If you're looking for a colossal calorie burn and an awesome low-impact aerobic workout, it's tough to beat the benefits of Spinning. In this popular indoor cycling class, you can pedal your way to stronger muscles, soaring energy and a soaking sweat—but the trade-off can be some short-term soreness. Particularly if you're new to spinning, the post-ride euphoria may quickly be eclipsed by pain in muscles you never knew you had. Before you blame the bike and dismount for good, consider adding some stretching to your Spinning workout to relieve discomfort and release tension.|
Kristie Absalon, a longtime instructor of Spinning and yoga in Cincinnati, leads her classes through a series of stretches at the end of each ride. "The muscles worked the most include the piriformis, glutes, hamstrings and quads," she says. "The calves can get really tight if you point your toes, which is a no-no."
Yoga instructor Irena Miller is a big proponent of yoga as a stretching tool for indoor cyclists. "Dealing with lower back pain, aching knees, screaming thighs, sore wrists and neck discomfort might have you questioning your Spinning," says Miller. "Yoga can help release those areas that get tight and painful on the bike. It can also strengthen the areas that get overlooked when you're on your bike, like your core. A little bit of yoga can mean a lot more happy days of cycling!"
Miller shared some of her favorite yoga poses to help people recover after a bout on the bike. Done regularly, they can be effective in relieving soreness and tension, and preventing future injury. If you're stretching right after your ride, Absalon recommends keeping your chest higher than your hips until your heart rate comes down to a resting level to prevent dizziness.
Table to Cat/Cow
How It's Done: Plant your hands beneath your shoulders with fingers reaching toward the top of the mat and hands pressed firmly into the mat. Exhale through your nose, draw your belly in, round your back and relax your head. Inhale through the nose, roll the sitting bones to the sky, soften the belly, soften between the shoulder blades and look up. Go back and forth five times.
How It Helps Spinners: The cat and cow series releases lower back pain and upper back tension, improves neck and spine flexibility, and strengthens and open the wrists.
Frog Dog and Downward Dog
How It's Done: Starting from table position, keep your arms strong, soften between your shoulder blades and lift your hips to the sky. Bend both knees about 10 inches, lift your heels high, roll your sitting bones to the sky and look between your hands. Keeping your knees bent, push the floor down and away, lengthening from the base of your heart up to your hips. Work to bring the top of your sacrum in toward the body, supporting the lower back. Now slowly stretch the outer hips back and keep the legs straight. Relax your head, lining up your ears with your arms. Keep your feet parallel and hip distance apart, slightly drawing in the lower belly while keeping your weight in the ball of your foot.
How It Helps Spinners: This series helps to prevent Achilles tendon injuries, opens up tight calves and hamstrings, releases tension in the neck and shoulders and reduces lower back pain. It also strengthens the upper body, hands and wrists.<pagebreak>
Low Lunge Variations
How It's Done: Starting from a forward bend, step your right leg back and lower your knee to the floor. Keeping your feet hip distance apart, make sure your front foot and knee are facing forward. The back toes can be curled under for more balance or pointed to take the pressure off the knee. Hug the legs toward one another for balance.
To strengthen your neck, interlace your fingers and place your palms at the base of your skull. With elbows bent, draw your underarms back, your shoulder blades toward one another and down your back. Press your head into your hands while gently lengthening from the base of your skull to the crown of your head. Look to the sky. Take five deep breaths, then switch sides.
To open tight hip flexors and thighs, reach both arms to the sky. Hold onto your right wrist. Keep your left outer hip tacked back with your knee facing forward and your hips square. Keeping the right arm in the socket, use your left hand to lengthen your right arm to the sky. Scoop the tailbone and lengthen from your lower belly out through your legs. Lengthen from the belly up through your arms, even as you relax your shoulder blades down your back. Take five breaths, then switch sides.
How It Helps Spinners: The low lunge stretch helps to alleviate neck pain and lower back pain, strengthens your neck and upper back and releases tight thighs (quadriceps and hip flexors).
How It's Done: In plank pose, draw in the lower belly, pull in the rib cage and soften between the shoulder blades, all while pressing the four corners of your hands into the floor and keeping your arms straight and strong.
Next, try lifting your left foot six inches off the ground. Spread your left toes, even as you hug the thighs toward each other for balance. Slowly widen your left leg four inches to the left (keeping knee and toes pointing down), hold for two breaths and draw your leg back to center. Repeat if you can maintain a strong core, then switch sides.
How It Helps Spinners: The plank pose strengthens the gluteus medius, core (transverse abdominals) and wrists, areas that cycling overlooks.
How It's Done: Props help to make this pose accessible and fun. Keep a blanket and yoga block nearby. If you don't have a block, a pillow or thick book can work.
Begin by kneeling, keeping your knees beneath your hips and your feet a little wider than your hips. Point your feet directly behind you. Imagine a line that goes from the center of your heel to the second toe. Place your hands at the top of your calves and press them back toward your feet as you slowly lower your bottom toward the floor. Settle your bottom snugly between your heels and place your hands on your thighs. Scoop in your tailbone and sit tall. Take five breaths.
If the tops of your feet and ankles are hurting, place a blanket beneath the top of the foot and ankle. If your bottom does not come down to the floor or you feel too much stretch on the knees and thighs, place the block beneath your bottom.
If you are doing well and your bottom is on the floor, place your hands behind you and slowly lean back. Over time, you can lower to your elbows and eventually rest all the way down on the floor. This is a backbend, so your lower back should not touch the floor. As you extend your arms alongside your ears, move the sides of your ribs toward the floor and lengthen from your tailbone out toward your knees.
How It Helps Spinners: Hero pose keeps your knees healthy and improves your posture. It's great for releasing tight thighs and tight backs.<pagebreak>
Revolved Abdominal Twist Variation
How It's Done: Lying on your back, bend both legs and place a block between your thighs. (A yoga block helps to target your inner thigh muscles. If you don't have one, just bring the legs together.) Bring your arms into a cactus position of 90 degrees. Press the back of your shoulders, hands and head into the floor. Engage your abdominals and lift your feet up off the floor, bringing your knees in line with your hips and shins parallel to the floor. Spread your pinky toes and reach out through the ball of your foot.
On the exhale, keep your left shoulder anchored to the floor and lower your knees halfway to the right, keeping the knees in line with the hips. Hold for an inhale. On the exhale, root through your left ribs and come back to center. Switch sides. Go back and forth three times total.
How It Helps Spinners: This stretch helps to strengthen the core, upper back and rotator cuff.
How It's Done: Try to get two yoga blocks or a chair. Standing at the top of your mat, step your right foot back about 2 1/2 feet. Angle your back foot slightly and keep your feet hip width apart.. Square your hips to the front of your mat and with a long spine, slowly reach your hands to your blocks or chair. Press your left big toe into the floor as you wrap your right hip forward and pull your outer left hip back. Draw in the lower belly as you soften between the shoulder blades. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.
Next, come into pyramid pose. With your hands on blocks and your torso parallel to the ground, place your left thumb into your left hip crease and pull it back. Continue to press your left big toe into the mat. Keep your right hand beneath your right shoulder and gently twist toward the left leg. Take three breaths and switch sides.
For a little more challenge, step your right foot back about 2 1/2 feet. Angle your back foot slightly and keep your feet hip width apart. Square your hips to the front of your mat. Bring your arms behind you and either hold opposite elbows or go for reverse prayer pose. Slowly fold forward until your torso is parallel to the ground. Push the ball of your left foot into the mat, squeezing the thighs toward each other and keeping your shoulders lifted.
Over time, try to fold more deeply, extending your head in the direction of your foot and eventually lowering your forehead to your shin. Hold for three breaths. Press the ball of your left foot into the floor, scoop the tailbone, lift your shoulders and slowly come up. Switch sides.
How It Helps Spinners: The pyramid helps to release tight hamstrings, calves and IT bands. It also strengthens the upper back and core.
How It's Done: If you found the Pyramid Pose to be easy, take it to the next level with Revolved Triangle. Come into Pyramid Pose with your right leg back and your hands on blocks. Lengthen from your hips to your underarms. Place your left thumb into your left hip crease and pull it back, gently twisting toward your left leg, and place your right hand onto the block outside your left foot. Twist from the right ribs and stretch your left arm to the sky. Hold for three breaths. Look to the floor, turn your head, unwind your torso and slowly come back up. Switch sides.
How It Helps Spinners: This pose triggers a big release for tight IT bands, hamstrings, calves and upper back.
Shoulder Stretch Series
How It's Done: Standing tall, with feet hip width apart and parallel, interlace your fingers behind your back. If you can't connect your fingers, hold a belt. Bend the arms slightly, lengthening from the hips to the underarms and drawing back your head and shoulders. Slowly stretch your arms out straight. Make sure to keep the sides of your rib cage and sides of your neck moving back, all while lengthening your tailbone toward the floor.
Next, bend your arms and slowly draw your hands toward the right side of your waistline (they may only come to the small of your lower back). Gently squeeze your elbows toward each other and lower your right ear to the right shoulder. Actively move the sides of your ribs back into your left forearm as you lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Take three breaths and switch sides.
Then, with your arms behind you, hold opposite elbows. Continue to stand tall and draw your shoulders back.
If you did the previous shoulder stretch with ease, try reverse prayer position. With your arms behind you, bring your palms together, fingers facing the floor. With bent elbows, gently turn your fingers toward your back and rotate your hands so the fingers face the sky. Press the heels of your hands toward each other. Draw the shoulder blades together and down the back. Take three breaths.
How It Helps Spinners: Eliminate neck pain, open tight chest muscles, improve your breathing, release tight shoulders, strengthen your upper back and stretch the wrists. This pose also helps to improve posture.<pagebreak>
Prep for Bridge Pose
How It's Done: Lying on your back, bring your legs together with your feet flexed and the knees and toes pointing to the sky. Spread your pinky toes. With your arms alongside your body, bend them so your fingertips point to the sky and shrug your shoulders toward your ears. Press your elbows into the floor to engage your upper back and gently press your head into the floor. Root your inner thighs toward your mat. Your chest will lift and open, creating a small arch in the upper back while rooting your legs to the ground.
How It Helps Spinners: This pose strengthens the neck and upper back, which helps to avoid neck pain and counteracts the upper back roundedness of cycling.
How It's Done: Lying on your back, bend your legs and place your feet beneath your knees at hip's distance width. With your arms alongside your body, lengthen from your hips to your underarms and bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Press your elbows and feet into the floor and lift your hips to the sky. Roll your shoulders underneath you one at a time. There should be no weight on the back of your neck; you should be able to slide a pencil or finger between your neck and the floor.
Stretch your arms straight toward your feet, roll the shoulders underneath you again and interlace your fingers. If your fingers don't find one another, hold the edges of your mat and gently pull it forward toward your feet. Take five breaths. Release your fingers, unwind your shoulders and slowly lower your hips to the floor.
How It Helps Spinners: Open up tight chest muscles, release shoulder tension, strengthen your neck and find relief for sore lower backs with the bridge pose.
Legs Up the Wall Variations
How It's Done: Sit with your right hip next to a wall, lean back on your elbows and swing your legs up the wall. Widen your legs away from each other into a V shape. Place a yoga block or some pillows against your outer thighs to support your legs. You don't want to feel a deep stretch. Instead, you want to feel supported, so that the inner thighs can relax. Hold for two to five minutes. You can also try a simple leg cross. Hold for one to two minutes, then switch legs.
How It Helps Spinners: These poses help to relieve tired and fatigued legs.