- Over the years, I’ve heard athletes say, “All athletes should do yoga!” I
agree, but I also think this is just a generalization, and not specific enough.
To me, it’s like saying, “Eat food on a long ride,” or “Ride your bike a lot
and you’ll be strong.”
You can eat cashews and avocado on a long ride, which is better than not
eating. Riding often makes you strong. But what I’ve learned is that specific
nutrition and specific workouts get you faster results.
Over the years I have developed a specific training program for cyclists to
get the most out of yoga without it becoming detrimental to their
performance. Trying to achieve too much flexibility by pushing too hard is
all too common because of cyclists’ high pain tolerance and driven nature!
My goal is to help athletes balance strength and flexibility, so that they can
do more of what they love with less injuries for a lifetime.#
Flexibility isn’t everything. While flexibility helps with reducing sprains and
pulls during crashes, increases comfort on endurance rides, reduces cramps,
and helps with aerodynamics, it can also take the snap or spring out of your
muscle and reduce performance. This is why sports experts recommend
dynamic stretching (moving without holding stretches) before activity,
and static stretching and deep release after activity.
I have developed Yoga for Cyclists as 3 categories where the activity AND
the timing is very specific.
1. Cross Training Yoga
This yoga makes you sweat, challenges the muscles, has deeper stretches,
and potentially makes you sore.
Examples: Vinyasa or Hot Yoga
Cross Training Yoga is best when you’re not focused on high performance.
In the off-season, I recommend 3-5x per week, but during race season 1-2x
per week is better. Avoid excessive training around and during big events.
Most modern yoga classes over-utilize the quads without stretching them
enough, which is great during any period where you’re riding less, for
example the off-season, but redundant (or even detrimental) when you are
putting in solid hours on the bike every day.
- 2. Light Toning and Stretching
This yoga addresses all muscles and directional movements of the joints
with an emphasis on toning muscles that are under-used in cycling, and
stretching muscles that are used the most, like the quads and glutes. Toning
is done in a way that doesn’t make you sore, so you can do this while doing
a solid training block.
Light Toning and Stretching is what hard-training cyclists should do the
most year round, prioritizing regular practice over long sessions. Five short
weekly sessions would be better than two long sessions.#
There are hardly any forms of yoga that target cyclist’s needs in this way,
which is why I’ve developed a custom program.
3. Restoration, Recovery, and Relaxation
These poses are almost all reclined and there is no strength training. You can
do them in bed, with the legs up the wall, or on the floor.
The closest type of yoga that matches these needs is Yin Yoga, but Yin yoga
includes too many forward bends, which is not ideal, and falls short with
cycling specific restoration.
Timing: Riders can’t get enough Restoration, Recovery, and Relaxation,
especially while racing. At first, it’s challenging for aggressive and driven
personalities to focus on this non-achievement approach to practice. But, the
positive impact on health, relaxation and mental clarity leaves the athlete
with greater potential to achieve more in their sport. I’ve seen many athletes
turn yoga into just one more thing that they grind, but I remind student to
practice yoga in a way that helps them be better at their sport, not necessarily
to be great at yoga