Written By Justin on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 2:48:00 PM
On various forums over the last few years, I've heard people say that 40-year-old Brad Friedel was surely playing his final season. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now. In no small part, Brad credits his longevity to yoga, which he started over a decade ago when he noticed that the ordinary little knocks and injuries were taking longer to heal. In an interview last season with ussoccer.com, he said that yoga has kept his body feeling like it's 24 years old.
You can have the reflexes of a mongoose, the secure handling of jewel thief, and the adept footwork of, well...insert your own similie. But you won't have a long career in goal if your body doesn't allow it. Many injuries are down to bad luck, of course, but it's pretty obvious that the better you look after your body, the better it will last the course. Strength, balance, and flexibility not only help you perform better, but reduce the spectre of injury, too. And when it comes to strength, balance, and flexibility, there aren't many activities that deliver as well as yoga.
Yoga's value to athletes is pretty well established by now, but in case you still think of it as something for new-age housewives or Brooklyn hipsters, consider that Friedel is hardly the only goalkeeper to incorporate it in his training. Brentford's Richard Lee is a big proponent as well, and I've heard it mentioned in interviews by Petr Cech and, before he retired, Edwin Van der Sar.
There is one thing I am that none of those brilliant keepers are, and that is 45 years old. I have gradually shifted the focus of this blog to writing about goalkeepers (there are other blogs that do that - my favorite is this one) to writing about being a goalkeeper. The reason I've done this is that my age gives me long-term perspective on what does and does not work, and yoga simply works. If you're seventeen, you're loaded up with natural flexibility, but believe me, this declines with age - rapidly, in most cases. It's much easier to maintain it than to get it back once it's gone, and yoga is a great way to do it.
I will admit that when I went to a yoga studio in New York City, I was a little turned off by the "get in touch with your inner soul" aspect of it. I'm not discounting the spiritual value, but this particular studio laid it on too thick for my liking. The great thing about yoga though is that you can do it at home for the price of nothing more than a decent mat. If you're a beginner, there is a wealth of resources on the web to get you started. Give it an honest chance and I'll be surprised if you don't notice results within a month.