Natty Newbie episode six: Stretching her limits in a yoga class for cyclists

Join Natty Newbie as she tries mountain biking for the first time. Four weeks into mountain biking she’s feeling a bit stiff, so signs up for a special class of yoga for cyclists. Enter our fabulous competition to win your own start-up mountain-bike kit worth R19 000.

Before I started this mountain biking lark I was quite supple and pretty disciplined about stretching. I’d spend 30 minutes a day on my exercise bike, pedalling and panting in front of catch-up episodes of Desperate Housewives or Come Dine with Me, then cool off over 15 minutes doing slow stretches, still with one eye on the TV.

Enter the sexy black-and-green Merida and free-spirited cycling in the great wide open. All discipline disappears. Instead of finishing a ride with 15 minutes of stretching, I find myself hosing the muddy bike in the wash bay (previously purpose built for cooling my sweaty horses after a ride and now very handy for two-wheeled steeds). By the time all the kit has been cleaned and packed away, my muscles are cold and my tummy is rumbling for supper. Stretching? No ways.

Yoga guru and the star of the Yoga for Cyclists DVD, Hanli Prinsloo looked horrified when she heard of the regime of this finely untuned athlete. “Stretching is particularly important for cyclists,” she said, steering me toward a yoga mat on the sun deck of the City Bowl branch of CycleLab. “Particularly because when you cycle, you develop muscles for a fixed position. Most cyclists can’t even touch their toes.”

“Hmph!” I grunt self-righteously, “I’ve got one up on them.” But then, after only four weeks in the saddle, I’m not much of a cyclist yet.

Hanli begins the session with toe touching, so I’m right on song there, but as soon as we do anything requiring upper-body strength and muscle control, I collapse in a heap. I’m all legs and no arms.

Some of the positions, such as downward dog, are ridiculously difficult in the beginning, but get easier as muscles warm up. “Downward dog will become a position of rest as you go along,” Hanli says reassuringly. My face is red, my arms ache and my heart thumps in my ears – nothing restful about that. But as I become more supple with the various stretches, downward dog does get easier, to my surprise and relief.

As the first yoga class, it was fairly torturous and I was kind of wishing it would end from five minutes into it. You’ll see from the photos that Hanli is the picture of serenity, ease and meditation and I look like I’m about to have an embarrassing accident. But there’s a certain challenge in pushing your body beyond its limitations and yoga does that. Like grovelling up the Groenlandberg on the Epic, when it’s over, you’re on a high.

Hanli’s top tip for cyclists
Try to keep your chest open and your shoulders back when on the bike. This keeps you breathing naturally and also helps ensure you’re cycling with a flat back. As soon as you hunch your back you’re prone to neck, shoulder and lower-back fatigue … ache … injury.

While you’re contemplating your navel following the steps on the Yoga for Cyclists DVD (produced by CycleLab and available for R139,95), make a mental note to send in your entries to win a replica of my full kit worth around R22 000, compliments of CycleLab, Ride magazine and Sanlam Reality.

Till next time, pedal on …

Natty Newbie

Contact CycleLab for a great selection of products in the online store, advice, tours, online race entries and details of the stores round the country.

READ OTHER NATTY NEWBIE BLOGS 

Natty Newbie gets into mountain biking

Natty Newbie starts mountain biking episode two: Bike set-up

Natty Newbie episode three: Six things Natty learned about mountain biking

Natty Newbie episode four: Mountain biking first spills

Natty Newbie episode five: Weight-watching techniques  

WIN Ride, Sanlam Reality and CycleLab are giving one lucky reader the chance to win the full starter kit as described in this blog. All you have to do is follow the series and answer the question below.

Click here to enter the competition. Closing Date is 31 October 2012. The items on the prize equipment list may be exchanged for similar goods of the same or lesser value to cater for individual fit. Click here for the full equipment list for the prize.