Sometimes you only have 5 minutes… Here’s a great option to keep your body in great post ride shape.
your next booking
Sign-up to our newsletter for a CHANCE to win.
Sometimes you only have 5 minutes… Here’s a great option to keep your body in great post ride shape.
Not far from where we live in Mid Wales is a bothy called Claerddu. It is managed by the Elan Valley trust and is unusual in that it has a flushing toilet as well as a sink with running water. We had been wanting to go and stay in it for a while and just before the Easter break we realised that we had a small window of opportunity to do it.
We had already spent a few evenings hovering over the OS map figuring out our route. Our self set brief was to be able to ride there and back from our house with as much offroad as possible. Choosing the route was the fun bit. We pieced together bridlepaths and byways, some we knew existed and some we werent so sure of. We decided to ride across what is called The Monks Trod, an ancient pilgrimage route across the Cambrian mountains connecting the monastaries of Abbey Cwm Hir and Strata Florida. It is a BOAT (Byway open to all traffic) but has had restrictions put on it stopping motor vehicles from using it. This route would drop us down onto a track that leads to the Teifi Pools and our home for the night.
The weather forecast for Good Friday wasn’t definitely not good! We loaded our bikes up the night before using Alpkit bike luggage as well as improvising with various bits of velcro and gaffa tape. We packed as light as we could, taking the bare minimum of supplies. Knowing that despite our excellent waterproofs we were likely to arrive drenched, a full set of dry clothes went into a dry bag and was attached to the handlebars of our bikes.
We headed off, having to negotiate a busy main road for a few miles before veering off onto some lovely quiet country lanes that follow the river wye south towards Rhayader. After that we pushed and rode up a steep grassy climb, followed by an entertaining sheep track descent through long grass down towards the Monks Trod.
The Monks Trod starts as a nice grassy track climbing up and across the hills above the Craig Goch reservoir. As we reached higher ground the weather started to deteriorate. Clouds descended, the wind picked up and the rain came down.The Monks trod passes across big sections of peat bog and whilst a lot of the trail was rideable there were places where the bog was so deep that a detour was needed. It was pretty tough going at times, especially with a loaded bike and the wind howling around us. We got to a section that, had the sun been shining and the sky clear, we would have seen some beautiful lakes surrounded by rocky crags, sadly we just saw mist that day! We kept moving, getting wetter and wetter and being buffetted by the wind. The trail dissapearred, the terrain became steep deep tussocky bog where to even push the bike was a nightmare. The wind and rain kept howling around my ears and I had had enough. The route looked like it dropped steeply down into a big boggy valley that then climbed up again over tussocks and heather. We took a quick look at Viewranger and our option was clear –to avoid the tussocks and drop down to a track near the end of the Claerwen reservoir.
Once on track we were in familiar territory having ridden this section dozens of times over the years of guiding the TransCambrian. It didn’t take us too long from there to reach the bothy, both desperately hoping that it wasn’t completely full.
I am always telling people to stretch more after riding or running but I know it can be hard to make the time for it. If we give ourselves small aims such as a ten minute practice we are much more likely to achieve it. So here are my ten top poses for a post ride stretch which can be done in around 10 – 15 minutes. Just remember when practicing yoga that it is important to listen to your body, don’t push into sensations of pain. Its less about how far you can go into a pose and more about how it makes you feel so pay attention to how the pose feels and how your body feels after each pose.
1. Lying Twist
Why: I find that my body really wants to twist after a long ride. Twists are a great way to release tension in the spinal muscles, the upper back, neck and the outer hips. Its also a very gentle pose that almost anyone can do. You can repeat it a few times and it always feels better the second time around.
How: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Feet can be either flat on the floor or you can bend the knees up over your chest depending on your range of motion. Take your arms out shoulder height palms face down. As you exhale drop your knees over to the right side and turn your head to look along your left arm. Allow the back of the shoulders to relax back down to the floor and let the lower legs completely drop and release. Stay here for up to 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
2. Thread the needle pose.
Why: This follows on nicely from the previous pose and is a really great release for the gluteal muscles and the outer hip as well as giving a little bit of hamstring stretch.
How: Still laying on your back, bend both knees, feet flat on the floor. Take your right ankle across your left knee. Flex your right foot and press your right knee away from you. This might be enough if you have lots of restriction in your hips but if you need more sensation then lift your left leg in towards you, hold around the back of your left thigh. Draw the left knee towards you whilst gently pushing your other knee away. Keep the shoulders relaxed. Stay here for up to 10 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
3. Sphinx and Cobra
Why: We spend a lot of time in a forward bending position when on our bikes, so its really good to reverse this action and balance the body. Sphinx pose is a very mild backbend and a good place to start. If it feels good you can move on towards Cobra pose. Both of these poses work to strengthen the lower back as well as gently stretching out the front body.
Lay on your front and bring the forearms to the floor with the elbows at right angles. Lift the chest forwards and gently reach the legs away from you. Keep the shoulders relaxing down away from your ears.
To progress into Cobra pose press the hands into the floor and lift the elbows to start to straighten the arms. If that feels okay you can bring the hands closer in towards you to gain a stronger back bend. If you feel pinching in your lower back you have gone too far so release off slightly.
4. Pigeon pose for the shoulders
Why: My shoulders and upper back always feel tight after a long ride and this is a really delicious way to find some release in that area. It takes a bit of fidgeting around to get it right but when you do it feels so good.
How: From Sphinx pose reach your left arm forwards, then slide your right arm under your left arm at a 90 degree angle to your mat, palm facing up so that your right shoulder ends up on the floor. You will notice that now your left shoulder is higher than your right. The aim is to level off the shoulders so lift your right shoulder while making the action of trying to pull the right arm out from underneath you, and similtaneously try and drop the left shoulder down so that the shoulders start to become more level. Let the head hang down, the forehead might reach the floor. Again stay for up to 10 breaths or more if it feels good, then come out and repeat on the other side.
5 Downward facing Dog.
Why: This pose is a good all rounder. It energizes and rejuventates the whole body as well as being a good stretch for the hamstrings, calves, feet, spine, shoulders…you get the idea!
How: Come onto all fours with the hands shoulder width apart. Tuck the toes under and push into the hands to lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Keep the knees bent to begin with, push through the arms to lift the hips as high as you can. Then start to reach the heels towards the floor. You can pedal out the legs for a while to ease into the calf muscles. The heels might not make it to the floor but rather keep lengthening the spine and reaching the hips up and back. Release back onto all fours and repeat a few times.
6 Low Lunge
Why: This pose is ideal for releasing tightness in the hip flexors after a long day in the saddle. Repeat it a few times. You will feel the difference second time around.
How: Step your right foot forward and release your back knee to the floor (feel free to place some padding under the back knee). Try and have your front knee in line with the ankle and then sink the hips forwards. From there plant your right hand onto your right thigh and stretch your left arm up. You should be able to feel this all along the left side of your body.
7 Runners Lunge
Why: This pose stretches tight hamstrings and hips as well as working into the calf muscles.
From a low lunge bring both hands to the floor either side of the front leg. Draw your hips back and start to straighten the front leg, lifting the sole of the foot away from the floor. Pull the toes back towards you while you lift and broaden your chest forward. Don’t worry if the leg doesn’t straighten completely and don’t force it. You can put blocks or books under the hands to make it less intense.
8 Half Lord of the Fishes Twist
Why: Again I just love twisting after cycling, it feels really nourishing for my body and exactly what it needs. This is a deeper twist than the first one and works much more into the outer hips, lower and upper back and shoulders.
How: Sitting with the legs out in front of you, bend the right knee and take the right foot to the outside of the left thigh. If you can, lean onto your left side and sweep your left foot to the outside of the right hip. Settle both sitting bones down into the floor. The bottom leg can stay straight if it needs to. Wrap your left elbow around the right knee, take the right hand to the floor behind you and turn to look over the back shoulder. Aim to spread the twist out through the whole of the spine, starting just below the navel. Keep lifting up through your lower back. Hold for up to 10 breaths and then release and repeat on the other side.
9 Bridge Pose
Why: Bridge pose is a really nice way to reopen up the front of the body. It gives a good stretch on the quads, hip flexors and abdominals as well as giving release to the shoulders, neck and upper back.
How: Lying on your back with knees bent, feet hip width apart. Press your lower back down so that the tailbone lifts up, then keep pressing into your feet to lift the hips, lower back, middle back and upper back away from the floor. Tuck the shoulders underneath you and lift the upper chest towards the chin. Stay here for about 5 breaths before releasing slowly down. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
As a mountain bike guide I ride with a lot of different people. In any group of riders there can be a huge range of abilities and fitness. Something that I notice is how riders with maybe (but not always) less technical ability or fitness than other people in the group tend to give themselves a hard time. This has two effects. It drains energy. Constant worry and stress about not being good enough or about making people wait is literally a huge waste of energy that you could be using to ride up the next climb. It also just puts your mind into a negative cycle and you can defeat yourself before you have even started. Thinking “I am rubbish on hills” or “I am going to be the slowest” is setting yourself up to be just that. Its much better to give yourself positive affirmations and set up a more positive loop in your mind. When I am teaching yoga I often tell people before attempting a difficult looking pose – see yourself doing it first. Its amazing the effect of creating a mental image of success has. I use this technique myself on a regular basis. Lastly apologizing constantly to people tends to get a bit old. Try saying “thank you for waiting” instead and see the difference in the way people will respond.
The point I am trying to make is something that I try to encourage both in Yoga classes and when I am guiding. You are good enough. We put ourselves under so much pressure that the very things that we are there to enjoy become burdens. So what if you are slow up that big climb, even if you get off and push. You are there to enjoy the ride, spend time outside and be sociable. Each time you ride your fitness will improve, you will ride further and maybe faster.
If you enjoy the experience instead of beating yourself up chances are that you will want to ride more.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make an effort to improve our skills or our fitness. Its just the attitude we do it with that makes the difference. Not being afraid to fail, give things a go. I am going to do it anyway even if I don’t make it then at least I have tried! The very fact that you are out there riding a bike and having a go instead of sitting on the sofa doing nothing means that you are more than good enough.
Being positive about yourself also gives other people permission to do that too – it’s a win win situation. It is also an attitude that tends to permeate the rest of your life which can only be a good thing. So enjoy riding your bike and lets create an inclusive community within cycling to encourage more people to enjoy the sport.
Yoga offers some specific benefits for road and mountain bikers. Not just stretching.