Guest blog written by Judy Clawson
I’ve been a serious recreational cyclist for over 20 years. For most of that time, I acknowledged that stretching should be part of my routine, but actually taking the time to stretch was rare. My body worked just fine without it. It wasn’t exactly front of mind.
The fitness club I belonged to had two unofficial camps: those that did the “real strength workouts” with weights, and those who just “pretended” to workout, doing Pilates or, heaven forbid, Yoga. I fell firmly into the first camp, questioning why “those people” thought they were doing anything to maintain or improve their bodies. Those mind-body activities had nothing to offer me. No pain, no gain! Right?
My slow conversion
It wasn’t a sudden shift. I started listening to fellow cyclists talk about how core strengthening really helped their climbing. They spoke of how Pilates had been a real game changer for them. Game changer for climbing? That spoke to me. I entered that odd little building across the parking lot, and took a chance on something new.
First I found an instructor. I enjoyed her classes and respected her approach. She prodded at my comfort level with the whole idea of mind/body exercise. The perfect partner to Pilates, she would say, is Yoga. Body and mind strength, balance, flexibility – it’s the ultimate combination.
I toyed with a couple of yoga classes in the “before times,” then the world shut down due to COVID-19. I had my own set up for basic strength training but wanted something somewhat social, or at least something that pretended to be. Enter online yoga classes. I started doing them a couple of times a week. My balance wasn’t great, my flexibility limited, my poses questionable. My rationale for doing it was yet to be determined. It wasn’t pretty (in my mind) but I kept showing up. Even though it was virtual, I really enjoyed the camaraderie.
That was 3 years ago. While I don’t practice daily, I do consider my yoga practice as integral to my overall health and well being. My balance improves with every class. Tree-pose “with a kickstand” is now a wobbly one-legged balance, my foot frequently above my knee. I transformed my struggle with side-plank (picture my shoulder in my ear) to a pose with greater ease and shoulder strength. I’m still not so friendly with chaturanga (think plank with bent elbows), but we’re on better speaking terms. It’s a process, and with patience I feel pleased with what I see.
What does this all have to do with cycling? I improved my flexibility. My hamstring cramps when riding or dismounting the bike are fewer and further between. While always a work in progress, feel more core stability and I can put more power into the pedals. My lower back and SI joints don’t complain as much. I actively reduce the “cashew back” and improve my posture, even with many hours over the handlebars.
Yoga is not a cure-all, but I feel a better sense of mind and body balance. When I get on the mat at the beginning of a class, I find myself often mentally scattered, or occasionally unenthusiastic. But I can say, with very little exception, that those thoughts and feelings disappear by the end of class. When I step off the mat, I feel a sense of calm, reduced stress, and better focus. That’s a pretty good exchange. I take these amazing tools with me on the bike for a long ride or a challenging climb. All it took was that first step on the mat. I will be forever grateful for the day I decided to walk across the parking lot.
Judy Clawson has been a serious recreational cyclist for over 20 years, and led bicycle tours with America By Bicycle starting in 2009. Adding yoga to her cycling regimen has been game changing, giving her more power in her rides with less pain and discomfort. She feels more flexible with better mental focus while she rides, all from adding yoga to her weekly routine. She’s excited to lead the bicycling portion of Yoga and Bicycling, a fundraiser for the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden, on Saturday, July 15th. Click here for more information or to sign up!
Judy takes yoga online at Purple Room Yoga! This online yoga studio offers classes that are perfect for cross-training, no matter what sport you do! Classes like Mindful Core, Head to Toe Stretch, and 30 Min FitFlow are all 30 minute classes that fit easily into your training routine and give you strength, flexibility, and mental focus that improves sport performance. Click here to see the full schedule of live online classes, and here for the extensive on demand video library!