Tour de France Week: Recovery for cyclists
With the Tour de France well underway we’re dedicating this week to all of the cyclists out there! From improving cardiovascular health and muscle strength to reducing stress and encouraging weight loss, the benefits of this low impact exercise are clear.
That said, cycling also puts us in a position that we already spend a lot of time in: flexion. Think lots of sitting, rounded shoulders and forward head. It’s important to alleviate tension in overworked tissues and strengthen underused muscles. From your calves and quads, back and neck will more than likely lead to increased comfort on the bike, more efficient recovery and ultimately improved performance!
Undo the effects of too much spinal flexion on the bike! Use therapy balls or a foam roller to restore the health of your muscles and associated fascias. In addition, place a block or blocks, books, or a blanket adjusted to your level of comfort around the heart rate monitor band area and lie down. This will mobilize the thoracic spine, which can get very stiff, and open the chest. Stay for several breaths before carefully coming out of the position and take a moment to feel the space you’ve just created!
Because the hips are moving through a limited range of motion, and direction of movement, they can get overused and abused. This can impact performance and maybe lead to injury. This sequence strengthens and stretches the musculature of the hips and creates space in the joint by exploring other directions of movement and ranges.
Cross right ankle over left knee. Without distorting the pelvis push ankle against thigh and thigh against ankle, holding the contraction for a few breaths before taking the left leg to table top. Continue contracting and releasing. Take your hands behind left thigh and bring knee to chest. Notice what, if any, compensations you had to make to hold your thigh (lifting the head, distorting the pelvis…). After 5 breaths, move into bridge keeping your pelvis as leveled as possible. Turn to your side, taking the hip into a windshield wiper motion. Finish with a twist from your mid-spine to get a deeper stretch in the glutes and rotators. Plus you’ll mobilize the t-spine as a bonus!
Release your hips and chest!
- Psoas stretch
This stretch is especially relevant to balance out all the hip flexion of cycling with this stretch for your psoas, a core muscle that connects your spine and your thigh. A supple and strong psoas is most important to hip and back health!
Start by stepping right foot forward, left leg back (use a blanket for your knees if necessary). Then, push left hip forward maintaining length in the lower back. Breathe. End by taking the hands behind head, side bend right and add a twist from your thoracic spine. Stay 5 breaths focusing on inflating the left side of the ribcage. This stretch will work wonders for your psoas, but also your lower back, obliques, and breathing function.
- Pec minor stretch
Due to the position on the bike, the pectoralis minor can get overworked and cranky, while the upper back muscles m become overstretched and likely to be loaded with trigger points. Releasing the pec minor will open the chest and allow the shoulders to return to their natural position. Consequently, the load on your rhomboids will also be lightened.
Wring out tension in the musculature of the spine and strengthen your rotator cuff muscles (the stabilising muscles that “cuff” your humerus into place) and rhomboids (the muscles that allow your shoulder blades to retract). Finally, in the last part of the sequence, make sure to inhale on the lifts and exhale as you crunch and twist. Remember to change sides.
This selfcare routine will keep injuries at bay, enhance comfort on the bike and ultimately, give you more power. Even more importantly, your performance is sure to also improve. We hope this week’s sequence was useful to you and always welcome feedback and questions! BREATHE. MOVE. FEEL.