Saturday, March 14, 2009

Yoga for Cyclists

Cycling next to swimming, is one of the least damaging high
aerobic sports. Nevertheless, there are a few chronic injury syndromes that can occur while riding. Many of these problems can be avoided if you warm up properly and take a few minutes after you ride with an appropriate stretching regimen. This is critical if you are undergoing a fast-paced workout or hammering the hills.

The reason you warm up is to get blood moving to your extremities so that they can contract more efficiently. The muscles I recommend that cyclists stretch include the calves (gastrocnemius), the front upper leg muscles (quadriceps), the back upper leg muscles (hamstrings), and outer hip muscles (tensor fascia latae) and core work.

There are many cycling, running and fitness books and websites that have excellent diagrams of the proper stretches. Remember that some info may be dated and that dynamic stretching is currently supported by research. Gone are the days of holding a stretch for 20 seconds. The progressions today are focused on gaining stability as well as on stretching. Stretching after a workout is important because of the shortening, which occurs after a muscle has been vigorously contracted in physical activity. An even better solution is to take a yoga class.

Think of your core as the linchpin that is necessary for muscles to work efficiently that are rotating around it. When it is weak you will feel it particularly in your back and hamstrings. Boat pose (Paripurna Navasana) with extension and flexion of your legs is helpful along with Superman or Locust pose (Salambhasana)with opposite leg and arm extended. You can create sequences that will also help protect your knees such as going from chair pose to warrior 3 . Hip openers such as squatting with feet flat are great hip openers after the compression that occurs on long bike rides. Different sequences to stretch the illiotibial band such as making a figure 4 with your legs while on your back are essential.

Muscle imbalances are a potential problem area that can plague your cycling. This happens commonly with the bigger front thigh muscles (quadriceps) overpowering the hamstrings or the calf muscles overpowering the front muscles in the lower leg. A muscle strength and flexibility evaluation can identify these problems. Consult a sports medicine specialist if these initial steps do not resolve your discomfort.

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