Hopefully the statement above triggered the same ‘WTF?!’ response as it did with me when I first heard it. I’m not a medical expert but could this additional set of lungs be the human body’s best kept secret? It would seem unlikely.
As almost a complete yoga novice, having only been to about 5 classes and followed some online videos, perhaps the most unexpected challenge has been getting to grips with the slightly abstract terminology. However, it’s starting to become clear that in many ways this is actually quite a necessity. Being based entirely upon personal perception, the feeling of ‘breathing through your hips’ of course has no absolute definition. In fact, it is concerned with relaxing the soft tissue surrounding the hips by controlling your breathing and focusing the mind.
The hips are fundamentally important to every discipline of triathlon. One of the greatest revelations a novice swimmer experiences is the effect that kicking from the hips rather than the knees can have upon freestyle swim speed. By transferring the primary contracting muscles further up the body, drag can be greatly reduced, rotation can be better controlled and a level position in the water can be maintained. In cycling, one of the greatest confining factors concerned with finding the most aerodynamic yet powerful position is hip mobility. In running, the gluteal muscles play a greater role in locomotion than any other. Although, in todays deskbound society these large muscles can become lazy and disengaged, placing undue stress on other leg muscles and making it hard to hold form while running.
So, where am I going with this?
‘Train intentionally, not habitually’ – Naudi Aguilar
Reading this phrase, the motto of Functional Patterns, struck a chord. Whether heading out on the bike or popping squats in the gym it’s all too easy to mindlessly go about your business without ever being fully present in the moment.
- Every training session or exercise should have a process-based focus at the front of your mind e.g. even pedalling on the bike
- Have a mental checklist specific to every exercise you do and tick it for every rep – Are the muscles you’re trying to train engaged? Is your breathing in time? Is your form good?
- If you write your own, then reappraise your training plan – Do you believe in it? Is there a coherent plan ending in your goals? Are there ‘junk miles’ you can cut?
‘We all need to stretch more’ – Jamie Kujawa
Looking back on the past 9 months, I’ve only ever thought to stretch when I’ve been pretty much physically broken. I’m sure I’m not unique in this regard and would normally consider 15 seconds or so on each of the major muscle groups in the leg after a run to be a job well done. Yoga seems to have an uncanny ability to find tightness in parts of your body you’ve probably never even felt before. While in many ways different to triathlon, the thread of learning by challenging yourself is common and the benefits undoubtedly transfer. Leaving a class recently having managed to achieve a forearm handstand (against a wall, easy does it) for the first time, I was really pleased; partially because I conquered something I never thought I could do and also because I hadn’t been shown up (too badly) by the 8 other girls!
A couple of thoughts from a very novice ‘yogi’:
- Don’t worry how inflexible you are to start with, persistence will pay off
- Try different instructors and types until you find one that suits you
- Breathing makes such a difference to how deeply you can stretch