Performance improved by stretching

02:23, Nov 16 2012

Last week I talked about the benefits to be gained from using the skills of other people in your pursuit of the best fitness outcomes.

Time spent training, stretching, being worked on by physios or other therapists is only as useful as the quality of the service you're getting.

Even the daily run, walk, bike ride or swim isn't going to be useful unless it has a purpose and you know what that purpose is.

Unless you have the time and inclination to work it all out for yourself, that's where a coach comes in handy.

I had planned that this week's column would describe a personalised coaching package of swim, run and bike in the leadup to the Nelson Mail Team Triathlon on March 2.

The package is nearly complete but, in the flurry of activity to get prepared for the onset of the Port Nelson Sea Swim Series, I thought it best to give a few more days to assemble things, so that's now the plan for next week.


Early this week, I found another person who may help a lot in my quest to make the most of the hours spent training each week.

As you get older, you get more inflexible. I often resolve to spend more time stretching but, with three sessions a week in each of the triathlon disciplines of swim, bike and run, the temptation is to skip the extras.

That's a big mistake. Without the necessary flexibility and range of movement, all the training in the world is never going to make you go faster.

The recent triathlon world championships in Auckland brought many people to New Zealand and some of them have found their way to the best training centre in the world - right here in Nelson.

Yoga teacher and personal trainer Claire Divers is from Glasgow. After coming to Auckland with athletes she'd trained in Scotland, she set off for a bit of travel. It's not as if she hasn't seen a fair bit of the world already - the 30-year-old has already spent time in Canada, Australia, India and South America working in fitness and nutrition as well as teaching yoga.

"I have been looking for a spot where I can enjoy the outdoors, the sun shines, a place where people embrace health and well being. Ideally, somewhere I can learn new things and work freelance," she said.

"I arrived on a Sunday night, wandered around on Monday morning and got a feel for the town. The sun was shining, everyone I encountered was friendly. I looked at a local notice board and there were so many things happening.

"I had a great feeling about Nelson and decided to stay."

This week she began a six-week series of sports yoga classes at migym in Nelson aimed at runners, cyclists, swimmers, paddlers and anyone else who raises a sweat from time to time.

I went along to see if it would help with my own flexibility problems. It could have been worse. My old knees aren't easy to put weight on and my hips don't like moving unless they have to, so it was hard to be in the moment, breathing well and feeling relaxed, but I had a great feeling of wellbeing when the class was over.

Claire sums up some of the benefits:

Flexibility: Stretching your tight body in new ways will help it to become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, hips and more.

Strength: Many yoga poses require you to support the weight of your own body in new ways. Some exercises require you to move slowly in and out of poses, which also increases strength.

Muscle tone: As a byproduct of getting stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle tone. Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles.

Better breathing: Most of us breathe very shallowly into the lungs and don't give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises teach you how to better use your lungs.

The classes continue at migym for the next five weeks.

The Nelson Mail