Guest Blog: Ai Sullivan

Endurance athletes spend countless days and hours training their metabolic and neuromuscular systems in order to maximize their endurance to compete efficiently for an extended period of time. To continue to stay healthy, active and compete in sports, runners and other endurance athletes need to use corrective modalities to prevent overuse injuries and fix muscular imbalances. Practicing and using yoga in between your weekly training can increase flexibility, develop agility and gain body awareness. For many endurance athletes this could be the missing link in their training. There are many styles of yoga, but let’s explore Restorative/Yin yoga, and Vinyasa or Flow yoga.

Restorative and Yin Yoga

Restorative yoga and Yin yoga focus primarily on the lower half of the body with a lot of focus on the hips and the main purpose of recovery of the muscles. These types of yoga typically hold poses up to five minutes – this allows your body to heal by restoring and rebuild connective tissues. At first endurance athletes might find difficult to stay in a pose for up to 5 minutes and tame their inner competitive beast; however, try to channel that energy into mental concentration – don’t endurance athletes need to dig deep during a race?! Typical class would offer props such as blankets, straps, blocks and bolsters to allow students to sink deeper into the pose in a passive way and also to assist them in a pose. Some poses include legs-up-the-wall to regulate blood flow, relieves swollen ankles and restores tired legs; reclined butterfly pose will aid in opening the external rotators in your hips, while reclining on a bolster will roll the shoulders back and open up your chest.

Vinyasa and Flow Yoga

Vinyasa yoga or Flow classes are perfect for endurance athletes as it is comprised of dynamic and static poses. These types of classes are designed to build strength and endurance in the body, and classes incorporate flowing from pose to pose and connecting your breath. It provides opportunities for the body to hold strenuous poses for extended periods of time  while using mental focus to push  and breathe through difficult situations (sound familiar, athletes?!) For runners, cyclists and endurance athletes, start with couple of Sun Salutations to warm up the body then move onto standing poses and finally onto the floor to work on hips, stretching IT bands, and strengthening the core. Some samples poses include pigeon pose for the hips; eagle pose for calves and ankle; tree pose for balance and mental focus. Avoid statics poses (holding poses) before a run – it will diminish your muscle strength; stick with the dynamic warm ups.

What About “Hot” Yoga?

If you’re in a strenuous training regimen, try to avoid “hot” yoga classes – you’re getting high intensity during your training so stick to Yin/ Restorative or warm Vinyasa/Flow classes.  Another alternative is to find yoga studios that offer yoga for endurance athletes, or calling yoga studios to see if yoga instructors are also endurance athletes as those instructors can often provide good insight for like-minded yogis! Including yoga in your training schedule allows you to increase your endurance levels in a constructive way, without adding on unnecessary training that could lead to injury. Namaste!


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