Outrigger Monday: The Yoga Epiphany
Yoga For Outrigger and Sup Paddling
Aloha all! I want to share with you something that has been a huge part of my training regime this past off-season and now pre/in-season. It has helped my technique, stroke efficiency, speed, workout recovery, as well as my mood and happiness levels. What is it? A magic performance enhancing potion? Nope. One word, well, two actually, three if you count the “and”… yoga and stretching. Yup… Sorry guys. No secret magic ju-ju juice going on here.
Now, I’m writing this because I have always been the “I only stretch when I’m sore or tight” type of guy. My hips would start to hurt from tightness and my lower back would tire quickly throughout the day (this would happen when I was 15). The rotation in my stroke wasn’t there, there was no relaxation, no patience, and no flow. I would then be uncomfortable throughout the day and it would cause me to be constantly tired and unhappy. I would be comfortable with being uncomfortable… I just didn’t want to stretch. I didn’t see a need.
This all changed about 2-3 months ago.
As you read in my last post, I didn’t really do anything active in November and December. I sat on the couch, travelled with my family, and moved to Hawaii. I re-learned what it felt to be rested. Like, legitly rested. Not tired. At all. Maybe tired from taking too long of a nap, or staying up too late, but I was muscularly rested!
With this newfound energy and relaxed state of life, I decided to do something with the time I had. Slowly but surely, I started practicing yoga movements and stretching in the mornings and nights (mostly nights before bed), as well as after some of my workouts. Once I could start to notice results, like being able to put some fingers under my toes or observing how loose my arms were becoming, and how relaxed I felt, I was hooked.
One day, I was looking through Facebook, and found this picture of last year’s (2016) Carolina Cup. Pictured is what I believe to be Travis leading the race (someone might have to correct me here), with Georges Cronsteadt to his right, and Mo Freitas behind Trav. A few things stood out to me. One, the amount of rotation through the hips that they all had, and two, the insane flexibility and relaxed state of Travis. Just look at this picture (below).
(Photo: McQuiston/SUP racer)
Look at Travis again (blue hat and white shirt farthest from the front) and notice how long he is, his rotation, and how relaxed he looks. NOTE, he looks longer than long – fully stretched out – in this picture. Look how powerful he is. Insane? Not really. Achievable? Yes, with time. That’s what flexibility does to you and how it enhances your performance. This photo is what I ALWAYS think of when I’m stretching or doing yoga movements. It’s totally my motivation when I’m exhausted from a full day of work or training and you really just want to sleep, but you know you need to stretch out for the next day. While practicing, I think to myself, “I want to be long, powerful, and relaxed. I want rotation. I want to look like Travis”, haha. Seriously though, once I put two and two together, that this basic stretching stuff that I was doing, could make me look like Travis (in this picture), I was fascinated with it.
Being flexible has been a revelation.
This past Tuesday I could touch my forehead to my shins and I have to find new ways to stretch out my muscles do to how long they are. Rotation and relaxation are back in my stroke! This is HUGE improvement from a few months ago. I no longer have that lower back ache after a few hours of standing or discomfort from being tight. I can relax now… And that allows for faster recovery and more training sessions that I can do (somewhat) fully rested. It allows for more quality paddling.
Now, how can you become flexible and look like that photo?
Or feel good? Or recover faster? Rotate more? Relax more? well , here are 5 basic tips that you can use to increase flexibility and achieve results.
- Take advantage of your muscles being loose after a workout. Stretch it out. It’ll be twice as effective if you do it when you’re warmed up, rather than if you aren’t warmed up at all.
- Hips, hips, hips.. We sit in our canoes and put out solid effort while our hip flexors are shortened because of our sitting position. Then, most of us, sit down at home or at work all day. Because of this, your hips get tight (fast), causing stiffness and muscle imbalances. Everytime you stretch, get some hip action in there.
- Stretch before bed. Not only does it stretch you out for the upcoming day, you sleep pretty damn good too. It’s a 2 in 1 deal in terms of recovery.
- Rotate. Incorporate rotation of the torso and spine into your routine. Hold these positions and breathe deeply. The easier it becomes to rotate the more efficient your paddling will become. You also learn how to breathe in awkward positions or while you are maximally rotated.
- Lastly, set mini goals. Becoming flexible takes dedication, practice, and time. Having achievable goals motivates you to continue on with it. Or you can just think back to that picture… “I want to look like Travis”
I hope this helps you or creates some incentive for you to implement new and beneficial things into your training plan. Do you stretch or do yoga on your own? If so, what movements, positions, or holds do you partake in? How has your own flexibility impacted your paddling?
If there is a solid response to this post I might make a video of my usual routine… We’ll see.
*Disclaimer. I’m no anatomy and physiology guru, scientist, or a yoga instructor. I think the only yoga position I know by name is “downward dog”. Not kidding. But, I have taken numerous yoga classes, watched plenty of physical therapy videos to cure hip and back pain, and I just think to myself “hey this might help with ____ in my paddle stroke” and come up with my own funky stretches. I’ve seen the results of my new flexibility and I’m just sharing my stoke.
(Editor’s Note: Interested in more about yoga? Check out the yoga flows by Paddle Monster Coach Seychelle here.)