Stretching In New Directions

One might find it odd to see a group of two to three hundred pound college football players doing yoga, but that's not the case in the weight room at the Puskar Center. West Virginia strength and conditioning director Mike Joseph has brought a yoga instructor to work with the players once a week, lending a different look to summer workouts on the Mountaineer football complex.

"I mean, if there were females or other people in there, [we may feel girly doing yoga]," admitted senior defensive back Kent Richardson. "It's just us so ,if he feels girly we probably all feel girly. We're all in there together."

Although it may seem like a yoga workout would be a much needed break from the high intensity workouts that the players experience during most of the summer, players compare the yoga routine to that of a pregame workout.

""It sounds like it's just a lot of stretching," said junior linebacker J.T. Thomas. "but it's a workout too. It works your core. It gets you loose, gets you stretched. We do some of the same stuff that we do when we're warming up (before a game.)"

Sophomore defensive lineman Julian Miller finds the yoga warm-ups to be quite strenuous.

"It's crazy because we will be doing stuff for a half an hour to 45 minutes and the yoga instructor will be like ‘That's just the warm-up,'" said Miller. "I can honestly say that yoga warm-ups are almost as hard as our regular warm-ups on the field."

Like all summer conditioning, all workouts are voluntary and are set up by the players. However, the vast majority of the team knows that attendance at summer sessions is necessary, not only from the strength aspect but also from the necessity to build team unity. Upperclassmen like senior quarterback Jarrett Brown take on the duty of making sure the team is aware of available work out times, and encourage everyone to attend. However, with most players taking summer classes, there are always a few conflicts when classes can't be made to fit everyone's schedule.

"I haven't tried it yet," said redshirt freshman fullback Ryan Clarke. "It's not because it's a girly thing – it's just with classes and stuff I usually don't have that much time to make it here until later on in the day." Those that do find that the yoga routines are tailored to focus on things that would benefit the players in football. The work targets the core (abdominals and lats) that to allow for quicker and more explosive movement. Stretching muscles and connective tissue in the legs also helps with speed, and contributes to building a more solid base and to injury prevention, which has been the number one focus of Joseph since he arrived last year.

"(We do) holds, poses, and stretches," said Miller. "They're mostly for the lower back and your calves and thighs."

The Mountaineers are using their yoga sessions along with weight lifting and watching film to prepare for the upcoming football season. The players use the summer to get their bodies in shape for the grueling season ahead. While weightlifting has its obvious benefits, the Mountaineers are learning that yoga isn't just for girls after all.

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