Words & Photos: Abi Carver
At some point, there is a first ride back for every rider.
Injuries, holidays, work commitments or waiting on that vital part for your bike that has been on backorder longer than you thought humanly possible. There is always a break in the routine and the subsequent return to the field. And for most of you, I’m guessing that your enthusiasm for being back in the saddle far outstrips any regard to caution that would be sensible after a significant period of time off.
Which would be fine, except that this first ride back can be disproportionately strenuous on your body, putting you at an increased likelihood of injury. It's just an inescapable fact there there are movements, postures and pressures required of you in mountain biking that you do not replicate or prepare for in other areas of your training or day-to-day activities.
Just take a look at Pinkbike's 'Huck to Flat
' test from a few months ago to appreciate the intensity of the stretch to your calves as your ankles flex to absorb impact and the immense pressure that goes through your wrists and forearms. And consider how many repetitions of these movements you perform over the course of a couple of hours on the trail, absorbing the twist, turns and undulations that the terrain presents.
We don't ask this of our joints and muscles at any other time in our lives, so it shouldn't come as a complete surprise when they have a few complaints to make the next morning! So to stop you walking around like an old person for the first few days after your first ride back and to make sure that once you start riding again, you stay riding, I recommend that you give yourself a fighting chance by practicing these 5 simple stretches/mobilisations. Preparing For Your First Ride Back
Obviously, it would be great if you had a regular yoga practice so that your risk of injury from lack of preparedness was significantly reduced but these 5 exercises are the next best thing. As always, I have tried to give you the minimum possible as opposed to the “in a perfect world” scenario. For that, you need to sign up to my website and get on the MTB program!
Here are your 5 poses—3 are pre-first ride back to reduce your risk of injury and 2 are post-ride to reduce the build up of pain.
The main muscles that we need to prepare, as the way that you use them is so specific to mountain biking, even over other cycling sports, are the ankles, calves, wrists, forearms, thoracic spine and neck. Ideally, you need to start practicing these pre-ride mobilisations a few weeks before your first ride back but they're also great to include in your warm up. And the muscles that we primarily need to stretch post-ride to release tension are the lower back and glutes. This will help to reduce the build up of lower back pain from the outset.
As I said, there is so much more that you can
do, but please do at least this!1. Downward Dog
Get into the habit of doing this pose a few weeks before you start riding again to loosen up and prepare your calves and ankles. If you do this pose right, it’s also great for opening up and building strength in the shoulders. Ask somebody to take a picture of you in the pose to see if it looks anything like mine! The aim is to make a straight line from your wrists all the way up to the base of your spine. You do this by bending your knees a lot and dropping your chest back towards your thighs. Walk our your feet for 5-10 breaths.2. Seated Cat-Cow
This movement is great for improving mobility in the thoracic spine—an area that can get stuck when you spend a lot of time on the bike and especially if you also work at a desk. You can sit any way that feels comfortable for this mobilisation. If you can’t sit cross-legged with your back straight, you can sit in a chair and standing also works. Move with your breath—inhaling to open up the front of your body and exhaling to stretch the back of your body. Repeat for 4-6 reps. 3. Wrist and Forearm Stretches
If you don’t want to have to battle arm pump, you need to prepare your wrists and forearms for riding. Again, you can do these stretches in any position that you feel comfortable—seated on the floor, in a chair or standing. Try not to do these stretches unconsciously. Take them slowly, breathe in and out through your nose, deep into your diaphragm and tune into the sensations of the stretch. You should find that you can release a little more tension on every exhalation.4. Dead Pigeon
This pose is a great way to stretch the glutes and piriformis and is accessible to most people. When you are set up in the pose, relax your neck and shoulders and draw your attention to the place where you feel the stretch. The idea is to breathe into that spot, releasing deeper into the stretch on every exhalation. Hold the pose for at least 3-5 breaths but 10-15 would be even better.5. Reclining Spinal Twist
Your final pose is unbeatable for releasing tension at the lower back. It also stretches the hips, abs, obliques, chest, shoulders and neck. The key is to try to keep both shoulders flat on the mat and turn your neck as far as you can in the opposite direction of your top knee, to get the most out of the stretch. Again, you can hold this pose for 10-15 breaths on each side—breathing deep into your abdomen and aiming to relax deeper into the pose on every exhalation.Let me know how you find the poses, which you find the most effective and if there is any area of flexibility or mobility that you feel that yoga might be able to help you with. And check out my website for more info and videos: www.yoga15.com.