The wonderful Ring of Kerry cycle is upon us again this weekend. Have you been training? It is getting more popular with the increasing trend of people taking to cycling. I always see an influx of last minute “help my legs” in my massage practice but did you know there are a few simple things you can do yourself in between to keep you on top of your game?
1. A couple of post ride postures will help ease muscle soreness. Just five minutes will help lubricate and stretch out tight muscles. Think back, hip and shoulders.
Triangle (Trikonasana) pose is good for this. Stand legs about 4ft apart, turn left foot to 45 degree angle, point right toes at 90 degrees. Bring arms to shoulder height. Reach into right hand and extend torso to the right leg. Rest arm gently onto right leg. Left arm reaches to the sky or rests on hip. Turn to look at left hand if reaching up and you have no neck issues. Across the front of the shoulders should remain open. Stay for 5 breaths. Coming back up gently on an inhale.
2. Prevent injury with a little focus on shoulder strengthening poses. It is inevitable that at one time or another a fall off the bike will happen. Bringing arms to chest will prevent any breaks to the arm but it means landing on the shoulder. My favourite way to explain how mobile the shoulder joint is; imagaine a golf ball and a tee…that’s what the top of the humerus (arm) bone looks like as it sits into the shoulder joint/socket…very, very mobile but downside is that it can dislocate very easy. There are many muscles and tendons keeping everything stable and in place. By keeping these strong it will make the shoulder less unstable and prone to injury should you come off the bike.
Downward Dog pose is great for strengthening shoulders, back and lengthening the hamstrings. Begin on hands and knees. Fingers wide, elbows and shoulders in line. Legs hip distance, knees under hips. tuck toes under. Lift knees, hips and bum up from floor. Imagine pushing the mat away with the hands. Head remains relaxed between arms. Heels do not need to come to the floor, keep the back straight and sit-bones (bum) up and back.
3. Pedal Power – your hip flexors at the top/front of thigh are what keep you moving on the pedals. But they can get stiff from the repetitive action of lifting the knee up and down. This in turn can lead to tightness in your ITB (iliontibial band) which is a ligament that runs down the side of the leg from hip to knee. The ITB keeps the knee stable in all this pedal action too.
Protect and keep your knees and hips pain free with a good pose like Pigeon. Start on hands and knees, bring right knee between hands and allow hips to come toward the floor. Walk back leg out a little so it is straight, keep hips level and forward facing. Shoulders away from the ears. Strong into hands. Place a cushion under thigh of bent leg to get more balance.
4. Don’t forget to breathe! Your breath is what gives you strength, stamina and focus. Harness this power even more with some Yoga breath techniques (pranayama). Your breath is what carries oxygen to the muscles too. Even something as simple as lying on the ground, knees bent, breathing in and out through the nose can create an awareness of this. Placing the hands gently on the ribs, inhaling and sensing the expansion in the ribcage. On exhaling, drawing the belly button back towards the spine engages the abdominal muscles which help move the diaphragm up to help expel the air. Doing this slowly and maybe even counting so that the inhale and exhale are even number.
Of course the best way to keep injury free is to practice daily and attend a yoga class with good, safe instruction. Please feel free to contact me about classes or one-to-one yoga.
I recommend that you consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. You should be in good physical condition and be able to participate in the exercise.