As an endurance athlete, your time and energy are precious. Your day often starts as early as 4 a.m. and training consumes upwards of 25 hours each week. That’s not even counting your job, spending time with your family, sleeping, and all the other responsibilities that come with being an adult. Adding in a yoga class to an already jam-packed schedule can make your eyes roll back into your head.
Here’s the good news: Adding in a yoga practice doesn’t have to mean driving to a yoga studio, setting your mat down next to the hyper-flexible, former dancer in class, and then spending the next 60 minutes of your time attempting to contort, balance, and move your body in ways you never thought possible.
These five poses can be done in 15 minutes, at home, and on your own time. They’ll build strength, make you faster, recover quicker, and help you avoid those dreaded junk miles.
1. Ado Muka Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
If you feel like you’re working hard in this pose, you are. Remember, just because this pose is popular, doesn’t mean it’s easy. A lot of things are happening, so let’s focus on a few. As you spread your fingers out wide, press your hands down and allow the strength of your arms to press your tailbone up towards the sky. Tight hamstrings? Me too. Bend your knees until you feel your spine begin to lengthen. Endurance athletes spend a lot of time pounding the pavement, so in order to counteract that compression on your spine, downward facing dog will give your back natural traction without spending time with a chiropractor.
2. Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Yoga isn’t just about flexibility; it takes a lot of strength. Enter Chaturanga. As you lower into Chaturanga, squeeze your elbows into your sides and pull your belly button toward your lower back. Building your core will help stabilize your body. This is especially important for your longer workouts, when fatigue sets in and form begins to suffer. This pose creates muscle memory, allowing you to engage your core during the entire length of your training sessions.
3. Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
Having your back knee down will give you more than you think. As you come into the pose, pull your front heel back and press your back kneecap down. Take your arms straight up and begin to press your hips forward. Feel that? That’s your hip flexors on the front of your back leg. Repetitive motion, like running, is shortening this muscle group. The more consistently you can stretch and lengthen your hip flexors, the more power you’ll gain from them.
4. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
I’ll be the first to admit, this will be a challenge for most endurance athletes. We spend a lot of time hunched over, shoulders in, and chest down, so any heart openers are going to be hard. Stay with me, it’s worth it. Start with your knees on the ground, hip-width distance apart. Stack your hips right over your knees and take your hands to your low back. This is a chest opener, but you still need to pay attention to your core—think Chaturanga belly. From here, take the center of your chest up and your shoulders back. Opening up your chest will not only counter some of your habits from training, it’ll naturally give you more space to breathe. More oxygen = more power.
5. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
If you’re anything like me, the hardest day in training isn’t the seven-hour brick workout or the 4,000-meter swim—it’s rest day. We look forward to each one in the training schedule and then when it arrives, we nearly go out of our minds. No matter how hard you go during training, recovery is crucial to achieving your goals. Take some time to do nothing at all. Let me say that again—nothing. On your back, with your eyes closed, palms facing the sky. It’s incredibly hard, but isn’t that why we fell in love with endurance sports in the first place?
Ari Witkin began practicing yoga almost 20 years ago as a compliment to his athletic goals. As a two-time IRONMAN finisher, avid triathlete, runner, and endurance athlete, the practice of yoga continues to bring balance to his life whether he’s on his mat or racing for the finish line. Ari brings a sense of playfulness along to the challenging nature of his classes, allowing students to build strength in their breath and body. Find him on his website or Twitter.