The following article originally appeared in a 2011 Coach Fitter series on Yoga for Triathletes.
Have you ever crushed it on the squat rack the night before a big race? What about switch your training focus away from swim, bike, run to a recreational team sport during peak training? Of course you haven’t. Why? Because we use a concept called periodization to focus on different disciplines at different intensities during different times of the year and different days of the week. This concept should be applied to your yoga practice so it can remain in your triathlon program year round.
Of course, as yoga instructors, we don’t make that easy for you. It’s hard to decipher what each class is all about given the mix of Sanskrit and cutesy names use. Here is what to look for during the different phases of your training.
Off Season/Pre Season
The Goal: This is the time of year where yoga can be used, more or less, in place of a normal strength training session. Ninety percent of all yoga classes at chain gyms offer a fitness-focused version of yoga that fits the bill here.
The Class Names: Fitness Yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Yoga, PiYo, most Baptiste classes or any hybrid class with the word “power” in it.
Questions to Ask The Teacher Before Going: Will I sweat in this class? How intense is the practice? If the answers are “yes” and “moderate” or more then you are in the right place.
The Goal: To work the body gently with less intensity than the physical demands required in some of the classes listed above so you have the energy to focus on swim, bike and run.
The Class Names: Slow Flow, Beginner Vinyasa, Yin-Yang, or most classes designated as Level I.
Questions to Ask: How much of the class will be spent moving versus holding gentle postures? Will this class be a difficult physical workout? They answer to the first should be a mix of each and the answer to the second should be a resounding “no.”
Note that this could be a full post-triathlon recovery phase or simply an easy day following a hard training day.
The Goal: Relax and repair muscles by opening up the hips.
The Class Names: Restorative Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Yin Yoga.
Questions to Ask: Will this class be mostly on the mat and not standing? The answer should be “yes.”
This is specific to athletes whose coach is putting them through a phase of heat adaptation in prep for racing in hot conditions.
The Goal: There is some science out there pointing to evidence that exercise at even low intensities can help the body perform well at threshold in the heat. In theory, yoga could be the exercise modality to accomplish this.
The Class Names: Bikram Yoga, Moksha and any class with the name “hot” in it
Questions to Ask: Is the room heated? Is the class accessible to beginners? The answers should quite obviously be “yes.” The second question is particularly important because many heated classes can be very intense.
Yoga can be accessible to every triathlete during every phase of training. The key is finding the right class and making the commitment.
Scott Beesley is a full-time triathlon coach and yoga instructor, currently based in Grass Valley, California. If you email him your zip code and training goals at firstname.lastname@example.org, he will find a yoga class in your area. More free advice at www.solesinspired.com, www.facebook.com/solesinspired, www.youtube.com/solesinspired.