YOGA FOR CYCLISTS
Along with traditional recovery treatments like stretching and foam rolling, yoga can be an important part of any athlete’s training program. A dedicated yoga practice can help athletes improve their performance and aid in recovery. Giant Factory Off-Road Team soigneur Paweł Zimón works with team riders including Josh Berry, a former road pro turned gravel racing specialist, to help them incorporate yoga into their training programs. Whether you're new to yoga or are already experienced in your practice, here's an overview from Paweł, along with a simple set of poses that he created specifically for cyclists. And in the above video, Josh walks us through his practice.
Yoga involves adopting a set of various positions or “poses” intended to stretch and activate different parts of your body. Additionally, yoga traditionally incorporates elements of breath control and meditation. In short, yoga brings us into a deep, connected stretching practice that helps us quiet our minds and soothe our bodies.
Overall, yoga can help you:
- Increase flexibility in cycling-specific muscle groups
- Develop a strong core and back for upper-body stability
- Reduce pain and discomfort from long stints in the saddle
- Speed up recovery time with concentrated breath work
- Help prevent injuries
As cyclists, we may experience tight hip flexors along with neck, shoulder, and back pain. Yoga is particularly helpful in dealing with these cycling-specific issues, as many poses are designed to target the hip flexors and lower back, building muscle strength and improving overall stability. Yoga also requires a steady, controlled technique that translates brilliantly to cycling, especially during hard efforts when aerobic efficiency is so important.
The following sequence is a simple set to help you get started with yoga. Repeat the series of poses on each side of your body, as many times as it feels good. Don’t overdo it and force yourself into positions—if it hurts, back off a little bit. The flexibility and stability will come with time. And, no matter what, don’t forget to breathe!
Start in a standing position and focus on straightening your lower back by tucking your pelvis and bringing your belly button to your spine. We call this Mountain Pose. Raise your arms straight into the air, palms in, and drop your shoulders away from your ears. Try to keep a straight back the entire time. Your core and glute muscles should be engaged (tightened) to support your body. Take a deep breath in… As you exhale, hinge forward at the waist with a straight back toward a 90-degree angle. Pause. Then release your hands to the floor, bending your knees as needed, folding deep into the stretch. You’ll feel your hamstrings, shoulders and back begin to open up.
From the forward fold, place your left foot back into a lunge position with your hands on the ground. You’ll feel the stretch in both hamstrings. Drop your left knee to the ground, raise your hands back into the air, palms in, and sink into the stretch. Again, don’t overdo it here! We are working on stretching hip flexors and opening the chest. Make sure your right knee does not extend past your right toes. After a few breaths, release your hands and eyes back to the ground. Bring your right foot back to meet your left, as though in a plank position, and push your hips up toward the sky into Downward Dog. Keep your spine straight, engage your core by bringing your belly button toward your spine, and drop your shoulders away from your ears. When you’re ready, drop both knees to the ground about shoulder width apart, feet together. Drop your chest between your legs, arms extended forward on the ground, and rest in Child’s Pose. Finally, come forward out of Child’s Pose, body lying face down on the ground, feet together, and hands resting under your armpits.
From here, place your hands flat on the ground under your armpits and press up gently into Sphinx Pose. Come up to all fours (hands and knees on the ground), re-extend into Downward Dog, and then bring your left foot forward and repeat the sequence from the lunge.
Once you've completed this sequence of poses, you can repeat them again. Notice any differences in how you feel. Hopefully your back, hips and shoulders will begin to feel more open, leading to improved stability and comfort while you're riding. Good luck!