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    How Triathlete Vicky van der Merwe Balances Training With Motherhood

    Well-known Stellenbosch-based triathlete Vicky van der Merwe is on the comeback after a break after her son was born. She will be competing at the Woolworths X TRI off-road triathlon in Elgin on Saturday 4 December.
    Vicky van der Merwe: having it all as an elite triathlete and a mom
    Top triathlete Vicky van der Merwe is also a business owner at Stellenbosch Triathlon Squad (STS), where she is a coach and race organiser, and in the last two years she has added wife and mother to her roles. The 32-year-old athlete is a familiar face on podiums across the country and internationally, and she is now focused on her return to competitive racing in short-course triathlon since the birth of her son Adriaan in February 2021.
    She says being both a mom and an elite athlete has given her a new perspective: “The amazing thing is you have to make every session count as every opportunity to train is time away from the family. You have to be so intentional with your time. I love it. I always knew that I would return to racing, but I did not have a clear plan. It was my first pregnancy and I had planned a natural birth, and then I had to have an emergency c-section at 37 weeks – you really can’t plan these things!”
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    “I threw myself in the deep end with training four or five weeks after Adriaan’s birth, and started slowly building up.”
    Three months later she went to Africa Champs, claiming fifth place despite not having a great race. She feels optimistic about re-establishing her place as one of the top female South African triathletes. Since returning to competition with the 2021 Africa Champs, she has won the Walker Bay Xtreme Big 6, the Torpedo SwimRun (she holds the record), the Caveman Triathlon, the African X Trail Run, and recently the 2022 Cape Town Triathlon.
    Vicky at the CT Triathlon 2022
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    Vicky says she loves racing and has a few more years of competitive racing ahead. Her immediate focus is on the Woolworths X TRI the off-road triathlon on 4 December at Paul Cluver Family Wines Wines in Elgin. This race is a bit more about the fun, but a challenging event nonetheless if you are taking on the full triathlon.
    “I find mixing it up a bit with off-road triathlon is so good for me as an athlete, and the WW X TRI is perfect for triathletes like myself looking to cross-train and test themselves in different disciplines. I will for sure be looking to stand on the top step of the podium, but this event really hits the mark for family fun as well, with a Lite event plus fun trail runs and a shorter walk.”
    When asked if her goal is to qualify for the Paris Olympics, she is hesitant to confirm: “You obviously have to be in the top two or three in the country and we have some very strong women athletes. Because I’ve been out of it for so long, I have set myself small goals, with SA Champs being my next big one in March next year.”
    With some confusion for the layperson about what constitutes a triathlon, Vicky sums it up, “Triathlon is any race involving a swim, a cycle and a run. There is off-road triathlon where the Xterra World Championships is the highest honours, then Ironman, full and half, that are more focused on endurance, and the World Championship held in Kona in Hawaii is the big goal. Then there is the Olympic Triathlon which is my discipline, and I prefer the sprint or short-course which is a 750m swim, 20 km cycle and 5km run. Standard Olympic Triathlon distances are 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bicycle ride and a 10 km run.”
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    As someone who was National and African Junior Triathlon champ when in high school, Vicky has triathlon in her veins, and beneath the fun and bubbly personality is a fierce competitor who juggles being a wife and mom, a businessperson, a coach and an athlete.
    Get to Paul Cluver Family Wines in Elgin on 4 December for the WW X TRI to catch Vicky in action and support the work of the Woolworths Trust, the beneficiary of all proceeds from the event.  For more information and to enter visit More

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    It’s Time To Try Padel: The New Social Sport Everyone’s Talking Abut

    Ask anyone if they’ve heard of padel (pronounced exactly like the tool used to move a floatation device through water) and they’ll probably scrunch up their face, search their grey matter and nod, saying, “Oh yeah, that’s like tennis, right?”
    The follow-up ask is of course, “Have you played?”, but most answers would be, “Er… no.”
    That’s quite sad because, for sports and court enthusiasts, the game is an exciting spin on tennis and squash. Think of it as a tennis match without the stuffy dress code and a lot like squash but without the constant sound of balls-against-the-wall. The result? A social, fun game that’s fast-paced and breaks the rules enough to make it cool.
    If you were to try padel, you’d quickly understand why it’s so popular and addictive: having a fenced-in arena means the ball is almost always in play, while simply hitting very hard won’t necessarily score you points the way it would in tennis or squash.
    And yes, the oft-touted refrain (dare we say slogan?) “fastest-growing sport in the world” might be true: Padel is gunning for Olympic status already, with tournaments and courts cropping up all over.
    The Padel Court
    We checked out our first game at the new court in Cape Town’s Greenpoint. The court is about two months old and slick.
    There’s brand new flooring that’s soft and padded as you walk, with what looks like sea sand gently enmeshed in the ground. They’ve thought of everything: baskets as a catch-all for your keys, phone, coffee, water. Benches for the rest of the kit. A small table off to the side for a post-game coffee and a chat, or for spectators to eat and watch.
    Each court is fenced off with sliding gates to let you in or out and they’re walled in on either end by what looks like reinforced plexiglass. The walls are included in game play (like squash). The ball is allowed to bounce twice: once on the ground, once off the wall, and then it’s free to be swung into the opponent’s side.

    The Rules of Padel

    The game follows the same scoring system as tennis, but the game play is slightly different.

    Each match is played in pairs.
    A match is made up of three or five sets.
    You win a set when you win six games
    Balls can bounce off the floor and walls once, while still being in play.
    Serves are hip-height and made after bouncing the ball on the ground.
    If the ball bounces twice on the opponent’s side, you score.
    If the ball bounces into the net, goes out of court, or gets hit into your own grid, you lose a point.

    Essentially, padel is fun and easy enough to learn, because it’s not a completely new set of rules or even a wildly different method of game play.
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    The Padel Equipment
    You’ll need a padel racquet, which is wider than a squash racquet and stringless, with round holes drilled. Prices vary, around R1000 each, made of either fibreglass or carbon. The latter retails for around R5000, making it a serious investment piece.
    The ball is a modified tennis ball, made slightly lighter. You could probably get away with a regular tennis ball, but official padel courts will have balls and racquets for hire.

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    How To Play Padel
    You’d need to visit Playtomic to find a court near you. It’s an app – and website – that allows you to scope all the Padel courts in the world and book your slot seamlessly. The app includes your player ranking, and the ability to view other people’s ranking too. Booking a session via the app costs around R180, with hiring the racket costing R50.
    Right now, there are about 15 courts stationed around the country, and different organisations like Africa Padel are making it their mission to expand the game around the country. The Africa Padel courts are very much geared to be a social scene: there’s space for people to sit and watch the game, and afterwards, mill around with coffee or pizza. So, ready to take a whack?

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    10 Insanely Challenging Yoga Poses That Build Serious Strength

    There’s no shortage of hard yoga pose #inspo on the net these days. But what if you’re actually inspired to try one yourself? Where would you even start? Megan Hochheimer, founder of US-based Karma Yoga Fitness , USA who frequently posts her own impressive “physics experiments” (her words), shares the benefits of pushing the boundaries of your practice, the requirements for nailing next-level poses, and of course, 10 hard yoga poses to set your sights on along with some pro tips. (Note that many of these tricky poses have a variety of names; the ones included here are what Hochheimer calls them.)
    First and foremost, have fun with it: “Where else can you be a grown-up and get to be barefoot and roll around on the floor and breathe as loud as you want? In your yoga practice, all those things are welcomed, so there’s no reason why some of these tricky poses can’t be a fun adventure.”

    The Benefits of Hard Yoga Poses
    You’ll learn more about your practice.
    “Sometimes I’ll see something in a picture and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, definitely I could do that.’ But then I end up laughing at myself because there’s no way,” says Hochheimer. On the flip side, with good prep work and practice, she’s nailed poses she never thought she’d be capable of. “It’s cool to find where those nuances are in your own body. That self-study is something that is so encouraged in yoga.”
    You’ll hone functional strength.
    “When you build that strength to get up and down off the ground, balance on one foot or balance on your hands, you’re honing those parts of your physicality that are going to help make all the rest of your activities of daily living so much more enjoyable,” says Hochheimer.
    You’ll finesse your proprioception.
    Other perks include working on your proprioception which, when dull, can lead to balance issues. “In most of these tricky poses there is this element of balance, whether one knee is on the ground, one foot is on the ground, you’re arm balancing, or you’re in an inversion,” explains Hochheimer. “When you start to build that, you’re building concentration and proprioception.”

    The Hard Yoga Pose Prerequisites
    Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously.
    Some poses could take years to master while you may be able to do others right away. “What’s really important is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously about any of it,” says Hochheimer. “If you’re going to approach this in a really competitive way, sometimes that invites injury. Whereas if you approach it in a playful way, and just stay with yourself through the process, I think that it’s a very healthy exploration.”
    Bail Like A Kid.
    Know this: You’re going to fall out of arm balances and inversions. “All of us who have learned how to do them fall in one way or another, so the more you can understand your body mechanics and how you do that, the safer you can be when you do have to bail.” When you’re a little kid, you’re riding your bike, you fall off, you roll into the grass and you’re not hurt that badly. So, before attempting any of these poses, just do some cartwheels and rolls on the ground to get back in touch with that part of yourself and practice safely falling.
    Really, Really Warm Up.
    The better you warm up, the better you’ll be able to get into these poses. And not for nothing, Hochheimer notes that they’ll look more aesthetically pleasing to boot. A 10-minute vigorous flow should get your heart rate up and muscles warm, but be sure to specifically target the areas you’ll use in each pose as well.
    Take Videos or Photos.
    “Sometimes in my head I thought things were going to look one way, but then they look a different way in a picture or video,” Hochheimer says. “Viewing them afterwards helps me to make tiny adjustments or understand that I need to do my homework and develop more triceps strength with decline push-ups, or foam roll, or whatever it is. That helps you learn because you’re not just then repetitively going back into these patterns of failure.”
    Practice—And Consider Pro Help.
    Remember: These are hard yoga poses! “With all yoga, a lot of it is practice so just keep coming back to it,” advises Hochheimer. Working with an experienced teacher can help you to more safely and quickly nail them.

    1. Camel Variation

    Expert Tip: Camel Pose is such a great opening of the front of our body that sometimes gets tight with a lot of our more strenuous Vinyasa. The arm variation here is a big shoulder stretch. Be sure to warm up your shoulders extra well before trying it.

    2. Peacock Pose

    Expert Tip: Remember that your legs are just as strong when you get upside down as they were when you were standing on them—keep them super active in this pose.

    3. Tripod Headstand Variation

    Expert Tip: Work on you scapular mobility before you try this one. To do so, hold a yoga block overhead between the hands on its widest angle. With straight arms, try to “push” the block towards the ceiling without shrugging your shoulders up around your ears. As you “pull” the block back down, don’t bend the elbows but do use the back muscles to create the sensation of the pull. Keeping squeezing the block between the hands through both phases of the movement. Repeat several times for scapular mobilisation.

    4. Eight Angle Pose

    Expert Tip: This one grows out of that Baby Grasshopper. Work on your Chaturanga or tricep push-ups as prep work and focus on squeezing your inner thighs in the pose.

    5. Baby Grasshopper

    Expert Tip: Sit on the floor with the right leg extending out in front. Step the left foot over the right leg and twist the torso to the right so that both hands come to the floor in line with the left foot. Press into the hands and bend elbows into chaturanga (upper arm parallel to the floor). Practise engaging the inner thigh to lift the right leg up (or use a block under the right hip to get lift off). Lean towards the right inner arm and use core muscles to hold the body still as the left hand grabs right big toe.

    6. Baby Crow Pose

    Expert Tip: If there’s a pose here to try first, it’s this one. It’s deceptively tricky-looking, but not as hard for most people to accomplish. It’s almost like a flying Child’s Pose. Start in a forearm plank, then walk your feet a little wider and start to tippy toe in until you feel your knees touch the backs of your arms. Then, come into a Cat spine, look forward, and shift your weight forward.

    7. Split Pose Variation

    Expert Tip: Work on hamstring, quad, and hip flexor mobility before attempting this pose. You could try Pigeon Pose and half splits with blocks.

    8. Side Plank With Big Toe Grab

    Expert Tip: Here, you’re working internal rotation of one leg, external rotation of the other, core strength, and balance. The prep for balancing in this pose can be found in the Pose of Infinity: Lay on your right side with a yoga strap in your left hand. Rest your head on your right hand or arm. Extend both legs and try to keep the body in a straight line. Reach down and pull the left foot into the strap. Slowly extend the left leg up towards the ceiling. Use the strap in your left hand to control the stretch and hold the left foot up and focus on keeping the torso and right leg stable (try to limit the wobble forward and back). Repeat on the other side.

    9. Bound Forward Fold

    Expert Tip: This one goes in the family of the Kneeling Compass (and it’s a prep for Bird of Paradise). The difference is that this one requires a bind, which means you’re taking double internal rotation of your shoulders. Use a strap in your hands as they come across your back to make it more accessible.

    10. Fallen Compass

    Expert Tip: This tricky “fallen” variation marries Compass and Bridge poses. Warm up the hamstrings and lateral bending as much as possible before attempting.

    The article 20 Hard Yoga Poses That Build Serious Strength And Confidence was first published on Women’s Health.

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