Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Popular Trails in Orlando

So you bought a bike, the helmet, the shorts, pedals, shoes, the whole setup, now for the hard part. "Where do I go to use all this stuff!" Or maybe you've got a nice trail close to you that you frequent. But, after memorizing the number of leaves on each tree, you've decided to shake things up with a new riding spot.

A great place to start is Google maps. Now, with their inclusion of bike trails on their directions, you can find out which roads have bike lanes, where paved trails are close to you, and even make a little ride map for your adventure into the unknown. To find out how to do that, check out our post, Google Maps: Your Bike's Best Friend.

Maybe you're like me, and act like a monkey towards a coconut when your technology limit is stretched, here are a couple of great trails to start with.

Appropriate statue at Chapin Station,
a great rest stop on the W.O.T
West Orange Trail
If you've spent any length of time in a bike shop in or around Orlando, I'm sure you've heard of the West Orange Trail. Being the longest paved trail around, and with options to go punish yourself through Clermont it's very popular. The inclines on W.O.T. are mild to moderate and well kept. The only downside is, being so popular, the weekends can be a little congested.
Here is a downloadable map and description of the West Orange Trail

If you're having trouble finding your way around, or worse, back to the car! You may want to look at a Garmin Edge 810. Not only will it record your heart rate, speed, cadence and where you've been but it also displays maps in real time so you can find your way home. If things get really hairy a rider can sync the computer with your phone, allowing for up-to-date weather info for the rider and real-time tracking for loved ones to keep an ear on you.
Click Here for more info on the Garmin Edge 810

Cady Way Trail
While Cady Way is only 6.5mi long, it's the surge protector of trails, plugging into the Cross Seminole, Baldwin Park Trail, and Florida Trail. Some complain that there are too many stop signs and lights, it seems to be a fair trade off for it's inner-city location. From College Park to Baldwin, Cady Way is going to be the longest trail with easy access.
Here is a downloadable map and description of the Cady Way Trail

Shaded Seminole Wekiva Trail
Seminole Wekiva Trail
The Seminole Wekiva is the most shade you will find on any paved trail in the area. Out in Altamonte Springs, it is a beautiful ride, perfect for the summer months when the sun seems closer.

No pain, with all the gain!
With the Gore Power 2's
Make sure to be prepared on all fronts, or backs. Wearing the right shorts can be the difference between a good experience and a sore one. The Gore Power 2 shorts not only have a great chamois, designed to sit on for hours, but also a unique front panel material. Just in case you don't have the chiseled abs of a pro.

If you would like some more info on a few more trails in and around Orlando, check out our Bike Trails and Maps section on our website.

Also, If you want to venture out of the area, click here to check out a few other trails!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yoga: The Manliest Thing you can do to Help your Ride

As cyclists, we think about the next challenge and how hard we can push our bodies to get there.  The pain or stress we put our bodies through becomes simply one more challenge to overcome – and we've mastered that - push through the pain to get what you want.  We aren't exactly known for “listening to our bodies” or looking for the root of the problem and we are definitely not going to stop riding – hard. 

But what if you could have both?  A great addition to your workout, that improves your body for riding but also helps prevent injuries and speeds up your recovery time.  
Your new challenge?  Yoga.  
Unfortunately, cycling creates shortening in the lower muscles and in the chest which makes them fatigue quicker and more prone to injury.  Yoga helps lengthen your muscles so there becomes less strain on your joints – like the knees, hips and shoulders – common injury spots for cyclists. 

The Hard Truth

The truth is, Yoga is one of the most effective, strengthening and balancing practices for cyclists.  It’s not just sitting in a room while stretching and chanting and by no means are we asking you to hop off your bike and head to an ashram.  The physical and mental aspect of yoga is synonymous with strong; it’s incredibly challenging and can improve your overall performance.  Free your mind from any preconceived ideas and try out these core exercises, strengthening poses and stretches and experience it all yourself.  

Being a Cyclist myself, I am guilty of riding through all and any pains my muscles may be telling me about. I am about as flexible as a brick wall and have never set foot in a yoga studio. That being said, I am clearly not the voice of knowledge when it comes to yoga. 

Don't Listen to Me

Luckily, Kortni Hampton is. Having hundreds of hours logged, training in Forrest Yoga style, she also currently practices at Root Yoga. Kortni is a wealth of knowledge, not only for yoga-specific information but also how the poses can help one's muscular anatomy. This is key when relating to another activity, such as cycling. Having worked with cyclists before also gives her a certain edge on this subject. So from here on, I'm going to hand it over to her and let her educate all of us!

“Yoga is by far the best cross-training for cyclists as the form used on your mat can directly translate to the form used on your bike.  Here are some great poses for riders.  Doing these exercises will make you a stronger and faster rider.  Period.  (And if you secretly care about injury prevention, they help that as well.)”  -  Kortni Hampton, Certified Yoga Instructor  

Core Strengthening
All video and photography below by Blake H. Hampton

Core Exercise #1
Repeat exercise 5-8 times.  **If you begin to feel this in your low back you can place feet on the floor, lifting one leg at a time OR reduce number of reps.

Why you should do this:  This particular core exercise will help unlock the hips and hip flexors.  It also stretches the upper back and increases flexibility in the cervical spine – though the fire in your belly will likely take over these subtleties in the beginning.  

Core Exercise #2
Repeat exercise on video 5-8 times.  **If you begin to have any pain in your low back, place both feet on the floor but continue with all other cues until you build the strength to lift the legs.
Take a towel and lay it out.  Tri-fold your towel and then roll up as tightly as you can.  Lie on your back. Place the roll between the inner thighs near the pubic bone and squeeze both legs into the roll. Here is a video to demonstrate:

Why should I do this:  Having a strong core is essential to being a great cyclist and key to injury prevention.  These slow controlled movements hit every part of your core and heat up the entire body preparing you for your ride. They also call for longer and stronger breaths, which will help with the control of your breathing pattern on your bike.  You should do belly-up core before and after every long ride.  Before so that you get your body warmed up and become mindful of your core, and after to help settle the back and release the sacrum.

Poses to help

Bridge Pose  (not photographed)
A great counter pose to do between or after the two abdominal series.  While on your back and with towel roll between inner thighs, place feet on the floor directly underneath your knees.  Keep the neck neutral and the arms relaxed to your sides.  Press into the feet to lift the hips.  Lightly lift the toes and spread them away from one another.  Engage (but don’t clinch) the glutes and imagine you are dragging your sitting bones (the pointy bones you feel with sitting on the floor) towards your knees.  You will feel your tailbone start to pull towards your towel roll and more length and space in your low back.  Hold for 8-10 long, slow breaths in and out through the nose.  Focus on the breath moving past the chest and into the belly.  

Why should I do this:  Not only will you immediately feel the intensity and heat in the core from the previous abdominal series, therefore wanting to stretch it out….this is also a good pose for cyclists because it is the opposite of how you ride.  Muscles and tendons can shorten quickly, and with the constant forward formation from riding it’s good to counter that as much as possible to keep this from happening.  Let’s be real, slumped shoulders aren’t attractive.   


Dolphin Pose (side view)
Dolphin (front view)
Begin in a tabletop position with hands stacked under shoulders and knees under hips.  Bring your forearms to the floor and interlace your hands.  Bring your elbows towards one another slightly narrower than the width of your shoulders.  Relax your neck completely.  Inhale into your upper back, feel the shoulder blades spread apart from one another.  As you exhale, flip over your toes and walk the toes just a few small steps up towards your elbows.  IF this forces the shoulders to press forward over the hands, bend your knees as much as you need to so you can continue to work on your back making a straight line from elbows to sitting bones.  This alignment is far more important than straightening the legs or having the heels touch the floor.  Though likely close to the ground – the head is off the floor in this pose.  If you find this is hard to do, lower knees and bring elbows a little closer.  Hold for 8-10 long breaths.

Dolphin with legs bent
If your muscles are too tight to perform this pose, bend your knees. Eventually, with continuing practice, you will get to a straight-leg position.

Why should I do this:  While in Dolphin you are hugging the energy of the elbows towards one another – activating your chest and back - and pulling in your core…just like your riding stance.  Difference: in Dolphin you can relax the neck and also get the added benefits of actively stretching out the arches of your feet, your ankles, calves, hamstrings and low back – all while building a stronger foundation with the upper body. 

Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog (side view)
From tabletop, take hands a little wider than shoulder distance and lightly bend the elbows (so they aren’t locked out) towards you (not out to the sides).  Inhale into upper back, exhale tuck over the toes and send your hips towards the sky.  Keep the energy of the elbows squeezing towards one another – once again activating chest and back and continue to release neck (you can gently nod the head yes and no here). Hold for 8-10 long breaths in and out through the nose.

Another very "flexible" pose for beginners
Why should I do this:  You get many of the same benefits you get from dolphin, but you also get to wake up the hands.  Cyclists are often in the opposite position wrapping the hands, so down dog wakes up your palms and fingertips and really stretches the hand bones – so really focus on spreading the hand from pinky to thumb.  Just as in Dolphin, you continue to stretch the glutes, hamstrings, calves, ankles and arches.

Wide Angle Stretch with Shoulder Opener
Pyramid (front view)
Spread the feet 3-4’ part from one another and angle the toes in (slightly pigeon toed).  Interlace the hands behind the back or, if that is too intense, grab for opposite elbow creases or forearms.  Inhale stretch tall, exhale softly bend your knees as you fold forward.  Relax your neck and keep a slight bend in the knees (larger bend in the knees if the hamstrings are tight).  If your hands are interlaced and you need to deepen the stretch, you can start to squeeze the shoulder blades towards one another and reach the arms towards the floor.  

Why should I do this:  You are getting a decompression of the low back, while lengthening and stretching your calves and hamstrings. These stretches offer an opposing and strengthening aspect in the upper body…while continuing to make space in the neck, jaw, shoulders and back. Hold 8-10 breaths.

Pyramid Pose
Pyramid pose (right foot forward)
Standing with both feet together, step right foot about 3’ forward.  All ten toes point forward and the heels are about sitting bones distance apart.  Bring hands to hips and fold over front thigh.  When available, release hands/fingertips to the floor.  If this is not possible, bring hands to shin or top of thigh with knee bent.  With each inhale draw the right hip back and lengthen your spine.  With each exhale press your left hip down, and fold a little closer to your front thigh.  Use your exhales to release your hamstring….before you know it you will be able to straighten the front leg!  Relax your neck and spread your toes (unclench
Pyramid pose (left foot forward)
them from the floor)  Hold 8-10 breaths in and out through the nose.  Bring hands to hips when done and come up with a flat back.  Do other side.

Why should I do this:  Clearly you are getting a major hamstring and low-back stretch.  You are also stretching the upper back and shoulder blades, waking up the feet and toes (which spend so much time closed up in shoes), and working on balance.  

Warrior 1 with Eagle Arms
Warrior 1 with Eagle Arms
From down dog, step your right foot between your hands.  Pull your right hip crease back and step your back foot up about a foot.  Spiral your back heal down so that your left toes are facing the upper left corner of your mat.  Engage your core and as you inhale reach your arms towards the sky.  Exhale to sit deeper into your front thigh and continue to work towards squaring the hips to the top of the mat. Take another inhale to reach the spine taller and as you exhale wrap your right arm underneath your left arm, crossing at elbows and wrists.  If this is not working, you can cross elbows and then grab for opposite shoulders.  Feel for an opposing energy of the forearms reaching forward and the shoulder blades pulling back and down.  If balance allows, you can get an even deeper stretch into your neck and shoulder blades by lifting the elbows higher and releasing your forehead towards your biceps.  Each time you exhale relax the face and jaw as you release into the stretch.  Hold for 5-8 breaths.  Release bind of arms, come to ball of back foot and bring hands to floor.  Step back to down dog and repeat on other side.
Warrior 1 with Eagle Arms (front view)

Why should I do this:  You already have EPIC quads, so we don’t need to do a huge amount of leg strengthening.  Warrior 1 is fairly mild on the strengthening aspect of your front thigh, but gives you a nice stretch into the quad and hip flexor of the back leg.  You are also working on balance – lifting the toes will challenge the balance even more.  For the upper body you are increasing range of motion and flexibility in the shoulders and upper back with a relaxed face and jaw. Increasing flexibility of your chest and neck.  

Pigeon with Sternum Towards Foot 
Pigeon with Sternum Towards Foot
From down dog, bring your right foot towards your left wrist and your right knee towards you right wrist as you gently sit onto your right hip.  (Your left knee and hip will likely lift and that is perfectly fine)  Square your right shin as much as you can to the top of the mat.  Start to roll your weight (Carefully!) to the inside of your right sitting bone and angle your sternum (chest) towards your foot.  With your foot bisecting your hands, you can stay here if you are feeling a stretch or with each exhale begin to bring the forearms towards the ground.  This may look easy, but it is definitely a pose the mind starts to chatter in – easily talking us into exiting as soon as 
Eventually, you could get here!
possible or cheating on our breath counts…don’t let it!  Stay for 8-10 breaths and then do the other side.

Why should I do this:  There are a few variations of pigeon, but this Forrest Yoga variation is a great alternative for cyclists and runners – really any athlete because it does not put pressure on or overstretch the knee.  You will also get the added bonus of a hamstring stretch in your front leg and a quad and hip flexor stretch in the back leg.  Able to do this with ease and ready to add-on? Try sitting tall and bending your back knee in towards your glute for a deep quad stretch.  **Only try this variation if the hips are nearly square to the front of the mat.

Neck Release
Neck Release
Sitting in a comfortable position, inhale to lengthen the spine and as you exhale release your right ear to your right shoulder.  Your first inclination might be to bring your shoulder up to your ear – creating a little pillow for it. Instead, continue to pull the shoulder away from the ear.  Keep every bit of you torso lifting up and the only thing tilting is your right ear towards your right shoulder.  Take a few breaths into left side of your neck and then pull chin to chest.  Kept lifting torso and relaxing neck and jaw and continue to breathe into the shoulder blades and back of the neck.  Pull the shoulders back and lift chest.  And then tilt your left ear towards your left shoulder.  Relax your left shoulder away from your ear for a deeper stretch into the right side of the neck. To take this stretch to the next level, do as shown in the picture, and take the arm up and over towards your jaw line.  Instead of pulling on the neck, gently use the weight of the arm to release into the neck deeper on each side. Example: Right ear to right shoulder would have right arm extending up and over towards left jaw line to assist in your stretch of the left side of the neck.

Keep At It

I know some of this may seem a bit alien. But, if you work at it, like beginning riding a bike, it will get more familiar and you will become more confident in the poses. You will also begin to see not only a huge change in your abilities as a yogi (somebody who does yoga) but also in your cycling performance. Not to mention securing that your body will no longer hold you back from any two-wheeled aspirations you may have in the future!

Practice makes perfect and nowhere is that more true than improving your cycling experience.