Somatics is a rather unknown practice in the triathlon community. Somatics is a restorative practice that I like to define as a unique blend of meditation, Yin Yoga (the slow, deep stuff), and functional physical therapy.
While studying Somatic education, perhaps the most powerful concept that I learned was:
The muscle itself is not tight. Your mind is holding the muscle tight as a result of your behavioral patterns.
So more than just the physical process of releasing a tight muscle through stretching and myofascial release, Somatics is a mental practice of telling the mind to let go.
In triathlon, optimal physical functioning is essential for performance. The constant activity in one sport can inhibit mobility in another (especially if proper form is neglected.) For example: overuse on the bike, or a poor aero position, can result in a host of inefficiencies on the run.
This was my personal situation, and it resulted in widespread tightness and injuries that sidelined me from Ironman distance triathlon for almost 2 years.
Mission to Function at 100%
While drastically increasing my volume for late season 70.3, my psoas muscles were abused to the point of constant contraction (a chronic tightness that occurred subconsciously.)
I concluded that 40 hours a week sitting at a desk and 12+ hours a week running and riding a bike had taken their toll. Not to mention that I rarely ever focused on proper form and doing drills.
After a series of injuries that were difficult to troubleshoot, I finally realized it was my damn psoas causing all the problems.
My negligence in training was debilitating, and something a foam roller wasn’t going to fix. I tried just about everything to get back to 100%.
Somatics: Mind of Matter
Yoga, stretching, chiropractic, myofascial release, and deep-tissue massages all helped, however true Psoas freedom was truly realized by practicing Somatics.
The biggest difference in doing Somatics over other holistic treatments was its slow and mentally engaging approach to each movement.
Somatics in a Nutshell
Meditatively, you put your body in certain postures with the intention of mindfully contracting and releasing areas of tension throughout the body. This is facilitated by breathing techniques and mindful movements.
The premises of Somatics is based on a primitive technique called pandiculation – which is a spinal contract-release motion that allows vertebrates to stay supple, agile, and tension free.
Somatics for Triathletes
Many different Somatic exercises have been created for certain areas of the body. I strongly encourage Somatics for all athletes, not only to help relieve injuries but to function at optimal performance.
Posture, form, and sustainability are primary challenges that endurance athletes face. Somatics helps to keep you in tune with your muscle functioning by re-establishing complete sensory-motor control. This is particularly important when aspiring to race in any triathlon distance.
To learn more, I encourage you to check out information from Lawrence Gold at Somatics.com. He offers Somatics programs for many different purposes and areas of the body.
Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler