Here in Colorado we are in peak cycling season. The dry, pleasantly cool mornings make for perfect riding conditions, and the seemingly endless list of rides and cycling events this time of year means long hours in the saddle for many of us roadies.
If you are a cyclist who practices yoga, or one that is interested in adding yoga to your training plan in order to improve your performance, then you might want to consider choosing a style that best supports your specific goals.
There are many different styles of yoga, and the one(s) that you practice should change depending on your goals and where you are in your training cycle.
Many athletes are familiar with the variables that can be manipulated in a training plan over time, the main ones being volume, frequency, and intensity. You can think of your yoga practice as one of these variables, too, changing over time to support your performance goals.
In peak cycling season when volume is at its maximum, you are going to want to emphasize recovery strategies that repair the body from extended bouts of exercise and prepare you for your next ride or race.
This is a time when you should focus on practicing styles of yoga that are slower and more effective at facilitating recovery, such as Yin and Restorative yoga. In my experience, athletes typically find slowing down and taking recovery seriously to be harder than riding up a 3,000 foot mountain.
I also find that the people who have the hardest time slowing down are the ones that need it the most. If you feel like you can’t slow down, check out these tips to help you out.
In the off seasons, cyclists and athletes should focus more on correcting imbalances, refining form, building strength, and improving flexibility so that they are less injury prone and stronger once the next season rolls around. All of these areas can be effectively improved with a yoga practice.
The off season is the best time to add more physically challenging forms of yoga such as Power or Vinyasa yoga to your routine because these styles will develop the full body strength and flexibility you need to stay healthy on the bike when you start adding miles back in.
It is much more difficult to improve strength during peak season when mileage is at its maximum without putting yourself at risk for overtraining syndrome.
Taking lots of fast, intensely physical yoga classes during peak season is where I see most cyclist and athletes go wrong. These types of yoga typically attract athletes because it appeals to their love of movement and sweat, but they do not let the body recover effectively. Practicing them often might hold you back from your performance goals if you are doing a lot of additional exercise.
Overtraining syndrome is no joke. It can ruin your season and your health, which is why recovery should be taken seriously.
I’ve currently been teaching Yin and Restorative yoga at the bike shop because most cyclists that show up have already spent their entire weekends riding. Come late fall and winter, I will start adding in more strength and balance building yoga poses into our classes.