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Obstacle Course Race Training with Yoga, Part 1 of 2

14 Sep 2011

Roughly 22 million Americans participate in yoga, according to one consumer study. Once regarded a discipline for the devoted yogis and granola vegans, a variety of exercisers with a wide range of goals take part in and benefit from Yoga.

Sun Salutations


Why? Yoga has a host of health benefits that carry over to just about any activity and sport. The poses you hold (asanas) is sure to improve your static flexibility and sequence of coordinated poses (vinyasas) will boost your dynamic flexibility. Improvements in both can go a long way for injury prevention, movement preparation (aka warm-up), and active recovery.

The rewards from asanas and vinyasas go beyond keeping you loose and limber. In order to hold poses and move smoothly through vinyasas, you’ll need to engage those core muscles: abs, glutes, back. And let’s face it, starting out (and even as a veteran, I hear), holding warrior poses and moving repeatedly from plank to downward dog is sure to strengthen your legs and upper body.

Think of these benefits and you’ll find that yoga can help with your training for sports performance, including your next obstacle course race. You may consider including a Yoga workout on a lighter training day or substitute it for an active recovery workout. That’s one option. However, you’ll get more than just a good stretch from a yoga session, you’ll also work on your strength, mental focus, and even toughness.

First, strength. Most training programs for obstacle course races are focused on total body strength and body-weight exercise like squats, push-ups, burpees and variations of these exercises. Yoga asanas and vinyasas also engage the complete body while at the same time stretching and strengthening your legs, arms, chest, back, and abs. If you look at the sequence of a sun salutation, you’ll see movements that engage similar muscles called upon to perform a burpee, squat, and/or push-up. You’re moving at a slow, controlled rate, focused more on moving through a complete range of motion (flexibility) rather than cranking out as many reps as you can in a minute (endurance).

Dancer Pose

The precision required to execute some of these yoga moves requires a great degree of mental focus and toughness, which comes in handy as you prep for a challenging event like an obstacle course race. Not only can yoga have a significant impact on your training for performance, but it can also positively affect your mental preparation for game day. As challenging as getting through 10 miles worth of obstacles can be for your body, it can be just as taxing on your mind. Yoga can help you build your focus.

So how do you get into yoga and how do you fit it into your training schedule? Stay tuned for next week’s installment.

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