In this upcoming blog series we are excited to be joined by yoga for cyclists expert Lexie Williamson, who will be giving us some tips on how to use the practice of yoga to relieve tightness and speed up recovery after riding, as well as to improve on the bike positioning and core strength to allow us to ride in comfort for longer. Over the next few months, Lexie will be expounding on some key yoga stretches for cyclists in a regular column here at Always Riding.

Lexie is a qualified yoga instructor (Yoga Sport Science ® and British Wheel of Yoga for any riders who are already familiar with the world of yoga) and also a keen cyclist, with plenty of experience of helping various UK-based cycle clubs as well as individual cyclists and triathletes to benefit their cycling by practising yoga. Her book 'Yoga for Cyclists' (published by Bloomsbury Publishing) has received rave reviews in the cycling press and is by all accounts an excellent resource for any of you who get really into this and want to take it beyond the few moves and stretches featured on the blog. But be warned, it all gets quite addictive!

In this first blog post, we hear from Lexie about why we should bother with yoga after a long ride (instead of diving straight for the cake tin), followed by the first set of moves to try out at home. Enjoy!


Introduction from Lexie: Why do yoga?

Cyclists don’t need the flexibility to dive sideways to reach a tennis shot or rotate 180 degrees to swing a golf club. In fact, for long periods we rarely budge in the saddle at all; which is precisely why we need yoga.

Holding the fixed, flexed riding stance and gazing ahead for hours is an aerodynamic dream but tough on the lower back, neck and shoulders, especially if you sit at a desk all day in a similar crunched position. Riding also taxes certain muscle groups such as the quads, hamstring, and glutes leading to potential knee or iliotibial band issues.

I describe yoga to riders as a tool to iron out these potentially tight or troublesome areas and help sidestep injury. Yoga (along with massage) may also help speed up recovery and avoid the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) so you are soon ride-ready with fresh legs.

Most importantly, though, regular stretching and core work allows cyclists to ride in more comfort for longer. Not just that, but with a little dedication, targeted stretching and core work can improve your aero ‘flat back’ position. Not surprisingly, this usually gets a good response from the hopelessly bike-addicted.

You’ll need very little equipment to try the Always Riding Yoga for Cyclists blogs. Later in the series, I suggest a good post-ride technique which is done by lying on a long foam roller, so that might be a useful purchase.

A strap, in the form of an old tie or dressing gown belt, is also a useful aid for stretching the hamstrings if you are challenged in the flexibility department (lie on your back, loop the strap over your foot and slowly extend the leg).

So when to try? Stretching is ideally done immediately after riding (OK, post-protein shake but pre-shower) when your muscles are still warm. If you have spent three hours in the red and your thighs are humming a tune, repeat the stretches again just before bed.

I hope you enjoy this taster of cycling-specific yoga,

Lexie

Highlight the Hot Spots

Imagine if there was ONE cycling stretch that targeted the headline hip/knee-related injury hot spots like the hardworking glutes or buttock muscles, the small but potentially troublesome piriformis nestled behind the glutes, the iliotibial or ‘IT’ band, and the lateral hip muscles, which play a vital stabilising role as you pedal.

Your luck is in; here is the catchily-named Figure Four Stretch With a Tilt and a sitting version – ideal for the office or commute.

yoga-for-cyclists-blog-1-fig-four-stretch

Stretch 1: Figure Four Stretch With a Tilt

1) Lie on the back with the legs bent and feet hip width

2) Lift the right leg off the floor and turn the right knee out

3) Lay the right ankle on the left thigh

4) Lift the left foot off the floor, hold behind the left thigh and hug both legs in towards you. To deepen the stretch; hold onto the front shin, but ensure you can comfortably rest the head back on the floor

5) Now tilt a little to the LEFT side and hug the legs closer; that intense stretch in the middle of your glutes is piriformis

- Hold for 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Yoga for Cycling - Sitting Stretch

Stretch 2: Figure Four Stretch Sitting

1) Sit tall on a chair with the feet on the floor and hip-width

2) Lift the right leg and turn the right knee out. Lay the right ankle on the left thigh

3) Flex the right foot

4) Sit tall with a straight back and lean a little forward

- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Lexie Williamson Yoga for Cyclists book cover

Lexie's book Yoga for Cyclists is available from Bloomsbury Publishing