Cycling is an activity that many pick up as a child. “It’s just like riding a bike,” is a phrase used to indicate that once you know how to do it, you don’t forget. For most people, cycling is child’s play, the bike that took you around the neighborhood is left in the garage, and the JOY of the wind on your face is left in childhood. But, “since it’s just like riding a bike,” (um, duh, it is riding a bike) it can be picked up again at just about any age. For me, I came back to the bike after knee injuries prevented me from running. At first, it felt like I’d been cheated and that it was “second choice.” As time has passed, I now find myself more in love with the bike than I ever was with the run….and I fear losing my ability to ride!
“Ride today so that you can ride tomorrow,” has become my mantra. I live in Minnesota, where riding year round isn’t really possible, so, to stay conditioned through the l-o-n-g, dark winter I ride at our local athletic club. But, riding might not be enough. Because repetitive use injuries are a thing, and as our bodies age (bummer, huh?), we need to complement our riding with other activities.
Typically cyclists have strong legs and glutes. We develop hip flexors that are efficient and strong at up/down, and forward/back movements. This is good news. BUT, there’s always a but, isn’t there? BUT, while some muscles become strong, other’s become de-conditioned and this lack of balance can cause injury. So, finding strength in muscles that might otherwise be ignored, and finding length in muscles that that are strong become a goal for me in the “off-season.”
The first thing I add in as daylight hours shorten is yoga. Yoga has the ability to lengthen, tone, and provide additional balance…both physically and mentally. Yoga can be done on your own, using a video (check out, https://www.doyogawithme.com), or at a local gym or yoga studio and requires purchase of very little…or nothing! You can do yoga in your bare feet in a small space (even a hotel room if you’re traveling!). I recommend finding a “sticky mat” that provides a little bit of padding and a non-slip surface. Whether you choose a class, or practice on your own, I recommend spending time in four basic poses:
1) Pigeon — opens hips and lengthens gluteus maximus/gluteus medius; can be done prone, supine, or seated. Pepperminting
2) Forward fold —lengthens hamstrings, can be done seated or standing. Yoga Outlet
3) Child’s pose —finds space in low back and hips. Pop Sugar
4) Corpse pose— done with support beneath your spine to open chest. Improve Fitness
A foam roller is an optional tool that you might love for a variety of reasons, and can be used here. If you don’t have/want a foam roller, you can roll up a blanket or a towel to create about an 8 inch diameter “roll” and place in beneath the length of your spine from tail bone to the top of your head.
Adding strength training to my schedule has been difficult. Free time is a treasure, and if I find myself with an extra hour or two, I usually lean toward another form of aerobic exercise (snowshoeing is my latest infatuation) or, honestly, a NAP! But, with the help of a trainer this winter, I’ve found both knowledge and motivation. After discussing my goals and doing an inventory of my current ability, he has put together a plan that emphasizes strengthening my gluteus medius, core, and arms. Chris, my trainer, has created a three day per week routine that can be completed in 35-40 minutes, and has convinced me that it isn’t optional, but must be scheduled and prioritized…just like riding. And, even though it’s still not my favorite activity, I now see how and why strength training is a necessary part of being a cyclist.
I may need to change my mantra. Maybe, “Moving today, so I can ride tomorrow?” It’s a work in progress, and so am I! Spring can’t come soon enough!
Chris is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!