What was your very first Bikram Yoga class like?
I starting practising Bikram Yoga in 2001 as a high-school student at Vancouver College, hoping it would help improve my flexibility for football. My first class was great! It was all so new that I enjoyed it. The teacher went easy on me, setting my goal to just staying in the room and not worrying about the poses so much. After getting used to the heat, I worked to incorporate more and more of the postures into my practice with each class.
When and why did you decide to incorporate Bikram Yoga into your training?
After deciding to get back into sports (and, I’m sorry to say, a near-five-year break from Bikram Yoga) it felt great to get back into it. With speed skating, it’s all about the combination of strength and flexibility. You need to be explosive and strong but in slightly awkward positions (i.e., low!). Bikram Yoga is a great way to get those muscles firing and used to working in those positions.
How does Bikram Yoga fit into your training?
Bikram Yoga is part of my “active rest,” meaning that if I’ve had a heavy training program in the morning and a long bike ride planned later that day I’ll do a Bikram Yoga class in-between to work out some of the tension and get my muscles ready for the afternoon. That usually happens three times a week. I also do class on Sundays, though my practice is much lazier that day since I use that time to relax and work on my mental state (sometimes it’s nice to just be in the hot room without my iPhone for 90 minutes). During my weekday sessions I treat it like a normal training program and really work hard during each pose.
What specific benefits does Bikram Yoga offer a long track speed skater?
In my training there are no surprises. I know exactly what our lap program will be, what the target time is and what the target heart rates are. I prefer that type of training, and Bikram Yoga is structured similarly: a prescribed set of poses.
From a physical point of view the muscles being worked and the way they’re worked are very beneficial. Bikram Yoga allows me to spend time, use the mirrors and hone in on some of the little stabilizer muscles that I need on the ice. It’s also helped me keep my weight down and has greatly improved my flexibility. Flexibility is so key in speed skating; it doesn’t matter how strong you are if you can’t get into the proper position to exert that power. Flexibility is what will allow me to take my skating to the next level.
Any advice for athletes who want to incorporate Bikram Yoga into their training?
Bikram Yoga, which works your heart, breathing, mental stamina, physical stamina, can be a great complement for any sport – you just need to implement it into the right cycle of your training program and find the right time of day to do it. I used to think the 6 a.m. class was best but now much prefer a mid-day practice, which provides a far greater boost to my afternoon training.
Where are you at right now in terms of your athletic career?
I just finished my second season speed skating, competing on the Canada Cup circuit. I finished last season ranked 69th in Canada in the 1,500 metre. My goal is to get into the Olympic Trials in 2014. For that to happen I need to get into the Top 20 in Canada. A huge goal for sure but one I am working closer toward each day.