Yoga And Endurance Sports - Part Two: Cycling

Yoga has become a regular practice for me as you may have noticed from the blog posts I wrote here and here.  What I have noticed as I enter the build phase of my training for Ironman Texas is that I want to do more yoga and not less.  I have found that yoga has helped me with my balance and allowed me to be more flexible so that I can keep my head up and my feet toward the top of the water during my swimming.  This has created a very stream lined effect where I am much more efficient than I have ever been resulting in faster swims. For the past two weekends I have had a long ride on Saturday (5 hours) followed by a split workout on Sunday (run, 2 hour minimum break, trainer, run) and during those long days you have time to think.  So much time to think that I created the Waffle-acho or Nacho-ffles (either way they were awesome after the long bike ride) but I was really thinking about how yoga has given me confidence in the pool but also on the bike.  I started to wonder how yoga directly impacted my cycling and while cruising along I realized it has allowed me to stay injury free.  All of the stretching and strengthening has given me a solid core to work from which as an endurance athlete you know that your power is in your core. I go to Bikram Yoga North Texas on a weekly basis, and it used to be on Friday as an active recovery day but with my new schedule it is now on Monday and/or Wednesday.  Yes, I am looking to go twice per week as I feel it has helped me that much.  Plus it is a terrific opportunity to refocus and set a mantra for the day.  Yoga allows me to deal with me and nothing else for 1.5 hours.  There is no cell phone, iPad, laptop or anything in that room besides me and my breath.  Similar to what happens when you are riding.  It is you and your breath as you pedal. So how does yoga help cycling you might ask.  It helps prevent injury because you are stretching which is typically the first thing that goes when the training volume picks up.  As mentioned, it strengthens the core where you power is created.  It also makes you focus and when you are on a bike for that long with only you and your thoughts there is an opportunity to lose focus. Here are a few exercises we do in Bikram Yoga that I believe have a direct impact on cycling performance.

Yoga And Cycling

Camel Pose: This pose intimidated me when I first started practicing, but over time it has become one of my favorite poses because it has proven to me that I can develop a strong back and spine which is something we need when we are spending hours in the aero position.  When we are in aero position if we have a weak spine it can create a dip thus not allowing the air to flow over you.  With a strong back and improved posture developed from doing the camel pose holding your aero position for hours becomes less of a burden on your back or your neck. [caption id="attachment_7823" align="aligncenter" width="204"]yoga - cycling - camel pose - triathlon - ironman Source:[/caption] Half Lord of the Fishes Pose: This pose is tremendous for opening up your hip flexors while also stretching the neck and shoulders.  Couple in the fact that it strengthens the spine and you have an all around pose that aids you from head to toe while on the bike.  Typically I will hear triathletes complain about neck soreness or lower back tightness from riding for long hours and this pose addresses both of those issues.  When you start out your ability to turn around may not be there and that is ok.  Do not get discouraged as that is your current level of ability but the more you practice the stronger and more flexible you become and it will be evident on the bike.  I enjoy this pose as it is the last in the sequence and I can really feel my hip flexors get stretched during this pose. [caption id="attachment_7824" align="aligncenter" width="198"]yoga - cycling - ironman - triathlete - flexibility Source: Yoga Journal[/caption] Wind-Removing Pose: This was a favorite of mine before I learned of the name and then the inner child in me took over and I laugh every time I read it.  Let's get serious for a moment (or at least me) and let me say that this pose loosens the spine and strengthens the muscles of the lower back, which of course helps you stay in aero and just be comfortable for hours on end when you are riding.  It is also a terrific abdominal workout and that helps tone and strengthen your core muscles. [caption id="attachment_7825" align="aligncenter" width="276"]yoga - cycling - triathlon - ironman - training Source: Bikram Yoga Concord[/caption] These are just a few yoga poses that I believe help me with cycling, but truth be told the entire class will benefit your endurance endeavors.  From the practice of breathing and being in the moment to stretching and strengthening muscles that are used repeatedly in training.  The health benefits of yoga when coupled with proper diet can be tremendously beneficial to your quality of life and yes that includes racing 140.6 miles powered only by your will to cross the finish line.

Do You Incorporate Yoga Into Your Training?

What Is Your Favorite Yoga Pose?

TAGS: triathlon , cycling , yoga , core
Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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