Cycling – you love it: the awesome cardio, the strength, the challenge, the endorphins.
Cycling is a tough sport – and it is super tough on your body. Bluntly, putting someone in such an unnatural fixed, forward flexed position doing an endlessly repetitive movement for hours with loads of vibration coming up through the bike frame has got to be one of the quickest ways of creating muscular-skeletal problems that I know.
All those miles hunched over the bike will shorten your hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, groins and ITB. Stiffen your ankles. And create chronic over-lengthening and weakening of the lower and upper back. And mostly all that shortening is going to show up as back pain, knee pain, neck and wrist pain.
And most importantly for your biking, all that shortening of muscles makes you less comfortable, less efficient and less powerful on the bike. DO. SOME. YOGA
Flexibility gains are performance gains.
Stretching your hamstrings, calves and hip flexors gives you better areo position. And remember that there are bigger performance gains made through increased areo than spending on a lighter carbon frame – so good for your performance and your pocket.
Stretching your hip flexors will allow you get your hips forward when out of the saddle and drive even more power through the whole length of the leg.
Good hip flexor length allows you to drive more power through the full range of the quads when seated.
Increasing flexibility around your adductors (groins) is super important for allowing good weight distribution for faster downhill cornering.
Better pelvis mobility (groins, ITB, hip flexors) increases efficiency by reducing wiggle on the saddle – especially when you’re tired.
Better ankle mechanics allows pain-free hitting of power through the whole ankling pedal motion.
And last of all – a hunched, upper-back rounded position on the bike will become a hunched, upper-back rounded position in life: probably not the look you’re hoping for!
You need to stretch. All that repetitive contraction shortens your major power muscles and reduces power and efficiency.
All the classic cycling injuries are not acute (except when you wipe out) but develop from chronic over-use, over-shortening (ankles, knees, hips, neck, forearm, wrist, fingers) and over-lengthening (lower back, upper back, shoulders). You do this to yourself through big mileage coupled with poor movement patterns and endless repetition.
A good yoga class will lengthen those shortened muscles, niggles and chronic problems will reduce. Your lower back pain and knee pain will slowly fade away allowing more efficient positions and more enjoyable riding.
You’ll be able to up your bike hours without pain or injury and you will be able to go on cycling for many, many years to come.
Good torso control keeps your sitting bones solid on the saddle so that power is driven straight to the pedal, it stops your hips swinging when you are out of the saddle driving all power efficiently straight through the pedal to the tarmac, and it prevents your torso collapsing when you are tired. And strong glutes add power to your pedal stroke when standing.
But the bike position means that you can’t really train your core when on the bike – that forward hunched position means your abs won’t fire and sitting on your butt means you don’t use your glutes that much. Sorry.
A good yoga class gets you away from that fixed position and trains glutes and abs as well as stretching you out.
This is huge. The multi-directional movement of yoga, plus all that stretching helps you recover faster. You flush out the build-up of metabolic waste, pump fresh blood through, untether tissues that have become stuck down and tight, and re-set the length of your muscles. You will feel less fatigued and the ride the day after your yoga will feel easier.
Yoga includes mindfulness – which means being present, not being distracted by our thoughts. That head space gives clarity and the ability to focus on what is happening right now without becoming angry, dispirited, reactive or tense. Huge for your cycling; huge for your life.
Most of us sit at desks, sit in cars, sit on sofas, and then sit on the bike. This just encourages the same really bad posture in lots of different ways. And so cyclists develop loads of compensatory ways of moving because they get too stiff to move with good posture. This will injure you in unpredictable ways and make living a full life really difficult. The things that make life possible (like reaching overhead) and meaningful (like getting down and up off the floor to play with your kids) will become harder and harder.
You might still be comfortable on the bike (that fixed position ends up being the most comfortable position), but your everyday movement will get less and less. Go and stretch, and don’t let cycling make your life smaller and more difficult.
Because yoga is for bendy, skinny women and you will feel embarrassed.
Don’t believe what you see on Instagram!!! Loads of top athletes do yoga and many classes have a good gender balance. I teach loads of really stiff, restricted, real-life human beings. We do good functional movement and the flexibility they really need in a way they can manage. BTW if you ever get to a class that looks like its straight off Instagram, then it is not for you: leave.
Because your training programme doesn’t allow you the time to do so.
Well, your training programme will eventually become full of time because your body will stop you if you don’t look after it. And then you won’t be cycling. Better to get to a yoga class AND keep on cycling.
Because is isn’t important – I can push through pain
You cannot be serious! Remember there is no Mind-Over-Matter (except in the super short-term). Your body is always in control and will nag you to start with and then stop you if it really needs your attention: willpower is no match for physiology.
I’ve taught yoga at Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC, lots of other football clubs and elite athletes and to loads of regular cyclists, runners, triathletes… Yoga as a compliment to your cycling works. You will feel easier, freer. You will injure less and chronic problems will slowly subside. Your efficiency and power output on the bike will improve. You will increase your training and go on for longer. Your body and your cycling will love you for it.