endurance athlete yoga poses

A focussed mindset: Yoga for endurance athletes

By James Oakley

endurance athlete yoga poses
You may not always put the two together, yoga and high intensity and endurance sports such as cycling or running; but the reality is the core disciplines of both practises cross paths in more ways than one. 
  
We are no strangers to the fact that leaving the house for a run or to cycle, isn’t doable anymore in the current climate. You may be at a loss, thinking coronavirus has us locked up and it’s thrown away the key. But fear not athletes; yoga at home can maintain your strength, refocus your mindset and enhance your performance in ways you never thought possible. 
  
Quarantine, lockdown or self isolation; whatever you want to call it, they all mean the same thing; stay home. Which means no warm spring evening cycle rides, and no more blissful morning runs. So how are you going to use this time to your advantage? Taking up yoga wouldn’t ordinarily spring to mind, but you don’t know what we know. Here’s a quick breakdown of how yoga can benefit endurance athletes.
  

You can gain better balance from practising yoga 

Balance is generally a very overlooked component of any athletic discipline, be it sprinting, swimming or otherwise. By practicing yoga asanas and holding positions, you learn to better balance your body weight. Why does this help endurance athletes? A better balance means better coordination, and with that comes enhanced control over how your body moves. This can then be molded into a better technique or form when practicing your golf swing, stride or stroke. Try a yoga classic, the tree pose. Stand in an upright position and focus your gaze directly in front of you. Shift your weight onto one foot, bringing the other leg up and in to rest on your opposing thigh. Gently bring your arms above your head and down through the center of your body, pressing your palms together to stabilize when reaching your chest, hold this position for 30 seconds. 
tree pose yoga
  

Yoga improves your core strength

As with most endurance sports, cycling, running or swimming for example; some muscle groups remain underutilised. However, with consistent practice of poses and postures (these are called yoga asanas), you will be able to build core strength and improve lean muscle mass. This will help support the muscles you use most regularly, and cause less strain if you become injured from overuse. This new found balance will make a now larger group of muscles more functional, optimising performance when it comes to getting back in the pool or on the track. 
  
Yoga improves mental control, a vital endurance athlete discipline
At the end of a yoga routine, you finish with savasana. This is a meditative portion of your yoga routine and is not to be overlooked. Traditionally the pre performing poses and postures were structured and organised into an order that allows your mind and body to prepare to reap the maximum benefits of the savasana that follows. This is where you lie still on your back for a period of quiet meditation, a time where you are encouraged to control the impulse of your mind, to clean and refocus your energy. For endurance athletes this can be most beneficial, just as your body needs rest to repair muscles and build strength, so does your mind. With a clearer mindset you can take on more and build your ability in whatever practise you do as an endurance athlete. 
  

Flexibility can benefit endurance athletes too

Flexibility in your joints and muscles allows endurance athletes to perform a wider range of motion, and reduces the risk of suffering overuse injury. Practising yoga on a regular basis gives your body the ability to stretch and test it’s flexibility, building more resistance each time. Flexibility for an athlete is crucial to the overall structural soundness of the body, meaning enhanced performance and endurance. In turn, this new increased range of motion provides a greater ability to strength condition a particular muscle group, making the process easier and quicker. 
  
All you need to start your yoga journey is a mat; we recommend the PAWS Mat with extra grip and thickness for added comfort.