Triathlon & Yoga: Two Worlds Apart?

April 3, 2011

Already for some time I wanted to write something on the interaction between Bikram Yoga (but I might add yoga in general) and triathlon (or any endurance sport): two worlds that look so far apart but that are in reality so close.
So now the time has come and here’s what I have to say about it.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves that triathlon is a multi-sport event involving the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance events that in its most popular form, involves swimming, cycling, and running in immediate succession over various distances. Triathletes compete for fastest overall course completion time, including timed "transitions" between the individual swim, bike, and run components.
While Bikram is is a system of yoga that consist of a set series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (more or less 40.6°C) with a humidity of 40%. For more info you should read this article “The Awesomeness of Bikram Yoga
So at this point you might think: “Ok, dude what is the link between this two very different forms of exercising?”
I know, that sounds a little bit like a stretch but I will explain you why and how those two worlds are actually very close!

Training for triathlons

As a triathlete, I spend anywhere between 15-25 hours each week swimming, biking and running in order to prepare for my triathlon races.
Consequently, I am constantly stressing my body physically. I do not have the time, the energy or even the motivation to do something “extra” just for the sake of doing it.
Bikram Yoga classes are 90 minutes long and since I have a very high metabolism I will sweat out 9 pounds of water in a class (no kidding, they call me waterfall at the studio where I pratice!). When you count travel time along with the need to arrive a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late, each class becomes a minimum 2 ½ hour time commitment. On top of my swimming, biking and running, I make the time to take 2 to 4 yoga classes each week – a 4 to 8 hour time commitment.
So why do I still do Bikram Yoga?

Last year, I competed in several triathlons with very good results (actually some of the best in my career)  andI attribute my success in a large part to regular Bikram Yoga practice.
Because of the high volume of repetitive movements, it is not uncommon for triathletes (like me) to frequently sustain overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinitis, rotator cuff issues, knee tendinitis and back pain (from the bike). Because I live for triathlon, I want to minimize any incidence of injury. And let me tell you I haven’t missed a day of training due to injury in a very long time.
In my opinion, there are three primary reasons why endurance sports athletes should consider practicing yoga:
(1) Increased flexibility. As a multisport athlete, we need a full range of motion in order to be more efficient in our movements.
(2) Improved core and stabilizer muscle strength. Because we maintain the same positions for extended periods of time, we need a strong core and strong joints to support our bodies.
(3) Both of the above will help reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.
Consistency in training is a key success factor in endurance sports. It’s difficult to be consistent when injured.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that the 4 to 8 hours of time that I invest in the studio each week pays itself back many times over through improved overall health, which directly translates into improved performance for my passion: triathlon.

Bikram Yoga may not be the right yoga for everyone, but I would strongly recommend some form of yoga to anyone. And especially if you’re an endurance sport athlete you should seriously give it a thought!



  1. Bikram yoga is a great workout both physically and mentally...thanks for sharing!

  2. I find that Im wasted and any work outs I attempt later on that day do not turn out well
    either a cramp or poor sustainability/endurance