YOU LOVE CYCLING for the great cardio, the strength, the challenge, and the endorphins it gives you.
Cycling is a demanding sport that is very hard on your body—putting you in an unnatural, fixed, forward-flexed position. Then having to repeat the same movement repeatedly for hours while there is a lot of vibration coming up through the bike frame has to be one of the quickest ways to cause muscle and bone problems.
All those miles spent hunched over your bike will shorten your hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, groin, and ITB. Stiffen your ankles. And cause the lower and upper back to get too long and weak over time. And most of that shortening will show up as pain in the back, knees, neck, and wrists.
And most importantly, for your biking, this shortening of muscles makes you less comfortable, less efficient, and less potent on the bike. It would help if you did some yoga.
HOW WELL DO YOU PEDAL?
Gains in flexibility are also gains in performance. Your body’s aero position will improve if you stretch your hamstrings, calves, and hip flexors.
And remember that improving aerodynamics will give you more performance gains than buying a lighter carbon frame, which is good for your performance and wallet.
If you stretch your hip flexors, you’ll be able to move your hips forward when you get out of the saddle and put more power through your whole leg.
If your hip flexors are long enough, you can put more power through the full range of your quads when you’re sitting down.
Getting more flexible in your adductors (groynes) is very important if you want a good weight distribution and turn faster downhill.
Better pelvic mobility (in the groynes, ITB, and hip flexors) makes you more efficient by reducing wiggle on the saddle, especially when you’re tired.
With better ankle mechanics, you can hit the pedals with power without hurting yourself.
And lastly, a hunched, rounded upper-back position on the bike will become a hunched, rounded upper-back position in life, which is probably not the look you’re going for.
It’s important to stretch. All of those repeated contractions shorten your major power muscles, which makes you weaker and less effective.
NIGGLES AND HOW TO STOP INJURIES
All the most common cycling injuries aren’t sudden unless you fall off your bike. Instead, they come from overuse, overshortening (ankles, knees, hips, neck, forearm, wrist, fingers), and overlengthening (lower back, upper back, shoulders). You do this to yourself by running a lot, having lousy movement patterns, and doing the same thing over and over again.
When you take a good yoga class, your muscles will get longer and ache and pains will go away. Slowly, your lower back and knee pain will go away, letting you ride in better positions and have a better ride.
You’ll be able to ride your bike for longer without hurting yourself, and you’ll be able to keep doing it for a very long time.
GREAT HEART STRENGTH
Reasonable torso control keeps your sitting bones firmly on the saddle so that all of your power goes straight to the pedals. It also keeps your hips from swinging when you’re out of the saddle so that your energy goes directly through the pedals to the road, and you don’t collapse when you’re tired. And strong glutes give your pedal stroke more power when you stand.
But you can’t train your core because of how you sit on a bike. Your abs won’t work in that forward-hunched position, and your glutes won’t work as much when sitting on your butt.
A good yoga class gets you out of that fixed position and stretches you out while working your glutes and abs.
It’s a big deal. Yoga moves you in many directions, and all the stretching helps you recover faster. You get rid of metabolic waste that has built up, pump fresh blood through, loosen up tissues that have got stuck and tight, and change the length of your muscles. You’ll feel less tired, and the ride the next day will be easier for you.
Mindfulness is a part of yoga, which means being in the moment and not letting our thoughts take over. This space in your head gives you clarity and the ability to focus on what’s happening right now without getting angry, down, reactive, or tense. Significant for your biking and your life.
ADDRESS CYCLE POSTURE
Most of us sit at our desks, in our cars, couches, and bikes. It encourages the same terrible posture in a lot of different ways. So, cyclists find many other ways to move because they get too stiff to move with good posture. It will hurt you unexpectedly and make it hard to live a fully mobile life.
Things that make life possible and meaningful, like reaching up to the ceiling or getting down on the floor to play with your kids, will get harder and harder.
You might still be comfortable on the bike since that fixed position is the most comfortable one, but you will move less and less daily. Go stretch, and don’t let cycling make your life more limited and problematic.
Adding yoga to your cycling is a good idea. You’ll feel better and more fluid. You will hurt yourself less, and long-term problems will improve over time.
Your speed and strength on the bike will get better. You will train more and keep going for longer. Your body will thank you, and so will your cycling.