No, we don’t yoga and cycle at the same time unless you are really talented. Regardless, cross training on and off the bike is excellent for your athletic well-being, but too much and the wrong kind can hurt your competitive cycling edge. The key here is understanding (a) your body and (b) what workouts are best to help, not hinder, your cycling performance.
Now: I am (or was) a hard-core cardio kickboxing die hard for about 15 years or more. I have substitute taught at a local martial arts studio: Urban Jungle. It hurt my heart to let go of my weekly dedication to kickboxing and the awesome people there as it was my first true cardio love long before I knew adults rode bikes for fun. But: it’s one of those cross-training workouts that can be hard on the joints.
Face it: I’m not 20 anymore and kickboxing kicks butt! It will wear you out just as much as a solid Crit Race but it’s still great cross-training for the winter season but hard to keep up with if you are in race season. So I found, and fell in love with, Yoga. My yoga practice includes warm power flow (or ‘Devotional Flow’ at my studio: Big Power Yoga) at least twice a week.
A little bit about warm (unheated) power flow technique classes:
- It’s warm – not hot. Which is great if you’re a heavy sweater and hot yoga ‘ain’t yo thang’.
- It’s HARD. No: it’s not just a relaxing, “focusing on your inner light”, and chanting session: you work.
- It’s a good balance between working hard, holding poses, understanding the proper form (and why), and getting a massively good deep stretch.
- Yoga (except Hot Flow Classes) will help you connect with your body, which is key to being a stronger rider.
- Most all yoga practices will work and strengthen your core without building bulk, which is good for cyclists.
- A regular yoga practice will give your muscles more flexibility, range of motion, and allow you release restrictions built up over repeated motion on the bike.
*My disclaimer: if you are a hot yoga fan then keep it up! Understand that I am not for a very good reason. Hot yoga can overly deplete your system that desperately needs to recoup resources between rides. If you aren’t a heavy sweat machine like I am, then feel free to explore all types of classes.
These are the results I have noticed from having a routine yoga practice:
- Increased oxygen flow. Why? Well, basically because I learned how to breathe properly to get as much oxygen as possible and that helps when you’re riding hard. This also helps when you visit higher altitudes.
- It decreases chance of injury because you are allowing your body to work out some basic restrictions. If you are very restricted: see a Myofascial Release therapist.
- You are increasing muscle range of motion. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why that’s good.
- Increase in core strength – which is key to a good sprint (other than massive quadriceps).
- Alleviates posture related issues while cycling as you become more aware of your body, core, and spinal alignment. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few yoga moves (asanas) that will counter restricted muscles from the fixed positions of bike riding.
- Mental endurance and awareness. This is a tough to explain, but you can become more ‘aware’ of not just your body and what it’s telling you, but everything around you. Since cycling is about 70% mental: this helps a ton!
The nice thing about yoga is: it’s perfectly feasible workout for a ‘off the bike’ day, rainy day, or even just before a race (unless it’s hot yoga as you don’t want to deplete before a race). A good power flow class can flush out any leftover lactic acid and prep your body for maximum performance.
Most of the feedback I get is: “I can’t do it, I’m not flexible enough”. Well, iron-britches: do you think I popped out of the womb doing the splits? Heck No! Still can’t, BTW. Do what you can, push yourself a little every day, and set goals just like we do on the bike. My first bike ride wasn’t stellar and I certainly had no thought of ever, ever racing. Everyone starts somewhere and we get nowhere at all by standing still.
If my hubby, the most inflexible man alive, who cannot touch his toes or even reach past his knees is going to a yoga class and liking it… no excuses!
See you on the Bike… or on the Mat