In March we rolled up our yoga mats and travelled to Belgium (via Amsterdam) to support Team Specialized-lululemon at one of the most epic cycling races ever, the Tour of Flanders. Flanders is known as epic because of its 100-year history and course full of climbs on uneven, slippery cobblestones.
Two days before the race, I taught a yoga class to the team. I tried to imagine I was a pro cyclist pre-epic race, and put together a class to relax nerves and gently stretch cycling muscles, with a playlist that’d ensure our little carpeted hotel meeting room / temporary yoga space would be bumping. Without further ado, here are the reasons that yoga makes you a more badass cyclist:
1. oxygen chills you out
We started with a deep breathing exercise that you can do anywhere at any time you feel a little stressed. (Just between you, me, and the internet - I sometimes do this exercise on the plane during turbulence). Inhale, counting slowly to 4. Hold at the top for the same amount of time, and then exhale slowly for 4. Make this next level by doing it with alternate nostrils using your hand (– and in case you’re wondering, you can get away with this version in the air without looking too crazy), and repeat for 3-4 minutes.
Deep breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body and mind. It also helps bring oxygen to cells so that the detoxification process can occur. You’re going to need as many relaxed and oxygenated cells as possible if you’re about to take on a climb like the Oude Kwaremont.
2. dear quads, are you there? it’s me, yoga!
How do you thank your quadriceps and hamstrings for powering you on the bike? You give them some love back on the mat, as well as the body parts that support your legs bigtime, like your hip flexors and groin. Watch these how-tos from our ambassador, Ted McDonald:
3. it’s all mental
Here’s a little well-known yoga secret: yoga poses are sometimes ridiculously hard so that all you can think about during the pose is where your various body parts are and what they’re doing. Who cares if you can’t get into pretzelasana? In your quest to figure it out, you forgot all about that world class sporting event you have coming up and you’ve forced your brain to uni-task. So tricky, yoga!
In addition to balancing your body and mind, yoga also reminds you to stop and have fun along the way by keeping you inquisitive and playful. At dinner with the team following class, I learned about one of Belgium’s most popular exports: Speculoos, a crushed cookie spread that Gordon and I literally became addicted to for the rest of our trip, thanks to our hotel breakfast buffet. Yoga reminds you to appreciate the journey and eat some crushed up cookies along the way.
team specialized-lululemon + yoga
Watch Evelyn Stevens talk about yoga, cycling, and Flanders:
a few other things that make you fast
Of course, the other factors that make cyclists really fast include straight up hard work, hours of training, a supportive team, coaches, determination and drive. Practicing yoga is a tool that that can give you a competitive advantage by relaxing you, strengthening your muscles, and providing mental clarity. Cobble what!?