Regardless if you prefer long bicycle rides on scenic country roads, or challenging yourself on a mountain bike trail, the experience is probably associated with a sense of freedom and simplicity. A feeling that can easily be interrupted by a flat tire or pain somewhere in your body.
Comparing the human body to a machine is in some ways an outdated analogy, but in this case maybe relevant. If you are a serious cyclist you pump your tires before your head out. You also clean your bike, lube your chain and adjust your gears on a regular basis to make sure that every ride is as smooth as possible. The question is do you give your tissues the same treatment? Hydrating before, during and after a ride is similar to pumping your tires. But in order for your tissues to absorb the water you’re drinking you need to stimulate your fascia in various ways. If not, there is a risk that your dehydrated tissues result in decreased “slide and glide” or joint compression, which in turn can lead to aches and pains. Something that can ruin your next biking experience, just like a flat tire would.
In order to understand this analogy it’s important to take a closer look at what fascia is and what it does. Fascia is a form of connective tissue made up by cells, fibers and fluid. The fascial system is like a three dimensional web that ranges from head to toe without interruption. It surrounds and penetrates muscles and bones. It also creates a link between your skin and your tissues. It’s a sensory organ as well as system that connects, protects and provides support. Your fascial web adapts to how you position your body and how you move, which means that long hours on the bike can create some fascial stiffness over time. Healthy fascia is soft and springy like a wet sponge. Unhealthy fascia on the other hand is dry, brittle and stiff.
Just like a dried up bicycle tire is more prone to puncture, your tissues are less efficient and more susceptible to injuries if they are stiff and sticky. The best way to counteract this is to use the Roll Model® Method Therapy Balls for self massage and gentle yoga after your bike ride. Moving or stimulating your fascia helps to improve circulation, break up adhesions and maintain fascial waves. When rolling on the balls or holding a stretch/yoga pose, you stimulate your fibroblast, a form of fascial cells, to produce more collagen and elastin. You also help move water into your ground substance, the fluid component of the fascial web. Actions that strengthen the tissues, increase pliability, decrease friction and improves joint decompression.
A typical long distance biking position puts a lot of stress on the body, which means that your fascia responds by producing more collagen and more fascial cross links to help support the muscles in your neck, shoulders, back and hips. Even though this might sound like a good idea, in the long run this can result in a rounded back and shoulder appearance off the bike. In addition to this your psoas major, on the front of your hips, or your hamstrings, on the back of your thighs, might pull your pelvis into an exaggerated anterior or posterior tilt, which in turn effects your lower back. Adding some simple yoga poses and self-massage techniques after a long ride will help your collagen fibers line up in a more orderly fashion, restore fascial crimp and move water into your ground substance. Ensuring that your body is as well lubed as your bike chain.
Looking for more cycling recovery tips and moves? Read Recovery Moves for Cyclists which outlines a sequence I like to use to recover from a nice long ride.