by Jeannie Gleason, SGX
I’ve always been the type of person to test things out firsthand before making recommendations to my clients. Normally that applies to supplements, protein shakes, or some new adrenaline type of workout, but this time the test required puddles of sweat and several conversations of self-encouragement. So how did this Spartan coach step outside her comfort zone? Very carefully, I must admit, however grateful I am that I did. As a Spartan coach who works with all levels of Spartans and other clients, I know that we have a tendency to stick to the style of training we are comfortable with giving and receiving. We know it works, we see results, and we feel prepared on race day. To those who do CrossFit, HIIT workouts, weightlifting, and running, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Of course all of these workout styles can be effective, but what if you added something that scared you in a different way? Something to get you outside your comfort zone. For me that was yoga, so I decided to be the test dummy in a sea of yogis.
Why yoga? My thought was that all of the repetitive motion and stress on my joints happening weekly can lead to strains and overtraining. I know because I’ve seen it. I’ve been guilty of not taking as many rest days as I should or enough recovery time when an injury happens. We’re Spartans—it’s hard to sit still and not train. And then there’s your loved ones telling you, “You’ve got to rest, my dear!” Meanwhile, in your head you’re holding back from letting out a battle cry and pushing for one last set, AROO!
So I decided to step outside my comfort zone, mix it up, and look for something different to add to my repertoire of training. This led me to yoga as something that would enhance my overall performance, go easy on my joints, and hopefully strengthen my weak areas. Of course, like a true Spartan, I didn’t attend the beginner yoga class, but rather a hot vinyasa-style yoga session. I see all the yogis coming out of a class sweat dripping from head to toe, faces red, looking as if they just ran a race, I say to myself, now this I can probably do.
I have to admit, my first hot yoga class was intimidating. Aside from child’s pose and downward dog, I didn’t know many yoga poses. After the first five minutes of meditative breathing and warm-up, the room started to really heat up. The instructor said the room temperature gets up to about 105 degrees. While trying to get acclimated to the class, I was trying to get over everyone’s scent in the room and my own issues of OCD. Trying to understand the instructor’s yogi language while trying to follow others as they get into these mysterious poses was like being in a foreign land to me. After about 15 minutes, I started dripping sweat, finally let go of my own thoughts, and felt a bit more confident learning the poses and following along. There were definitely moments where I felt as if I was having an out of body experience. Was it the heat, the sweat, or that I was finally letting my mind live in the moment? By the end of class, I was soaked in sweat, my muscles were warm and engaged. More importantly, I felt at peace.
Yoga brought me opportunities for meditative breathing and focus, and it addressed my flexibility limitations—as my hip flexors testified the next day. After about a month of hot yoga and a style called yin yoga, I realized the benefits.
Vinyasa hot yoga helps to increase flexibility, mental focus, cardiovascular conditioning, and strength. Practicing yoga in a heated room increases your pulse rate and metabolism, increasing blood flow to the limbs. Yin-style yoga works with holding yoga poses for a period of time, working with the long connective tissue stretches to improve flexibility and mobility.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your first hot yoga class. Your body will heat up, so hydrate before, during, and after class.
Dress light. Choose light, breathable clothes, preferably form-fitting to allow free movement—leave the hoodie at home. Bring your towels, and yes, that’s plural. The heat could be overwhelming your first time, so consider eating two to three hours before and not right before walking into class.
I learned that stepping outside your normal training style and comfort zone can be a good thing. It will expose your opportunities not only in your body but also your mind. I encourage all of my fellow Spartans to try something new this year! Stretch yourself and get uncomfortable to grow in the end.
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