Strength and conditioning exercises make their way into training

Lacy Bradley, a former athlete who got fed up with being injured while competing in sports, realized there had to be a solution to avoid common injuries like pulled hamstrings.

Her answer to that problem was yoga.

Bradley has a degree in kinesiology and a background in athletics. She not only does yoga herself, but also works with Canadian Sport Centre, teaching athletes the importance of strength and conditioning training.

“Athletes need flexibility in terms of injury prevention, and need to be stronger through a greater range of motion,” Bradley said.

Bradley said her training makes athletes stronger and less injury prone.

Athletes tend to train in “old school” ways, according to Bradley. But proper added training makes for a more efficient and effective athlete.

Bradley added: “You learn the alignments of the body. It’s learning how to stretch properly. Everyone knows how to stretch, but it’s all about aligning joints.

“My kind of yoga isn’t easy and fluffy —­ it’s difficult but there is a balance of strengthening and stretching really effectively.”

Gaining ground

This kind of training has recently made its way onto two of Calgary’s post-secondary teams — the SAIT Trojans men’s volleyball team and the University of Calgary Dinos men’s football team.

Dinos head coach Blake Nill believes in the effectiveness of using yoga and hopes all of his players will continue to buy into the training regimens.

Photo courtesy of Sandra Wigg

Jonah Kamps plays for the Trojans, and was introduced to yoga a few years ago. He practices a couple of times a week, and brought it to his team this season.

“I found benefits in flexibility, balance and mentally it helps guys stay focused and calm during matches,” Kamps said. “It’s a lot about breathing.”

Kamps said yoga helps maintain healthy bodies, and in particular healthy knees and shoulders.

“Yoga releases a lot of stress and tension in those areas,” he said. “It keeps everyone physically active in different ways than pumping weights.”

Trojans head coach Andy Hayher has enjoyed incorporating training that stresses “working smarter, not harder.”

“It’s not just lifting weights that is important for strength training,” Hayher said. “It is the ability to be flexible so you don’t pull anything. Especially when it comes to volleyball with all the shoulder and back movement that is involved.”

Injury prevention

Trojans player Kamps said he and his teammates have bought yoga into their training, and are noticing recovery benefits to using it. Coach Hayher has noticed a huge positive as well.

“Knock on wood, we have not had a strain or pulled hamstring all year,” he said.

U of C Dinos head coach Blake Nill, a believer in total fitness, has integrated strength and conditioning training into his men’s football team for a few years.

Nill related to how Hayher views about the effectiveness of yoga. “I sincerely feel it has cut down on our injuries,” he said. “It also allows the players to train at a higher level.”

Bradley, who is also a conditioning coach, works closely with the Dinos during the season and off-season.

“Athletic trainers have noticed that since I started stretching, the guys they have had way fewer hamstring injuries,” she said. “Which is a big deal when it comes to sport because you need to perform right now.”

Why not?

Bradley said she believes all athletes should consider trying strength and conditioning regimens. She realizes that there is some resistance among athletes who have played sports for a long time — “the 20-year-old football players who are too cool to do yoga,” she added.

“Once they feel it in their own bodies, and they know the benefits of it, they enjoy it,” Bradley said.

Another benefit of yoga, Bradley said, is that it provides the gateway to get out of your head, get out of your body and rest.

Bradley said: “Athletes’ bodies are yelled at to work harder and push harder. I make sure there is a component in my training that says just do nothing because your body needs to rest.”

This training seems to just be making its way out of the woodwork into Calgary post-secondary teams. It might be making its way onto more teams soon, especially when one considers the success of the two teams who have incorporated it.

The Trojans are 12-2 this season. The Dinos finished 9-2 — making it all the way to the CIS championship game but losing in the final.

lwesley@cjournal.ca

Correction: Due to an editing error, Blake Nill’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. The Calgary Journal regrets the error.