Benefits of a regular yoga practice for professional cross-country skiers

Author: Article from our student –Sandra Gredig (Switzerland).
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A professional cross-country skier might benefit from different aspects from a regular yoga practice. Besides the physical benefits, there are mental, as well as emotional benefits, which might help the professional athlete to improve his performance. In the following subchapters, these benefits are introduced. The paragraphs about flexibility, strength and maximum oxygen uptake examine the physical benefits, while the sections relaxation, concentration and focus high lighten the mental benefits. Last, but not least, the chapter emotional balance is dedicated to the emotional benefits of a regular yoga practice for a professional cross-country skier.

Flexibility

The topic of stretching and flexibility is discussed rather controversial in the field of cross-country skiing. However, a flexible spine, flexible ankle and knee joints are crucial for the health of a professional skier. Ankles with reduced flexibility might lead to injuries in training, for example when running and bounding on uneven surface. Also, a proper skiing technique cannot be performed without flexible and strong ankle joints. Furthermore, the mechanical stability is crucial for a proper skiing technique. The flexibility of the spine supports a dynamic and efficient technique of a skier and might reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Strength

As the professional skier has a very specific strength routine planned throughout the year, the focus of a regular yoga practice is not upon building strength. However, yoga can complete the strength routine and is especially beneficial to keep up strength during the race season.

Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max)

The respiratory system is of highest importance for a successful skiing career. It is constantly put under stress through training, as well as cold temperatures. Building a higher resistance through the practice of pranayama is therefore very important for the skier. A regular practice of pranayama might also increase the lung capacity and increase the attention to breath and therefore improve the skiers’ performance, as VO2 max is one of the limiting factors when racing.

Relaxation
Regular yoga practice supports the relaxation of body and mind. The faster and deeper the body and mind are able to relax, the sooner the athlete is ready for new training stimuli. The higher the training load, the better the performance (very generally spoken).

Concentration & focus

The ability to focus is very important during races and should be trained in everyday workouts. A high focus improves the quality of the training. The higher the quality of the training, the better the performance.
To be able to perform up to ones abilities in a race, a high degree of focus is crucial. Staying relaxed and calm in difficult situations, as for example challenging weather conditions, bad skis, and unforeseeable actions of competitors is very important. Also, during a cross-country ski race one is constantly pushing ones limits – this is only possible with a high focus.

Emotional balance

Last, but not least, a regular yoga practice may increase emotional stability, which is especially beneficial during the up’s and down’s of a racing season, in times of high stress (as for example during championships), as well as during intense training periods when the body is in a constant state of fatigue.

As this short essay demonstrates, a regular yoga practice has a variety of benefits for a professional cross-country skier and should therefore be considered by any skier who is looking for an improvement of his performance.

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