knee is directly over the ankle and your left knee is back far enough that you feel a stretch in the hip flexors on the left side

  • Squaring your hips feel strength and stability in the low back

  • Slowly bring your upper body up placing your hands onto your right thigh

  • Gently press down and forward on your thigh while having your spine long, core strong and your shoulders relaxed back and down

  • Keep your right hand on your thigh and on an inhale reach towards the sky with the left hand extending your left arm

  • On an exhale continuing to reach up reach over the to the right side

  • Repeat this pose on both sides

  • This pose targets the hip flexors especially the psoas

 

Figure Four

Cues:

  • Start on your back with the soles of your feet flat on the ground hip distance apart

  • On an inhale place your left ankle onto your right thigh 

  • On an exhale externally rotate your left hip bringing your left knee away from your body

  • If this is enough intensity for you keep your right foot on the ground and place your left hand on the inside of your left thigh encouraging the hip to open

  • If you want more intensity on an inhale bring your right knee in towards your chest

  • Reach through your legs with your left hand while bringing your right hand to the outside of your right leg and hold onto the back of your right thigh 

  • Repeat this pose on both sides

  • This pose targets the glutes

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to incorporate yoga into your training is through the use of online classes.

If you want to improve your performance by not only optimizing your recovery, but by improving your strength, mobility and body awareness Swimming-Specific Yoga programs are perfect for you. Swimming-Specific Yoga offers both online classes that are designed not only for swimmers, but multi-sport athletes as well.

 

We will  be offering five MCC athletes 15% off an individualized quarterly program.

These special offers can be claimed by using “MCC” as your discount code on our online services page; http://www.swimmingspecificyoga.com/services.html

To find out more about our individualized programs and class channel visit our website www.swimmingspecificyoga.com

Jeff Grace is a certified yoga therapist who comes from a background in the sports of swimming and triathlon. He competed in both sports as an age grouper and was a full time coach for close to 20 years.

He specializes in teaching sport-specific yoga and continues to coach masters swimmers and triathletes.

 

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