The secrets to becoming a relaxed cyclist

woman_practices_yoga_on_the_beach_at_sunset-other1-300x200In two previous posts I discussed the valuable concept of Creative Visualization as a way to mentally improve your cycling performance. In this post I am going to take it a bit further by covering relaxation or more specifically progressive relaxation.

By now you have heard me say and read my favorite adage “A Relaxed Cyclist is a Fast Cyclist”. Now I am going to share with you my favorite way to relax DEEPLY. Recovery is the most important factor in improving our performance as cyclists but more often than not anxiety gets in our way of fully recovering from training and life stress.

We all face moments in our lives where we are stressed over work, anxious about tests, or even an upcoming ride or race. These aspects of our lives are often over looked as a performance limiter when trying to be the best athlete we can be. Don’t get me wrong I offer no magic or utopias but with a little practice you can take the edge off of life a bit quicker and deeper.

Lets get started. The following exercise can be done any time of the day but should be done seated in a comfortable chair with zero distractions. I like the time just before bed to practice this. This exercise may take you as long as 15-20 minutes the first time you try, so a lot the time. It will take a few weeks to truly feel the benefit of these exercises so patience and practice are a must.

NOTE: If you are suffering an injury where you should not be tensing a muscle group you may skip the step below that would adversely affect the damaged muscles. Only tense muscles enough to feel the tension. This is not meant to be a strength-building exercise.

  1. Sit up right in a chair in a quiet room away from distractions.
  2. You may listen to music as long as it is low key and ambient in nature.
  3. Close your eyes and take several long deep easy breaths.
  4. Pay attention to how your body feels (Is anything sore, tired or feeling weak).
  5. Starting with your feet I want you to tense them by curling your toes down and hold them in this position for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  6. Release the muscles in your feet slowly and take a deep breath.
  7. Tense your feet again and hold for 20 seconds, Breathe evenly and slowly.
  8. Release the muscles in your feet slowly and take a deep breath.
  9. Tense your feet one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  10. Release the muscles in your feet slowly and take a deep breath.
  11. Now tense your calves by keeping your heels on the floor and pointing your toes upward and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  12. Release the muscles in your calves slowly and take a deep breath.
  13. Tense your calves again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  14. Release the muscles in your calves slowly and take a deep breath.
  15. Tense your calves one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  16. Release the muscles in your calves slowly and take a deep breath.
  17. Now tense your hamstrings and quadriceps by flexing your upper legs and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  18. Release the muscles in your upper legs slowly and take a deep breath.
  19. Tense your upper legs again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  20. Release the muscles in your upper legs slowly and take a deep breath.
  21. Tense your upper legs one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  22. Release the muscles in your upper legs slowly and take a deep breath.
  23. Now tense your glutes and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  24. Release the muscles in your glutes slowly and take a deep breath.
  25. Tense your glutes again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  26. Release the muscles in your glutes slowly and take a deep breath.
  27. Tense your glutes one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  28. Release the muscles in your glutes slowly and take a deep breath.
  29. Now tense your abdominals by tensing your belly as if you were going to pull your belly button to your spine and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  30. Release the muscles in your belly slowly and take a deep breath.
  31. Tense your belly again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  32. Release the muscles in your belly slowly and take a deep breath.
  33. Tense your belly one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  34. Release the muscles in your belly slowly and take a deep breath.
  35. Now tense your shoulders and chest by pulling your elbows back as if you were trying to touch your shoulder blades together for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  36. Release the muscles in your chest and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  37. Tense your chest and shoulders again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  38. Release the muscles in your chest and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  39. Tense your chest and shoulders one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  40. Release the muscles in your chest and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  41. Now tense your neck by drawing your shoulder up as if you were trying to touch your ears with your shoulders and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  42. Release the muscles in your neck and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  43. Tense your neck again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  44. Release the muscles in your neck and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  45. Tense your neck one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  46. Release the muscles in your neck and shoulders slowly and take a deep breath.
  47. Now tense the muscles in your face by squeezing your eyes together and pressing your lips together tight and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  48. Release the muscles in your face slowly and take a deep breath.
  49. Tense your face again and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  50. Release the muscles in your face slowly and take a deep breath.
  51. Tense your face one more time and hold for 20 seconds. Breathe evenly and slowly.
  52. Release the muscles in your face slowly and take a deep breath.

You are now done with your progressive relaxation exercise. You may now choose to go to sleep, practice breath meditation or even practice your creative visualization.

If you were not able to complete the above exercise because you fell asleep then you may already have been very relaxed or lacking in sleep. Try this exercise every evening for several weeks sitting up then you may try it while lying in bed and reducing the time to tense muscle groups. You may find with practice that you can get through the entire exercise in 10 minutes or less.

If you are interested in having a recording of this exercise with quiet music in the background I may be persuaded to make one. Let’s see how many ask me for it.

Until next time have a great ride and don’t forget to relax.

Coach Rob

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