Last weekend, I completed my first half marathon. Knowing I had done very little speed work and the impact of running on tarmac would be less than forgiving on my body, I planned to meet a friend for a session of Bikram yoga in the evening.

During the part of my athletic life where I coached myself, I experienced bad knee problems. MRI scans and x-rays revealed nothing so my doctor suggested stretching, as it was most likely “just an ITB issue”. (Later to be confirmed by coach Fi). “Even better than stretching, why don’t you do Yoga?”. I hated the thought of yoga, sitting still for 5 minutes, let alone over an hour, made my heart race with anxiety. (I’m a very impatient person you see). So I began to roll my ITB and stretch sporadically at home when I had the time and the injury subsided to a level of tolerable pain.

My first triathlon was the North Country Tri in June 2009 in upstate New York. Close friends who have a family home close by had suggested we do it as a group; it was a no brainer. To say that I am close to these folk is an understatement. They are a second family to me, and I owe my sporting achievements to a number of them. What I also discovered from this trip was hot yoga.

Bikram yoga is a 90 minute session involving 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. It is also known as hot yoga because classes are conducted in a heated room (roughly 40 degC). The biggest advantage of performing these poses in a heated room is the extra amount of flexibility and stretch it allows. An introduction to marathon running, triathlons and Bikram. No wonder I am besotted. So, what is the session like? “You don’t sweat, you rain” said the matriarch of the family. And she’s right, it is an altogether different endurance test involving acclimatisation, aerobic exercise, balance and core strength.

I went to Bikram in the evening of my half marathon. This was to reduce the impact of the day and curb the soreness I would experience the following week. I have no basis for comparison given it’s a tough control to setup, but since I began yoga, I have had very little problems with my knees.

Now sometimes I go to class because of a race (as this example illustrates), sometimes I go in the height of winter for a bit of a warm “holiday”, but most of the time, I go for the attractive half-naked athletes I have grown to know over the past year. So is yoga the miracle for cure for all triathlete ailments? Probably not, but being hot just helps…

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