Triathlons: Running, Cycling, Swimming… Yoga?

Triathlons: Running, Cycling, Swimming... Yoga?

On a warm Sunday morning, a triathlete and a yogi walk into a juice bar… not too bad of an opener to a joke, right? Actually, it’s not far from reality because these two seemingly different athletes have quite a few things in common aside from walking into a juice bar on a Sunday morning. But how can these two compare with each other?


First let me start by explaining that a standard Olympic triathlon consists of three events:

  • Swimming: 1.5km
  • Cycling: 40km
  • Running: 10km

I don’t know about you, but I’m already tired just from thinking about that. In order to keep fit for the next race, these crazy athletes juggle three different types of training. That doesn’t seem comparable to the everyday life of a yogi with the focus primarily on practice. So where’s the similarity besides the fact that they both walked into a juice bar?

Mental Training

The Mind can go in a thousand different directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn

Image Credit: Jacob Walti on Unsplash.
Image Credit: Jacob Walti on Unsplash.

We’ve all had the moments or days where we go to a dark place and struggle to believe in ourselves. It’s that little voice in our head telling us we can’t do it. Triathletes know that their minds are their biggest enemy. During a race if they let their brain take over, that will most likely be the end of it for them. They begin to train one or all of their physical activities as a moving meditation. Wait a second, that sounds familiar!

Yoga is a form of moving meditation too! Yogis learn to calm the brain, focus their breath, and have patience within the body. They completely understand that if their mind or ego gets in the way of their practice, they won’t get very far.

It Takes Dedication

Triathletes train vigorously about two to three hours a day, six days a week, and sometimes even more! Yogis will dedicate hours in a day to their practice, especially if you’re going through a teacher training. Nothing can come between these two and their goals to either get on the mat or get outside to train. The dedication is immense, their lives revolve around these events in their lives.

Let me paint you a picture within the lives of a triathlete and a yogi. Triathlete: running four days a week, cycle three days a week, swimming four to six days a week, and pilates/strength training twice a week.
A yogi teacher trainee on a 6-month course would spend an hour or two for six or seven days a week, and weekend intensives Fri-Sun twice a month.

Total all that up and that equals a lot of time! People may think they are crazy, but they do what they love.

Flexibility For Recovery

Image Credit: Abigail Keenan on Unsplash.
Image Credit: Abigail Keenan on Unsplash.

Most triathletes and yogis tend to be very body aware and sensitive. If either end up pushing themselves a bit too far they’ll know they need to take it easy. They know when they need to take time to recover and know the importance of stretching and foam rolling. They also have a team of people to go to for recovery, such as chiropractors, massage therapists, and trainers. Yogis also know that some days you roll out the mat just to lie down and rest for the entire hour, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The Triathlete and Yoga

Considering the many similarities between the two types of fitness, should triathletes add yoga into their already jam-packed routine? USA Triathlon agrees that it “may be a missing link in a triathletes practice.” Yoga can help a triathlete’s fitness by:

  • Supplementing a triathlete’s endurance, stamina, and recovery (especially if injured).
  • Keeping their muscles warm, supple, and loose. It also decreases the chances of too much lactic acid (muscle stiffness) building up after a long strenuous workout.
  • It also brings in more core work for stability in any physical activity.
  • If a triathlete is struggling with clearing their mind during an event, yoga is a perfect fit for them since the meditative aspects will start disciplining the mind.

What style? That really is personal preference. I fully encourage a triathlete to try different styles out and see what works best for them as long as they pay attention to their bodies. Personally, I fully recommend a restorative day at least once in a while.

Yoga Poses For Triathletes

Image Credit: Lucy Kalantari on Flickr.
Image Credit: Lucy Kalantari on Flickr.

If you’re doing a home practice, here are some key areas to work on (click the links for some pose recommendations!):

Focusing on opening and releasing these areas will help the body get stronger and reduce risk of injury during a triathlon.

At the end of the day triathletes and yogis aren’t so different. They have an amazing passion and dedication to their lifestyle. They can also crossover into each others’ respective worlds as well, adding their own knowledge into the mix.

Have you ever done a triathlon before? Or are you a triathlete who has discovered yoga? If so, do get in touch! I’d love to hear from you and your experiences!

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