By Sharni Quinn

Mindfulness is the latest ‘buzz’ word. It may sound all ‘hippie-like’ but in fact this ancient wisdom can actually improve riding performance and health and assist to increase the pleasure time on the bike.

Science has proven that being mindful can lead to a variety of health benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, and improved sleep. In addition, by focusing on a single purpose, mental and emotional health are improved and one is guaranteed a safer and more productive ride.

So before you get on the bike begin to practice the art of mindfulness and reap the benefits.

The question is, as a cyclist, how do you do this?

Here are a few tips on how to be mindful before, during and after your ride:

Before getting on the bike, take a moment. Stop, relax and breathe. Close your eyes and do an internal scan of your body. Notice how your body feels and if there are any aches or pains. Do this without any judgment or criticism of yourself and if you find your mind wondering just bring yourself back to the present moment. It helps if you start at your head and work your way down to your toes. By doing this you may be aware of things that you may have ‘overlooked’ before, such as, realizing your tummy is grumbling, (solution: eat that protein bar), or, that you need to stretch stiff legs out before getting on the bike.
If you practice Yoga, then do a few Sun Salutations before to warm up the body and to stretch out tight muscles. Notice where you are feeling stiffness and focus on breathing into those areas.
As you climb onto the bike be aware and mindful of your bike setup. How does your posture feel? Is everything set up correctly? Do any adjustments need to be made? Is all your gear ready?
While you are riding the best way to be mindful is to focus on what is occurring around you as well as what is happening inside of you. While looking at the surroundings take a moment to express gratitude. “Thank you for this beautiful day, thank you for getting on my bike, thank you to my healthy body, thank you for being able to cycle outdoors.” Every pedal is a new opportunity to be grateful.
To bring your awareness inward focus on your breath. By taking long, slow, deeper breathes you not only bring more oxygen into your body but will also feel calmer and more relaxed.
When your ride is finished, once again do an internal body scan. Notice how you feel afterwards, physically, mentally and emotionally.
By being more mindful on your bike and in your daily life, you will feel more aware of your body and the messages it offers, your focus will improve, your safety will be impacted more positively, and over all, you will have a far better ride!