On yer bike!
I love getting around by bike. It allows me to experience the elements and a greater connection with my body and, if done mindfully, it’s a great way to stay in the here and now.
I’m moving to Amsterdam, another city of cyclists, in June and as I ride around Bristol, more and more I find myself imagining what it will be like to do the same in Holland. It’s like my bike has become a bridge to the future. As I approach the biggest milestone of my life to date, where almost everything is unknown, riding my bike gives me at least one strong, physical sense of what it will actually be like to be there.
Riding my bike also makes me think about alignment, about what we put our bodies through when we cycle, especially since I had my old bike stolen a few months ago. I was kindly loaned a replacement but I’m used to upright, Dutch-style handlebars (I’m going to fit right in!) and the ones on this temporary bike were much lower.
Cycling it got me all out of whack. I experienced pain in my hips and lower back, I just didn’t feel comfortable at all, which begs the question, how many people are cycling round on bikes that don’t fit them and simply living with the discomfort? Like women in the wrong sized bra, I’m guessing quite a few.
Hints and tips
Body / bike alignment isn’t really my forte, you’ll have to go to experts for that, but I am a Holistic Massage Therapist with expert knowledge of muscles and what they do, so here are a few handy hints to help you cycle more comfortably.
- Play around with the height and angle of your saddle. How does your lower back feel? Squashed? Could it be more open? Even the slightest tilt forward or back can have a huge impact on your back. It’s worth taking some time to explore.
- What happens when you peddle? If you don’t extend your legs enough your deep hip flexors will work overtime and become short and tense, which can have a knock on effect on the rest of your body.
- What is your intention? We have a tendency to focus our intention on the downward motion of cycling, which uses our quadriceps (front thigh muscles). If the muscles at the front of your body are doing all the work it can cause an imbalance and put a strain on your knees and hips. Perhaps you could try bringing more awareness to the upward motion, which gets the hamstrings (back of the thighs) involved. Balance and proportion are always good to aim for.
- What are your arms doing? Are they locked and holding on tight? Perhaps you could think about introducing a soft bend in the elbow to protect your joints.
- Why not embrace the opportunity for a quick stretch? When you lock your bike up perhaps you could spend a few minutes stretching your quads – bringing your heel to your bum – and your hamstrings – reaching towards your toes.
- Are you engaging your core and abdominal muscles or are your legs working overtime?
- Open your chest. Like driving a car and working at a desk, cycling asks us to bring our arms and shoulders forward and down. Whenever you can, think about doing the opposite, rolling your arms and shoulders back in big wide circles for example. We need to remind our pectoral muscles (front of the chest) that they can be open and long. This can help to alleviate discomfort in the upper back and shoulders.
Everyone’s different and these are just suggestions. Why not play around and see what works for you?
On the couch
My intention on the couch is to help achieve balance between groups of countering muscles. If one set of muscles is overworked it can put a strain on your entire skeletal structure.
During our massage treatment we can remind short, overworked muscles that they can and be long and those that have clocked off to switch on and get to work when we need them.
We can also develop an after care plan, a series of helpful stretches and exercises tailored to you and the needs of your body.
I’m doing some extra sessions over the next six weeks to help fit people in before I jet off to Amsterdam. Now is a great time to book.
And I’ll be back every couple of months for teaching weekends at BCMB – there’ll be plenty of opportunities to treat yourself to some you time.
I’ll update my availability on Facebook and over email but feel free to get in touch any time.