Ask the Coach – Cross Training with Yoga

Ask the Coach – Cross Training with Yoga

Last week I answered Tim’s question about some of the benefits of cross training and mentioned yoga as a good one. This week I’d like to exapand on that as yoga has certainly gained popularity in recent years, not only with the general public, but with endurance athletes as well. So what’s the buzz on yoga?

First there are several styles of yoga out there, so make sure you find the right class for your needs. Some will move quickly through poses and you will actually get a bit of an endurance workout, as your heart rate will elevate. Some move slowly and focus on breathing. (I recommend this kind, Vinyasa or Hatha, for endurance athletes looking for recovery). Another styles will take place in a heated room (Bikram).

There are several benefits of yoga and I’ll discuss them briefly and then provide some additional resources:

  • Improved Flexibility/Range of Motion The poses in yoga will stretch you out! We know that long hours on the bike and running on the roads and trails tightens us up. (Anyone else have tight hip flexors?) If you are prone to some overuse injuries or just never seem to find the time to stretch enough on your own, taking a yoga class is a great option. Many of the poses will work to open up joints and use muscles that you might not think to stretch.
  • Strength  Core strength is definitely developed in yoga…how long can you hold the plank? Additionally the poses will move your body in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse), which is a nice break from movement in only one or two in most endurance sports. It also helps with balance and can strengthen some of our weaker support muscles.
  • Enhanced Recovery Recovery is all about letting your body repair itself, and yoga is very useful for this. Yoga  makes us concentrate on our breathing and achieve a calm mental state. Often after a hard week of training, athletes can feel pretty beat up. A yoga workout (a slow, flow style) is a great option for an active recovery day to help gently get blood flowing to the muscles to help bring in nutrients and remove waste products. There is a good chance you will sleep better after a yoga class, and we know sleep is critical to recovery!
You don’t have to take a yoga class to do yoga. In fact, a few minutes of yoga poses after a workout or before bed can be of huge benefit. If you incorporate some yoga poses in a post-workout stretch routine, you’ll get more a complete body stretch (and more beneficial) than isolated muscle stretching. Here’s one for after a run

The best resource for yoga related to endurance sports that I am familiar with is Sage Rountree. Check out her website for a lot more information regarding yoga and endurance sports:

Coach Nicole is the author of The Triathlete’s Guide to Race Week. She is also the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Learn more at You can contact Coach Nicole with your questions for the Ask the Coach column on facebooktwitter or via email at

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Nicole Odell


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