The week before last we tried to get you to calm down your breathing to stop you drowning or gurning through every technical or tiring section. We explained that to be ready to get the maximum out of your mind and body you’ve got to let it work at it’s most efficient and controlled. This week we’re getting rid of the rest of that unneccesary tension with a series of simple exercises you can do now or on your bike. We guarantee you’ll be riding more efficiently, and more comfortably in no time.
Shoulders and Neck
The classic stress point in the skeleton, where all that pent up muscular tension from work, riding, or just slouching round the house builds up. Locked shoulders and neck are not only uncomfortable but make fluid bike control movements almost impossible and accelerate geniune and psychological fatigue massively. So how do you stop it?
First know your enemy – scrunch up your shoulders and neck as hard as you can and hold it – feeling the burning sensation across your muscles. Remember that sensation. Now breathe out and let your shoulders drop and relax, rolling them slightly backwards as you do it. On your next deep breath out release all the tension from the top of you head as far as you can down your back. On the third breath relax your shoulders further and then let yourself smile as all the tension recedes. Now you know the feeling of tension and how to get rid of it, keep watching for that burning sensation or just any aches and blow them out of your system immeadiately.
Slumping in front of TV / computer all day and then trying to stabilise your pedalling legs when you’re on the bike, backs get a hard time. Try and make matters easier by keeping any pressure points off the spine and surrounding muscles. If you’re filling jersey pockets spread the load as wide as possible, and keep rucksack fill spread too.
While you’re riding ‘roll’ the spine up and down by sitting up and alternately sucking stomach in and then pushing it out, you’ll feel your pelvis rolling backwards and forward on the saddle. Be aware of how you’re sitting too, keep the pelvis rolled forwards (if neccesary tip your saddle slightly forwards) or you’ll be forcing the base of your spine into a tiring, damaging curve. Make a point of standing up out of the saddle for 20 pedal revs on a regular basis to let the back relax and move around and you’ll find fatigue stays away for much longer.
Rigid arms are no use for responding smoothly to trail bumps or irregularities. Rather than clinging on with a deathgrip, hold the grips lightly (paper cup sort of pressure) and the rest of you arms will stay relaxed. keeping on or two fingers covering the brakes also helps reduce that ‘Klingon’ urge. Where the trail is smooooooth give your grip abreak by moving your thumb topside and just resting your hand on top of the bar. As you can’t heave on the grips you’ll also find your shoulders neck and back relax significantly too.
Obviously leg muscles have to tense to propel you but when they’re resting, cut them some slack. Wait for smooth sections, stand up on the pedals and drop your heels for a gentle calf stretch. If they’re really getting stiff unclip your foot and pull the heel all the way up to your bum for a great quadriceps stretch.
In technical sections avoid gripping the top tube with your knees as bruises and nervousness result. keep legs flexed slightly outwards and you’ll be more stable and ready to react to sideways balancing than knock kneed riding.
You might never have noticed but your little pinkies are the last refuge of tension as fatigue sets in. However stiff your shoe sole they’ll still tend to curl up and provide more grab, which just isnt helping anything. Do yourself a favour and tell your toes to relax – your pedal stroke will become more fluid and they’ll stay warmer too.
Now got out saddle up and chill out. After a bit of practice you’ll be amazed by how much smoother everything seems.