Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meditation Biking OR 4 Steps to a More Relaxed Ride

I rode my bike down to the lake today. The trip is a decent ride about 9 miles each way. My bike doesn't have gears. Its a 60's Schwinn Cruiser with coaster brakes. I don't listen to music when I ride and without gears my mind starts to drift to the subtleties of biking. I start to think about all the different sensations that are happening in my body. I start trying to dissect the automatic and investigate things a bit more, in hopes of making the ride more enjoyable. Here's a few things I noticed today :)


Since I'm on a cruiser, I'm sitting nearly straight up. When my posture is right I can release nearly all the tension in my back and just stay suspended in the seat, pretty much by the curvature of my spine. This makes for more effortless riding. If I end up more hunched over, I lean into the handle bars, the more I lean into the handle bars, the more my forearms, shoulders, and back muscles engage creating tension. The same thing happens with gripping the handlebars. I'm always trying to use the lightest, most relaxed grip on the handlebars as possible. To me, gripping the bars tighter doesn't create more control, it just creates tension. I let the bars stay loose in my grip and if I go over a rough patch of road, only then do I engage a firmer grip.

When riding I try and keep my breaths as even as possible. Chest breathing promotes tension and anxiety - two things I never want while I'm riding my bike, especially through traffic. I'm always trying to use stomach/abdomen breathing as it promotes deeper breaths. Not only are the deeper breaths especially helpful going up hills but deeper breathing is also more relaxing, making for a more enjoyable ride.

I notice that, of course, there's the down motion in pedaling and up motion in pedaling, but there's also the 2 ends nobody thinks about as much: the transition of the down into the up and the transition of the up into the down. Today riding along the lake paths, I tried to be mindful of keeping these transitions as smooth as possible - trying to avoid any 'stops' or 'jerkiness' between the down and up motions.

I push down on the pedals and the bike goes, sure, every one knows that :) but paying attention to my legs as the pedal goes up seems just as important as the force used to press down. As I'm nearing the end of the down motion, I try to make sure I guide my leg through the transition described above and then I try and release as much muscle tension in my leg as possible - simply letting the pedal guide my foot back to the top. By keeping my legs alternating this 'empty' state, I seem to have more stamina and push especially on hills.

Paying close attention to the subtle interaction between my bike and I as well as the inner workings of my body during a ride helps create a more meditative experience. My mind can then unwind at the same time I'm exercising my body. I usually arrive at my destination feeling more relaxed than if my mind is simply focused on the route or my time.

It'd be cool to hear what inner workings you pay attention to on your rides or what you think about the above 4 ruminations. Leave a comment on the blog or hit up my Facebook page :)

-Shane Olivo
The New Loud

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