She Does Tri featured a number of wonderful opportunities to stretch and bend in ways that are really beneficial for endurance athletes. I’ll talk about the weekend but also some background and thoughts about this kind of exercise.
When Krista announced the optional yoga session, I thought “oh, yes, please! yoga!” It looked like it might not happen because the instructor could not come but then Christine showed up to fill in and we had a wonderfully difficult hour of yoga.
I feel fortunate that I began yoga with Carolyn Heines at the Yoga Studio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Carolyn is an amazing teacher and her studio, no matter where it was around East Town and East Hill neighborhoods, was always a haven. I practiced yoga with Janice Murray for a number of years as well and a few other people in GR. There are many studios there. Shortly after I began with Carolyn I went on a weekend long yoga retreat at Kahrdohmah Lodge in Grand Haven. I also spent my 40th birthday weekend in a meditation and yoga retreat led by Carolyn and at another workshop shortly after that where we spent three hours concentrating just on downward dog. These were experiences that strengthened my body and brought a sense of peace.
Yoga made me more flexible as well as improved balance and stability. It added to my well being by helping me create a sense of calm on and off the mat. I took yoga classes for several years until I began gaining weight and could not perform some of the moves. I began doing some yoga again last fall. I may have written about this already. One night I needed to stretch my back and asked Sam to give me a minute. I did a downward dog. I opened doors. Yoga movements have crept into our workouts. I started practicing on my own again some but I haven’t been consistent. The session at camp made me realize that yoga needs to be part of my regular routine.
On Friday afternoon we had the opportunity to attend a session of pilates with Regina at Bare Hills Racquet and Fitness. I had been wanting to try pilates for quite a while but had not gotten around to it. This session was on the mat, not with reformers. There are some similarities to yoga but it is a different exercise. Regina explained that pilates is a philosophy of connections. It is a series of controlled movements that help build strength in the core. It turned out that I had done variations on several of the exercises in other contexts. When the exercises were put together in a pilates session, however, quickly made me realized what she was telling us. This is also a conditioning routine that can help me build my core, help me be more flexible, and improve my overall physical well-being. These were not easy but I could feel my hip flexors opening and loosening as we progressed throughout the hour. This was an excellent introduction to pilates and I hope to incorporate the routine into my rotation.
I was curious about dynamic stretches. I wasn’t quite sure what Krista meant. It turned out I had already been doing dynamic stretches – I just didn’t know it. Krista added some new ones though and the drills she had us do really demonstrated how effective they are for improving running. Anyone from my era is used to the static stretches and the bouncing stretches (that we are discouraged from doing now). Dynamic stretches takes some of those and more and you move. We wound up in a parking lot with a slight incline for this set of drills. Made things more interesting!!
I really liked the stretches that I call the pigeon, but you move forward. I also liked the side lunges. (See the photos – it’s easier to see than to explain.) We alternated running, doing some drills, running some more, doing more drills. The difference in the way it felt to run and the improvement in form was amazing. I know these are stretches that I really need to do before I run.
Several of the sessions and kinds of exercises involved planks. Oh, yes, there they are again. I don’t exactly remember when we began incorporating planks into my workouts. I think late fall? I could barely hold myself up for more than a few seconds. During camp I was holding planks with full arm extensions and leg extensions (as opposed to on my elbows and knees). Yes, I am stronger now. One of the things important in planks – and getting them right – is not to let the hips sag. That isn’t all that easy.
After camp I moved on to planks with the TRX:
New adventures, indeed!
It’s all about the core
Really, it is all about the core. As Regina said, the core is the powerhouse. These are the muscles that are engaged in every aspect of triathlon – swimming, biking and running. Over the past few weeks I have really noticed a change in my core muscles. Some of it is cumulative, I imagine. Some of it is from additional exercises that Sam has added. Some of it may just be awareness. Whatever it is, it is the difference between being good and being better.