Learning Flexibility

An unfulfilled goal I had left over from last winter was to take up yoga.

I had hoped to get into it for the flexibility and balance, but it didn’t quite happen — preliminary research into “yoga for beginners” yielded both too few options and an overwhelming amount of decision making requirements.

As my injuries mounted this year, I was kicking myself for not having followed through on this goal.

So, mid-September this year, once my duathlon season was done (Susan the physio: “You know as well as I do that you’re going to get hurt doing yoga… so yes, you should wait til your season is done!”), I went in search of yoga. I attended a class as a guest of my wife at her gym, and liked it — though I was admittedly the least flexible person in the room. It was clear from that moment that yoga would help with this problem, over the long term at least. It’s not like I expected any yogamiracles.

Yoga has been so high profile for the past few years that I have a bit of a natural aversion to it, I confess. But at the same time, I’ve long realized that the benefits of it for a dedicated athlete are undeniable. My thinking is that one or two yoga sessions a week during the offseason will give me more flexibility. While I always have the best intentions for stretching, the fact is that I routinely short this part of my post-workout. Yoga can only help.

After a bit of research, I determined that the best place to get my weekly yoga was going to be the gym. Yoga studios abound in pretty Guelph, Ontario, but they’re charging rates well over double what gym membership costs. At my gym, $57 a month gets me full service gym access, including treadmills, a huge selection of cardio equipment, a large spinning studio, a massive weight room, TRX training and more. Not to mention access to at least a dozen different yoga classes per week.

Even if all I access is yoga and the treadmills (they have Woodway treadmills!) a couple of times a week over the winter, it’s more than worth the coin. The fact that I can also access other stuff when I’m bored, and go to other Movati clubs in Ontario? Even better.

I love my home gym, and I’ll keep doing the bulk of my strength and bike training there. No waiting, no spectators, no gym bunnies grunting as they throw their dumbells on the floor. But my beloved gym is a 10′ by 9′ cave in the basement, and so, after many weeks of winter training for 6-8 hours a week in that room… a dude might appreciate a change of scenery. No matter how well equipped my weight room, it presents a boring view from atop my bike.

So I joined the gym athletic club. And right away, nursing a sore leg, I was happy to hit the treadmills (better to abort a treadmill run than to have to walk back on a road run). And I attended a few yoga classes. In fact, I’ve done more than a few classes. While I’m favouring hatha yoga — particularly in the “Yoga For Men” class (read: yoga for the highly inflexible) — I’ve even dipped my toes in the sweat pool of hot yoga, and liked it. For a guy who likes to run in high heat and humidex, doing flexibility training in a hot room isn’t all that big of a stretch (Haha. See what I did there?!).

After four weeks, I thought I could credit yoga for making me feel a little less tight. I did once over-stretch my chronically twinged hip flexor, which made for a bad few days afterwards, but otherwise, it’s been a hugely helpful activity. I feel like I’m less creaky, less rigid (physically, anyway) and maybe getting a bit looser, already.

At first I thought I was making that all up — surely it can’t have had such a good effect in a few weeks, or about five sessions. But this week, I missed going to yoga on Tuesday due to a work commitment. It’s now Thursday, and I can honestly say that I can tell I missed yoga.

Luckily I’m heading back tomorrow. Body and mind are looking forward to it already. I like that it’s a new way to push my body. I love that much like most of my other athletic pursuits, it requires very paying close attention to form and function — in fact, maybe even more so. And I truly love the focus it brings to my mind, and the quieting of my brain for at least the duration of a class.

I can’t wait to see the results after four months, never mind four weeks. I still don’t expect any miracles, but I’m hopeful that I can return to the land of the flexible.

And this all goes towards my number 1 offseason goal: rebuild and repair.

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