There are many reasons for exercising, whether it’s spinning or going down the gym. Strength. Endurance. Flexibility. Longevity. Health. The joy of the endorphin-rush workout. And… the whole-body bliss of letting your muscles unwind, relax and recuperate when you’re done.
And here’s a secret. Those moments of relaxation are as vital to your fitness regime as the training is. Why?
- Because they release muscle tension, making your movement fluid and flexible
- They decrease your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
- And they teach you to recognise how you feel when you’re relaxed. That matters, because if you can relax while you’re working out, you’ll improve your performance
So, here are three simple ways to relax. Ride. Rest. Re-energise after class.
What is it?
This is a technique used by practitioners of the Alexander Technique. It helps you shrug off any stress or tension that you are holding in your body. Great to do pre-workout.
How to do it
1. Lie down on an exercise mat with some books supporting your head (not touching your neck). Bend your knees, with your feet on the mat, hip-distance apart.
2. Place your hands on your hip bones and keep your eyes open. Notice how the floor and the books are supporting your head, shoulders, back, pelvis and feet. Let yourself feel supported. Now ask your body to release any muscles that don’t need to be tense.
3. Lie quietly, enjoying the feelings of relaxation. Notice what you can see, hear and smell. You’re fully relaxed, but awake.
What is it?
This breathing technique has been pioneered by the American sleep expert, Dr Andrew Weil. It calms the mind, relaxes the muscles and allows more oxygen into your body. The perfect release after an indoor cycling class.
How you do it
1. Place the tip of your tongue gently against the back of your two front teeth. Keep it there during the exercise.
2. Breathe in quietly through your nose, while you count to four.
3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4. Purse your lips and blow out for a count of eight, making a noisy whooshing sound.
5. Repeat the sequence three more times.
Autogenic training (AT)
What is it?
AT is a meditative relaxation technique that was developed back in the 1920s. It’s a simple, stress-busting, sleep-improving technique. It will help you unwind after a workout session.
How you do it
1. Lie down somewhere comfortable with your hands by your side and your legs uncrossed.
2. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and comfortably in and out.
3. Say, ‘My arms are getting heavy. My right arm is heavy. My left arm is heavy. Both of my arms are heavy’ three times. Focus on the feeling of heaviness.
4. Say, ‘My legs are getting heavy. My right leg is heavy. My left leg is heavy. Both of my legs are heavy’ three times. Focus on the feeling of heaviness.
5. Say, ‘My arms are getting warm. My right arm is warm. My left arm is warm. Both of my arms are warm’ three times. Focus on the feeling of warmth.
6. Say, ‘My legs are getting warm. My right leg is warm. My left leg is warm. Both of my legs are warm’ three times. Focus on the feeling of warmth.
7. Say, ‘My heartbeat is calm and regular’ three times. As you say it, focus on that feeling of a calm, steady heartbeat.
8. Say, ‘My breathing is calm and regular’ three times. As you say it, focus on that feeling of calm, steady breathing.
9. Say, ‘My stomach is getting warm. My stomach is warm’ three times. Focus on the feeling of warmth.
10. Say, ‘My forehead is cool’ three times. Focus on the feeling of calming coolness.
11. Say, ‘I am completely calm’.
12. Keep breathing comfortably in and out. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Feel energised? Book a class at our state-of-the-art spinning studios in Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush, West London.