If you are passionate about cycling — you just love the feeling of freedom and the wind blowing in your face as you cycle fast and smoothly — you want to keep cycling as long as you can and keep on top of any niggling aches and pains. Especially when you love long cycling trips or you participate in races and charity cycling events, you will know that your body can complain about the position it is put in for these long periods. Read below what you can do immediately, the moment you come off your bike, to stretch out and avoid muscle stiffness and pain
The strains on the body from long cycling can be many. No doubt you know that it is most important to have your bike professionally fitted for an optimal posture. It is also advisable not to grip the handlebars too tightly. For the shoulders and neck, try placing the hands in such a way that the little fingers are down and the thumbs up. This position of the arms allows the trapezius muscle to be more relaxed and the neck to be freer.
The more flexible you are and the better your core strength, the less injury prone you will be, and the quicker you can bounce back if you do have an injury. This is why a regular yoga practice can help cyclists: yoga does not only promote flexibility, reducing the strain on shoulders, neck and back, releasing overworked quads and tight hamstrings, it also promotes core strength. Moreover, yoga helps to develop optimal breathing and aids concentration.
I have kept the stretches below to a minimum, just to increase the chances that they actually get done. It is incredibly tempting to get off the bike and go straight to the next activity. When you remember the stretches, just think “5 minutes” and do them. During an all day cycle trip, if you can afford the time, best is to do these stretches regularly throughout the day.
Keep each stretch for at least a minute if you can, breathing evenly. Please do the exercises gently if you are not used to them. If a movement or stretch hurts don’t do it.
You are probably very familiar with this stretch; it helps to release the quadriceps or front of thigh muscles. What you may not have done in this stretch is to tilt the pelvis, or in other words tuck the tailbone under like a frightened dog tucks its tail. This keeps the lower back from contracting too much and will optimise the stretch.
Hamstrings, back and neck stretch
Hold on to your bike, preferably with the hands wide and the arms slightly bent with the elbows pointing to the side to give lots of space to the shoulders and neck. Walk back until your hips are above the feet and the back is horizontal. If your hamstrings are very tight you either bend your legs or you do this pose with the hands higher up, e.g. against a wall or fence. Keep the shoulders broad and the neck in line with the spine. Feel the long line from your head all the way to the hips. Lengthen through the crown of the head.
Pectoral muscles stretch
Hunching over the handlebars can shorten the muscles in the front of your upper chest. Counteract a chronic tightness and the resulting rounding of the shoulders by including this stretch:
Claps the fingers behind the back.
Bend your elbows
Bring the elbows towards each other – breathe into the stretch.
Floppy arms – spine and shoulder release
Allow your arms to feel heavy and floppy while you swing them round by twisting the body to the side and looking over.
Supine twist – glut, spine and shoulder release
If you have a dry surface to lie on:
Lie on your back and hug both knees.
Hold the left knee with the right hand.
Extend the right leg out on the floor.
Bring you left arm out to the side.
Bring your left leg over to the side and try to rest the foot and maybe also the knee on the floor. Let go of the knee.
Starting with both palms together, circle the top arm so that it comes in line with the other arm (if your arms are the arms on a clock, the top arm just went from 9 to 3 o’clock.). Do this movement with an inhalation.
Return the arms to the starting position with an exhalation.
Repeat 4 to 6 times and do the same on the other side.
To my cyclist students and friends: thank you!
To other cyclist readers: if you would like to try a few yoga sessions to improve flexibility, core strength and to optimise breathing, in person or Skype, do contact me to set up a phone conversation. Let’s see if yoga can help you!
Blogs that can help you with the following: