Double- and triple-digit rides on a road bike can lead to uncomfortable tightness in key areas on the body. Pedaling long hours astride the saddle with the neck up shortens the spine and causes tightness in the lower back, sacrum, and hips. The neck and jaw can lock up, too. Good posture and stretching will help diminish these after-effects of serious rides.
First, look at your posture in the saddle. Focus on lengthening the spine—be conscious of keeping space between the shoulders and neck. Also, lift the navel to engage the lower abdomen. This will keep the support in your core to protect your lower back.
Second, do these four yoga postures every day to stay loose and maximize your potential on the bike.
Cat/Cow brings length to the spine in both the forward- and back-bends, working out stored tension from cycling.
- Come onto all fours.
- Breath deeply and evenly through the nose.
- On an inhale, tip the head and pelvis up toward each other and drop the chest, arching the spine.
- On an exhale, reverse the arch, drawing the mid-back way up to the sky like a Halloween cat (see photo in the sidebar).
- Alternate between the two for one minute.
Downward dog will not only open the lower back, it will also strengthen it, giving you structural support when you’re on the bike.
- Start in a high pushup position with the hands directly under the shoulders.
- Lift the hips up and back and drop the heels toward the floor to come into an inverted V-shape.
- Walk the hands back in toward the feet a couple of inches and drop the heels back even further.
- Spread the fingers wide apart.
- Press through the palms to lift the hips even higher up and back.
- Relax the neck and let the head hang.
- Hold the position and breathe evenly and deeply for one minute.
Chair Pose Into Forward Bend
Like Downward Dog, this pose alternately strengthens and opens the low back and hips. It also lengthens the upper spine.
- Stand comfortably with the feet a few inches apart.
- Inhale and bend deeply through the knees, drawing the hips back, as if you’re sitting down in a chair.
- Lean the upper body slightly forward as if you’re getting out of the chair.
- Reach the arms up and slightly out to the side.
- Draw the shoulders away from the ears, keeping the neck long.
- Keep the arms straight and knees bent for 15 seconds, breathing deeply.
- On an exhale, straighten through the legs and fold at the waist (see photo in the sidebar).
- Bring the palms toward the floor.
- Relax the spine and let the entire upper body spill forward over the legs.
- Hold for 15 seconds and repeat.
This pose will open up the whole spine, particularly the sacrum at the base of the spine.
- Position yourself in a low squat.
- Lift the hips enough to weave the elbows under the knees.
- Take hold of the backs of the ankles.
- Keeping the elbows back, drop the hips low and tuck the tailbone.
- Simultaneously, tuck the chin into the chest.
Josh Schrei is a yoga teacher at Body in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and an endurance athlete. He placed 9th among 40- to 49-year-old males in the Jemez 50K Trail Race last year. In October, he’s planning to do 3,000 sun salutations around South India’s sacred Arunachala mountain to raise money for Water.org.