Sonya Looney is pro mountain biker with a world championship title to her name. She follows a plant-based diet and lives by the slogan, Be Brave. Do Epic Shit. Check out her website and podcast here.
Since we're probably spending too much time these days inside hunched over looking at screens, we asked Sonya for some quick tips to improve our back mobility...
Let's Face It. We All Hunch!
Cyclists notoriously have tight thoracic spines or mid back. We spend hours hunched over on our bikes and everywhere else in our daily lives. Picture this - you’re finishing up your ride and are 5 miles from home thinking about that post-ride burrito. You hungrily rush through the door and you spend the next 15 minutes hunched over your food. I’ve caught myself so hunched over my food that my face is almost in the bowl! Before that, you spent one hour or maybe even 4 hours hunched over on your bike. After a refreshing shower, heck, maybe you even had a shower beer, you open up your computer and start looking at email or social media. What is your body position now? You guessed it – you’re probably hunched over your computer. Years of repeatedly hunching over from exercise and bad posture from seating or working at the computer causes the thoracic spine to get locked up and lose mobility. It also causes issues with the neck and the ability for the shoulders and scapula to move freely. One of the first things a physical therapist or chiropractor will do when testing mobility is have you rotate from your waist from side to side. Cyclists are notorious for having limited movement, but we can fix it!
All You Need is Five Minutes
Part of the problem with stretching and mobility is motivation. It’s relatively easy and fun to get on the bike and start pedaling. It’s harder to carve out the time at home to rehab the body. Stretching and mobility are key to keeping us injury free and helping continue to use our bodies well into ripe old age. With years of advice from yoga instructors, chiros, and physical therapists, here are a few of the fastest and easiest mobility stretches to add into your day. It takes less than 5 minutes and has a huge payoff if you do it regularly. Aim for 10 reps for each exercise. Even choosing two of these exercises every day will be beneficial.
Sonya's Stretching Routine
Lay on the ground and turn so you are laying on your side. Bend the knee of your top leg to 90 degrees and hook it over. Extend both arms out straight so they are stacked perpendicular to your torso. Rotate from the upper back while locking out your lower back. Now take your top arm and rotate over the top of your chest like you are opening a book and let your head follow the motion. Try to get your arm as close to the floor as possible. This will open your shoulder, chest and back.
Do 10 reps.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Alternatively, you can do this standing against the wall with your back (including low back) as close as possible. Cactus your arms so your elbows are touching the ground and try to get your wrists as flat as possible. Now slide your arms up over your head so they straighten and back down again. If your back and shoulders are tight, it’ll be hard to get your arms totally straight over your head or to keep them touching the wall, but that’s okay.
Do 10 reps.
WALL THORACIC ROTATION
Stand next to a wall with your outer hip along the wall. Scissor your legs with your front leg forward and hip against the wall. Make sure there’s about an inch between you and the wall. You can do this standing or you can kneel into a lunge and place your back knee on the floor. Extend your arm out in front of you with the pinkie side of your hand against the wall. Rotate open to face the wall and as you turn, twist so your palm faces the wall as you rotate. Try not to touch the wall and come all the way through. If you can’t rotate all the way through, stop and hover where your hand touches the wall and pause to try to get more mobility in those spots.
TABLE TOP ROTATION
Get on your hands and knees. Sink down so your bum is resting on your heels as much as possible to lock out the lower back, kind of like child's pose in yoga. Place your hand behind your head, elbow out. Open up to rotate your elbow open so your face moves toward the sky.
Hope your back feels good and the miles outside (or inside) are fun! Happy stretching!