I’ve been cycling for many years, 20 odd in fact. I’ve grown up pretty active, climbing trees, swimming, running and cycling. I’ve done Judo, Life Saving and even Rock Climbing, but Cycling has been my biggest sport. You can say that my body is shaped by a bicycle. And I don’t just mean my “big” legs or skinny upper body, I mean my posture, and flexibility.
At some stage, most people who cycle have experienced back pain. Maybe you still do. I’ve spent loads of money on Chiropractors and Physios. I get great relief from my symptoms, but only for short periods. The problem is I haven’t been addressing the cause of the pain. I have a strong body, and I have a six pack. So I have a strong core, right? Wrong! My cycling has made me so strong in one type of movement. Any movement to the side or twisting, I’m rubbish. My hamstrings are short, my ITBs are tight and my quads are way dominant. My physical balance was out. Now, as a cyclist you want a light body and hugely strong legs to go fast, but this doesn’t allow for anything else to be strong. Well, as a coach, I’ve realized a few truths. One being that a healthy and well rounded body out performs a starved under utilized one. I tried Pilates. I tried doing gym work, but none of these gave me the dynamic movement that I seek, to keep my interest and as a workout.
I found yoga by mistake really. My wife went to a class, I wasn’t interested. The next week she asked me to join her again, I caved and decided to go. It was very different to my perception of what I thought it would be. The movements were balance and flexibility orientated whilst remaining dynamic in movement. It took huge strength and coordination to pull off some of the moves. I tell you, I struggled so much with hamstring stretches. Man, I hate them, but that alone has reduced some issues I’ve had on the bike. Our Yoga teacher is a 40-something year old lady, tiny thing, and she can literally shove her legs behind her ears and do a handstand. That’s not as easy as it sounds. As a guy, my upper body strength is good, so when we have “planking” type poses to do, I do well at them. This week, I was introduced to a handstand with your legs twisted outwards to the side, and to my surprise I managed both sides. The only one in my class to do so! PROGRESS!
Since starting yoga, I can tell you that my balance on the bike is WAY better. The standing poses that require balance are a huge help. These poses recruit stabilizing muscles in your feet, ankle, thighs and hips. They recruit your pelvis and lower back, all the while also requiring flexibility. It’s astonishing how much this has helped. In Cycling, force production in muscles is key. We train muscles to be strong and to force pedals around, but we never workout the stabilizers. It’s a silly thing, because I’ve found a lower level of fatigue and a much smoother pedal stroke since yoga. I have a power meter and base these facts on Perceived and Scientific data.
Yoga is a very peaceful form of exercise and will leave you feeling peaceful. It does this by teaching you breathing. Yeah right, I’ve been breathing fine for years! No seriously, there is a correct time to inhale, or exhale depending on the movement you are doing. Teaching you this promotes better oxygenation to the body, and brain. It also makes you execute the movements way better. On the bike I have found my rhythm way faster, as well as finding more oxygen. I’ve also found a relief in my Asthma on the bike.
The benefits of Yoga are numerous in my opinion. From better breathing during exercise to better overall flexibility and mobility (who doesn’t want to move more fluidly) and strength and also stability. The last reason I enjoy Yoga, it’s peaceful. And it balances my adrenaline driven cycling habit so well. A little Yoga after a ride is great, it’s better than other static stretches and it really sorts out that foreign position our bodies sit in on a bike.
For those keen, our Yoga Teachers name is Jo Steinhobel. Contact number 083 5026541 and she always does the first class for free.