How to switch off
Mountain biking is fast, hard hitting and pushes your body to its limits. In fact, it apparently triggers the same fight-or-flight response caveman experienced hunting down mammoths, or modern man gets by successfully escaping from Ikea.
Tackle a nadgery descent and you’ll activate the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), explains sports and exercise psychologist Nicola Jane Hobbs, increasing your heart rate, directing blood to the muscles, and activating the thyroid and adrenal glands to provide energy for your ride.
If that sounds like a strain it’s because it is; depleting the body’s strength reserves and leaving you more exposed to illnesses.
Finish a ride and your body starts to repair itself immediately, but you can speed up that process and get into “rest-and-digest” mode, Nicola says. “Switching off your SNS and activating your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) stimulates the immune system and moves you into a healthy parasympathetic state, essential for recovery after a ride.”
Three of the best ways to get your body into a parasympathetic state are stretching, sleep, and stress reduction, Nicola says. Using these yoga poses puts your body in a state for optimal repair and recovery.
This is a gentle backbend that will release tension in your shoulders and upper back after a ride.
Begin on all fours and, while keeping your hips stacked above your knees, walk your fingers forwards and lower your chest towards the ground. Rest your forehead on the floor and focus on releasing your armpits closer to the floor. Shift your bottom to your heels to exit the pose.
Ragdoll loosens the hamstrings and releases any tension from the lower back. Use as little muscular effort as possible so that your body can work with gravity to completely relax into the pose.
Start standing with your feet about hip-width apart. Soften your knees and slowly roll forwards one vertebrae at a time. Allow your spine to curve and your head to hang. Take hold of the opposite elbow and dangle passively.
Cow Face Arms
This is a great way to stretch out your shoulders and reverse the forward hunching motion often adopted during riding.
Begin in any seated or standing position. Reach your right hand to the sky and bend your arm behind your head to pat yourself on the back. Bring your left arm down and behind your back and reach your left fingertips up as high as you can between your shoulder blades to take hold of your right hand.
Use a strap or belt if you can’t reach your other hand. Release your hands and stretch your arms out to the side to open your shoulders even more. Allow your arms to rest beside you before repeating with the left arm over the right arm below.