Everyone needs to loosen up around here!
One of the most essential cycling discoveries I made for performing better on my longer rides was yoga. I’m no yogi. I wouldn’t even stretch (ha) to call myself a bona fide yoga student. I have the flexibility of a carbon frame and only the vaguest impression of Nirvana.
I do, however, have an arsenal of simple yoga poses that give me a deep, restorative stretch without the risk of pulling a muscle. You’d be putting yourself in grave danger if you tried learning these poses me, so I reached out to my friend Abi Carver, a yoga for athletes specialist, for some expert instruction. You can find more articles and videos from Abi at www.yoga15.com.
Abi designs specific yoga routines for each individual sport. Her routine for cyclists was first featured on Pink Bike and her yoga videos and Instagram account draw thousands of followers. You can find her on Instagram @yoga15abi. There’s a stretch in her routine for everyone, so let’s burn some incense and go get supple!
Abi: Hi everyone! Thanks for the intro, Max.
I work with athletes across a number of adventure sports, addressing common patterns of misalignment. In cyclists, the main complaint I come across is lower back pain.
This debilitating condition is caused by the imbalance between overdeveloped quads and weak hamstrings that pull the pelvis out of alignment, putting pressure on the lumbar spine. The pain intensifies as the cyclist continues to build strength in the quads and loses flexibility in the hip flexors and hamstrings from over-reliance on the seated position. It is also often aggravated by sitting and driving for long periods.
I spent over a year working with cyclists to design a specific routine that addresses this whole spectrum of imbalances, selecting poses that realign the pelvis, stretch the leg muscles, build strength in the core and glutes and increase flexibility and suppleness in the hips. I have found from working with hundreds of cyclists, that if you integrate this routine into your training program 2-3 times a week, you will find that the pain goes away and you are able to train harder and ride for longer.
Initially, take the sequence at your own speed and feel free to stop and start the video as many times as you need to. As you settle into each pose, move in any way that relieves tension and discomfort, shifting from side to side and modifying the pose to suit your unique areas of imbalance, tightness and inflexibility.
Aim to get as deep a relief as you can from each stretch. Some of the poses are fairly advanced, so don’t feel like you have to master the whole sequence on your first time through! Take it slow, focus on your breath and be incredibly careful not to overstretch or move in a way that causes you pain.
The best time to do this sequence is after a ride or in the afternoon/evening when your body temperature is elevated and blood flow to the muscles is increased. Static stretching first thing when you wake up, or when your body has been in one position for a long period of time can result in injury.
If you are seeing a physiotherapist to guide you in your rehabilitation, check that it is safe for you to follow this routine.
Max: I tried Abi’s routine in the comfort of my living room, and worked a lot of tension out of a sore spot in my lower back after a not-so-graceful mountain biking week. I’ll be memorizing this routine for the end of long tour days, if Kelley doesn’t master it to an instructor-level of finesse first.
Stay loose and keep riding!