BRIAN MARTEL: YOGA IS THE DIFFERENCE
I have always enjoyed competitive sports, baseball, ice hockey, skiing, tennis, and ping pong since childhood. No one could have told me that in my very early 60’s, I would be playing competitive baseball on an over men’s 50 league in Bedford, NH!
Playing baseball in high school and in leagues through the years was a lot of fun, but I never worked out and consistently had a sore arm or pulled muscles. I remember playing in an over 38+ baseball league years ago and was always hurt and sore for several days afterwards.
Eight years ago at 53, I joined the Bedford Mets and have enjoyed both the competitive spirit and my team mates that have played together many years. Two years ago a group of us headed to Fort Myers, Florida for 6 day, 7 game tournaments that were outstanding. We got to play on the Red Sox Spring Training Complex field, a true highlight for our team and me personally.
My first 3 years on the team, I got to pitch and play 3rd base but again struggled with stiff, pulled hamstring or groan muscles. During ski season three quarters through the day my quads would start to burn and stiffness would set it. This was even after a regular workout routine I had in place for myself, 22 minutes of cardio, light lifting on 14 nautilus machines etc., 3-4 times per week.
One day I said to Kim Hickman, our fitness director at the Merrimack Y, what can I do to stop the hamstring pulls and sore muscles? Kim told me to go take a Yoga class that was offered free to Y members. I was told it was held twice a week at 6:00 am with an experienced instructor, Elizabeth. I was in denial that yoga could be something to help me be a better athlete.
I took Kim’s advice and started yoga classes 5 years ago and it has been the best thing I have done for myself both from a physical and mental attitude standpoint. I now get up in the morning feeling good, no pulled hamstrings or sore arms. I can sit up straight and can deal with most pressures on the job because I have a good positive attitude, for the most part! The poses in Yoga are perfect for stretching all leg and arm muscles, along with hips. The deep breathing we practice during yoga also helps me to relax and at bedtime helps me fall asleep.
Over the course of the last 7 years our Mets Baseball team have won 3 championships, 2014 going undefeated and came in second place over 4 years, an amazing run for a bunch of 50+ men who still play very competitive baseball in a league of now 9 teams throughout NH and Mass.
I was asked 5 years ago, to start each game pitching and at first questioned my physical and mental ability, but after a few team victories I could start to see the Yoga was paying off for me personally! The team and league vote for MVP, CY Young, Golden Glove and Team Sportsmanship awards. Over the last 5 years I’ve been voted the CY Young award for our Mets team 4 years and CY Young of the entire league one of those years. Team members have asked me what has been the difference; they have said I seem to have gotten stronger and more accurate on the mound over the last few seasons. I said YOGA is what has made the difference!!!
This season our team went 10-5 during the regular season and in the first three games of the playoffs we didn’t give up a run, 4-0, 9-0 and 3-0 amazing! In the final championship game I prepared as I always do, peanut butter, banana sandwich on wheat bread, lots of water, a Gatorade and two Advil and 30+ minutes of yoga stretches. When I get to the field I’m ready to go! The final game of 2017 the Bedford Mets clipped the wings of the Eagles and won 8-8 to win the championship, what a great feeling!
Yoga has changed my life. Some early cold mornings at 5:00 am in winter, it is tough to get up but knowing the rewards Yoga has provided me, makes it all worthwhile. Now, I look forward to a great ski season with lots of powder dumps! Spring Training right around the corner!
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