As someone who likes dabbling in most sports, particularly those that involve pushing myself to the limit, triathlons are a natural fit. They provide the balance I’m looking for – I’m challenged without feeling it’s so intense I might injure myself.
I think it’s partly because the three disciplines work on different parts of my body. However I’m also convinced the strengths I gain from my practice of Bikram yoga are key, too. Bikram works every part of your body and is a great addition to a triathlon training programme.
Why bikram works
Most of us know how effective interval training is to build strength and fitness. So, for anyone who might still view yoga as a soft option, Bikram is identical in the results it achieves. You hold each pose for 20-30 seconds, then move into a state of 100% relaxation. It’s similar to weight-training – but using your own body as the weights and pulleys, which means you build lean muscle strength. And gaining the correct muscularity for your structure – rather than bulk – is what triathletes need.
Bikram’s usefulness for triathletes is borne out by how many I regularly see at Hot Bikram Yoga studios. Although it’s partly because it provides the ideal support for any sport, it also tends to appeal to the same sort of people. In triathlon training one day you link swimming with cycling, another day cycling with running, and a third you might cover all three. Bikram practice is perfect for days in between, feeding into and supporting each discipline in different ways.
My first triathlon was a big shock. The water was freezing, it was packed and there was so much going on that I could feel the panic rising. But by focusing on my breathing, in the way I do week in, week out in Bikram, I could feel myself growing calm and my focus returning.
A session of Bikram is great, too, for stretching out those tight shoulder muscles after a swim. Half moon pose helps release tension in your shoulders and upper back, while standing separate leg stretching pose is a 360° stretch using your arm strength to lengthen your spine.
Then there’s the awkward pose, which involves holding your arms parallel to the floor for one minute. It’s tough, but you really notice the increase in your arm strength. And, as Bikram works on building your core and leg strength, you’ll soon see the benefits – not least in the strength of your kick.
When I first moved from a hybrid to a road bike, I really noticed the difference in my posture. My whole body was positioned much further forward. I can pick out the cyclists at Hot Bikram Yoga studios a mile off – they’re the ones with terrible posture and rounded shoulders!
After a session on the bike, Bikram’s great for checking in and correcting the alignment of my spine and shoulders. It’s vital; if everything is in alignment, it means my body is working optimally and I’m less likely to suffer an injury.
Knees and thighs take alot of punishment in cycling. Two of the best ways to avoid injury are to build muscle strength around the knee joint to protect it, and to build a proper stretching routine into your training especially for those dreaded hamstrings. My two to three sessions of Bikram a week mean both are covered, and I’m free to concentrate on the rest of my training.
As a marathon runner, I know first-hand how much stress running places on my knees and spine. But, by working on strengthening the muscles that support them, Bikram helps protect them as much as possible.
Runners are also notorious for not stretching properly – a quick five minutes on a cold morning really doesn’t count, I’m afraid! A full routine that works every part of your body should be part of your training. I know it can be a struggle to squeeze everything into your day, but anything that helps keep you free from injury is worth every minute in my book.
Although I’d been fine during training for my first triathlon, I did notice a slight niggle in my hamstring afterwards. But after a couple of sessions of Bikram it quickly passed and I was soon looking forward to my next event.
I’d recommend Bikram yoga to everyone. If you love triathlons you’ll be hooked!