Olympic Distance Triathlon
After taking months away from racing, I did a triathlon last weekend, and it was on extremely minimal swim/bike/run training. For the past two months, I've done only three workouts a week—track practice on Tuesdays, indoor spinning class on Thursdays, and then either an easy run or bike outdoors on Saturdays. Swimming has been virtually non-existent (twice in 2 months). However, I have been quite consistent with my four-per-week yoga practice—group class once a week, private lesson once a week, and home practice twice a week. Naturally, I was a bit nervous about competing in a triathlon on such a tiny amount of swim/bike/run training. So I arrived at the race with no expectations for myself, except to simply enjoy the beautiful weather and a fun day outdoors swimming, biking, and running with many friends.
To my great surprise, I had one of my best performances in years! The most significant change was how much smoother my swimming stroke had become. I had planned to just "get through" the one-mile swim with minimal effort, as if it were a gentle warm-up or cool-down. I even paused occasionally to alternate from freestyle to breaststroke. Perhaps because of my non-competitive mindset, or perhaps because of yoga-induced physical changes, it was truly remarkable how different my body felt in the water—so comfortable, free, and easy.
I thought back to my lesson with Jason on Down Dog a month ago, the way those micro-adjustments gave me the sensations of a straight line of action from hips, to torso, all the way to the arms and hands. Combined with other commonly practiced poses like Parsvokonasana (Side-Angle Pose), it seems I've learned how to integrate my whole body in a more intelligent way. Previously, in my effort to reach for a longer freestyle swim stroke, I would lose power and feel disjointed. Now I understood how to reach from my hips and torso (rather than from the shoulder socket) and create more length without sacrificing power. When I finished the swim, I was shocked to see that I had achieved one of my fastest one-mile swim splits ever, with seemingly no effort whatsoever!
The bike and run legs also went smoothly. Overall my times were quite respectable and far faster than I had dreamed with such minimal training. Better yet, all three sports felt smoother and more effortless than ever before. While my muscles did not feel as strong and powerful as they did years ago when I trained and raced more competitively, I found the sensations of swimming, biking, and running more enjoyable with the new changes in my body. At the end of the race, I felt I could have easily continued for longer distances without fatigue. This is especially encouraging as I prepare for an Ironman Triathlon next year.
As I write this blog, I am overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for this opportunity to integrate yoga into my life. Yoga fits so beautifully into my sensibilities as a practitioner of Holistic Sports Medicine. Already, this experience has greatly enhanced my ability to help both myself and my patients. Looking forward to my Ironman training, I am now convinced that yoga can (and will) play a vital role in creating a smart, well-rounded training and self-care program.