CYCLING RITUALS FOR BETTER PERFORMANCE
By Chris Panayiotou - Pearson's favourite conditioning boffin.
Cycling, I LOVE cycling, I mean what sane person wouldn’t? The freedom and happiness that a simple mode of transport delivers is, to me, priceless.
Tearing down a mountain - Mallorca 312.
As with most things in life though, there can be a consequence of cycling that goes beyond fatigue and a sore posterior. Spending time in the saddle, even with the help of a bike fit (you have had a bike fit, right..?) can result in something known as an adaptive shortening (huh?). Keeping it simple, this means muscle tightness and joint restrictions.
Let’s add to this a more sedentary lifestyle courtesy of working from home, (thanks COVID), or our modern lifestyles in general, and slowly changes can occur to our bodies that will compromise our posture and joint functioning.
Initially, you might not notice it, but add these small changes up over a prolonged time and this can amount to significant changes to mobility through our entire bodies. Oh no!
It’s the usual suspects, hips, upper and lower back, neck, shoulders, knees and toes (I hear you humming) are all affected by the position we cycle in. Even when we hold the best position possible, we will experience some tightening of our hip flexors, calf, spinal muscles and pectorals to name a few.
So, what can you do?
Simple remedies can come in the form of simple and uncomplicated movement. Movement delivers fresh nutrients via the blood to tissues that can be restricted if staying in the same position. Think how it feels how good it feels to stand up on your pedals after being on the rivet of your saddle for an extended time, or stretch your legs and back when you stop at the top of Box Hill for a coffee.
Off the bike.
Try not to remain in any fixed position for more than 45-60 minutes, unless you are entranced by the plethora of great content over on The Pearson 1860 Hub, (they made me say this!).
If you are working from home and/or regularly in conference calls, stand up for a few minutes after being seated, grab a glass of water. I personally find my attention improves and I don’t feel the overwhelming urge to fall asleep, no matter who you might be talking to. If you have time, go for a brief walk.
On the bike.
When it comes to cycling, you can reduce the restrictions that can occur using a pre-ride routine. That isn’t solely about knocking back a coffee, eating half a breakfast and jumping on your bike. You can also try to undo any aches as a result of training via a post-ride routine too.
This serves for many as a fantastic ‘ritual’ pre and post a training session, helping create separation both physically and mentally from your endeavours. Just 5-10 minutes of mobility work will change your state so much I can’t express how good this feels.
Even when you’re not riding, try performing some mobility drills on your days off or recovery days, especially in the morning to help prepare you for the coming day. This decreases cortisol and helps you to feel good = winning formula!
Over the past few years, I have really slimmed down my repertoire of mobility drills, to the ones that I found most time-efficient and effective. These include the 1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch, Couch Stretch, Pigeon Pose, Cat-Cow and Thoracic Openers.
Performing these mobility drills for 30 seconds per drill (and per side where applicable) should really help you feel a difference. Please note, if using as a pre-ride routine don’t static stretch as this can decrease the effectiveness of the targeted muscles. Instead use gentle pulsing movements from the start to the end position, NEVER forcing things. For post-ride, have a play around between static and gentle pulsing to see what feels best for you
One thing to remember, mobility work should NEVER elicit severe pain, if any of the above drills do, stop immediately and seek professional help from your local Physiotherapist, Osteopath or Medical Practitioner.
Ride, smile and have fun. You’re onto something quite special!