Recently, I competed in a sprint triathlon with my family here in Colorado. With only a couple of weeks to train for this event, we incorporated a few Ayurvedic training techniques and successfully used them for this triathlon.
The Personal Scoop
Originally, my 24-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son were going to join me for this sprint triathlon. As it turned out, my son injured his shoulder in a soccer tournament before the race, so just Devaki (my daughter who teaches the yoga portions on my DVDs) did it with me.
We challenged the Ayurvedic principles detailed below pretty intensely—as we only trained for two weeks for this triathlon. Granted, it was only a 525 yard swim, 10 mile bike ride and a 3.1 mile run.
The race sounded easy, but we should have been concerned by the name: The Lookout Mountain Triathlon.
Any triathlon with the word “mountain” in the title should tip you off to a day running and riding up and down the side of a mountain. Around 2 weeks of nose breathing training and no real mountain training pushed me to my limits—I did a lot more huffing and puffing than planned!
That said, Devaki did fantastic with a first place finish in her age group, and I took 4th place in mine.
Read on and watch the 3-part video below to learn more about each strategy in detail.
Exercise Strategy #1: Nose Breathing
Nose breathing is a more natural way to breathe, but requires much practice to master. The ancient Central American Mail Runners were said to run with rocks or water in their mouths.
Try this and you will quickly see that it is impossible to do unless you breathe only through the nose.
Nose breathing drives air into the lower lobes of the lungs more efficiently where it activates calming nerve receptors, and a wealth of vascularized lung alveoli that max out respiratory efficiency. (1)
In the long run, nose breathing makes exercise easier and healthier.
Mouth breathing or “huffing and puffing” triggers upper chest receptors, where the majority of fight-or-flight receptors predominate. They are great for running away from a bear, but very stressful and degenerative over time. (1) Being chased by a bear gets old!
Perhaps because of the excessive and chronic stress we live under and basically no breath training during childhood, we have become really lousy upper chest, shallow breathers.
Learning how to become a nasal breather during exercise helps train the body to handle a variety of life stressors without triggering the degenerative, fat-storing, sugar-craving, anxiety-producing, sleep-preventing, exercise-hating emergency response!
Go for a walk and count your steps for each complete nasal inhale and exhale. Watch how, as you become an accomplished nasal breather, you will steadily increase your steps per breath.
Your goal: 10 steps for the inhale and 10 steps for the exhale. For more nose breathing tips, please read my articles and watch my video (above) on Nose Breathing Exercise Techniques.
Exercise Strategy #2: Fox Running
Fox running is a term borrowed from the Tom Brown Tracker School, where he taught Native American running and stalking techniques.
This technique is the forerunner for almost all the books on barefoot and minimalist running that we have seen flood the market in the past few years.
That said, barefoot running on some nice grass is a great way to experience the natural bio-mechanics of running.
Fox Running is the only place I have actually seen the foot placement described in detail. I invite you to read my article and video, “Run Like a Child,” in which I describe and demonstrate how to do this amazing technique.
Simply put, it is a three-point foot strike:
- The foot-plant is first touched on the outside of the ball of the foot.
- Then, weight is delivered across the ball up to the big toe.
- Then, the heel and the rest of the body weight is placed with a mid-foot strike.
It is as if with the light touch of the outside of the foot, it feels or tests the terrain and then, if the terrain is even, the ball of the foot comes down, still testing the safety of the terrain.
Then, when the thousands of neuro-receptors in the feet send the OK messages to the brain, the body safely puts all its weight on to the surface for a full-foot strike.
This type of nervous system activation requires the small muscles of the feet and legs to be 100% responsive to the terrain. This keeps the legs, ankles, knees and low back extremely supple and functional, which is antithetical to the bio-mechanics of well-cushioned shoes. (I describe these bio-mechanics in greater detail here: “Run Like a Child.”)
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Exercise Strategy #3: Chasing the Rabbit
Chasing the Rabbit is the process by which ancient hunters caught much of their prey. It required a series of sprints and rest periods as the hunter chased down a common meal, such as a rabbit.
Even persistence hunting larger prey (basically running down an animal to exhaustion) required quick bursts and easy runs to keep the animal in sight.
Studies on this practice, which I cite in my article and video, “The 12-Minute Workout,” show significant health benefits gleaned from these consecutive bouts of intense activity alternated with periods of rest.
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Ask a 12-year-old, “When was the last time you ran as fast as you can?” Then ask a 50-year-old the same question.
Kids use their fast-twitch muscle fiber regularly, while modern adults rarely ever do.
New studies suggest that there are numerous health benefits related to blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, weight and longevity with this simple practice.
As a training tool that does not require breaking the body down to reach that competitive edge, it has worked for me for years.
In fact, this concept is the main theme of my book, Body, Mind, and Sport, particularly the last chapter, “Jet Fuel.”
Each morning, do 4 one-minute sets of jumping jacks as fast as you comfortably can with one minute of rest between each set. See how you feel after just a few days of this simple 8-minute workout.
Did you know that ashwagandha—Ayurveda’s prized adaptogen—is rejuvenative for the muscles?
Historically, it has specifically been used to support athletic performance, endurance and exercise recovery, with much success.