In ShapeMichel Duran

Why Yoga is so important for IRONMAN® athletes and (actually) everyone else...

In ShapeMichel Duran
Why Yoga is so important for IRONMAN® athletes and (actually) everyone else...

I just come back from a Yoga Flow session at Yyoga and boy did that feels good! It was challenging, the session was part of the teacher training and the instructor made sure we did all the poses but the benefits after are just right there, both physically and mentally. When we said good bye we briefly chatted about the balance to acquire between strength and flexibility – yes we need muscles to swim, push on the pedals and run but in order to do it efficiently and to be able to train for long periods of time, we need to be flexible. Yoga brings that aspect, and more!

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I started hearing seriously about yoga in 2002-2003, I obviously knew about yoga before but being an athlete and consumed by my training, this was really just another activity like dancing or reading, for me it was totally unrelated to sports training. But living in Vancouver and not hearing about yoga was just an oxymoron. Back in those years the yoga tsunami was going full blast in the city, I was even late in my awareness, Lululemon was founded in 1998 and by the 2000s every single fitness related space offered yoga classes.

My first contact was indeed in a fitness Centre, just for a try, in a freezing cold space… I was puzzled and had difficulties connecting my vision of yoga with old Hindus wisdom with my body shaking and obviously not able to bend or stretch.

Fast forward few years after, the Fitness Centre is no more, a building has replaced it, Lululemon is striving and in October 2006, I decided to give another go, this time in a hot place – The Bikram Yoga. Now we were talking! What an energy in the room, sometimes with few instructors, it felt a bit like the army or the Bolshoi, we were here to push and push and pushhhhhhh! But the studio was great, the staff, the owners, everybody was making sure that who ever entered the room, had a constructive and fulfilling experience. I stayed 11 years.

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My Bikram or I should say my Vancouver Hot yoga years – Bikram after all his successes end up showing his real face: a bully and not nice person at all, therefore very few now wants to be associated with him – taught me the discipline and the focus that we can acquire with yoga. The initial session was 90 minutes of the same 26 postures repeated twice (1 min and the second for 30 sec) in a 40 Celsius room with sometimes 50 people around. You have to focus on your own world, use your breathing and adapt whenever a posture is too difficult, you feel tired or the room is too hot, you use your mental to go through physically.

This practice brought lots of new sensation both for my acting and athlete’s endeavours. I remember the first time I had to be ready for a take in a movie after having waited 3 hours that the shot was ready to do. When I heard, “Michel, you’re up in 5 minutes!”, I went straight into Yoga breathing and boom! I felt connected, focused and ready to go, this was amazing!

Another big help was during my first IRONMAN®, I wanted as much as possible, to be in an aerodynamic position when biking. Thanks to the stretching, my back felt totally fine and when pushing on the pedals (the guy in white with his two bottles) as much as I could, I was thankful to the practice.

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The beginning of 2018 started with a new direction for my triathlete’s endeavours. I already finished two IRONMAN® and was now a certified coach, this year, I wanted to try to qualify for the World Championship in Kona, meaning you have to race and finish in the 3 to 4 first in your age group. As soon as you want to race it, your preparation shifts and you need to incorporate so many other details than just swim, bike and run. The past experiences showed me that – One I needed to train way harder and longer and Two I needed to work on my mental fitness.

I needed then to stretch my yoga practice and go in new territories.

Yyoga is a studio offering diverse yoga and fitness classes. In this post, I’m just going to talk about yoga, the fitness needs its own post. I joined in September 2018 in what was for my planification the Off season. During this time, you do very few triathlon related activities, you explore, you change horizons and what a great move to be in this studio!

Meditation, Yin, Flow, Power, Hot with different teachers, sharing their passion with their own styles and personalities. For the first time in my life, I meditate. I heard of it before (Again pretty darn difficult to live in Vancouver and not hear about meditation…), but had no clue about how to do it and what was the real benefits, same thing for the Yin, the surrender yoga practice. These two classes, done in the evening are specific to learning how to disconnect and being present.

One of my big issue was fear. I knew what was coming regarding training load and very often, especially before falling asleep, I started thinking and one thing leading to the next, I was building up fear and anxiety.

It’s been now almost three months that I have this new mixed routine of yoga and meditation aside from the rest of the other acticvities. Now, when I’m training, I go all the way and when it’s over, my mind shifts to the present moment. I’m not saying that I became a wise yogi, far from it. I feel just a bit more conscious that our mind in what make us do things. It needs to be cherished and trained so we can alternate challenging moments (sport related or not by the way, juggling work and personal life is another good one) and calming periods when we replenish our body and soul.

Lastly, I just wanted to point that there’s tons of various yoga studios, styles and philosophies. The point is to find the one we like. We’re all different. Explore, usually each studio has a cheap introduction package. Just do it and try different places. Yoga is a great way to cultivate ourselves and guess what, a happy person brings happiness into the society – Win win here!!

A huge thank you to Anne Marie Comte, photographer. This yoga series was shot during the summer 2016 at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

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Originally from France, I moved to Vancouver, BC in 1997 after falling in love with the city while searching for a training base for a round-the-world athletic expedition. I’m an athlete turned actor, and very much involved in endurance sports. Three times IRONMAN® finisher.