Cycling and The Alexander Technique

‘now there’s a proper cyclist… look he’s using the whole of his body’
pic 1 bobbing dude

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I quote a very distinguished consultant neurologist and was, at the time, unable to articulate a well formed answer. However, after a couple of years of thinking about it, here is my considered response!

I have met a few cyclists who off the bike look like this. I have often wondered how their cardiovascular and digestive systems manage as the upper chamber of the thorax, containing heart and lungs must find it very hard to attain their natural desire to expand and the lower abdominal chambers must find it hard to find room for all the very necessary fuel to keep the whole show on the road, so to speak!

Pic 2 standing dude

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All that bobbing to one side and another? can’t make it any easier to breathe with all that extreme thoracic weaving around.
Pic 3 bobbing dudes

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Seems an awful lot of extra effort to me and besides, consider the analogy of a boat’s mast, and what would happen if the mast was so whipping from side to side? Surely the ‘stays’ would either crumple like jaded elastic or be under such impossible tension that they would eventually snap?

Pic 4 boats

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The beautiful erector spinae muscles, along with the abdominal “corset” and deep Psoas are designed to actively stabilize the spine so that it can do it’s job of maintaining the bodies’ organs in an exquisite state of spacious suspension within the body cavities. Also to provide a balanced, strong and responsive core from which the limbs can move easily and freely. Disturb this balance at a cost.

Pic 5 spine ‘stays’ ( partial illustration)

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Then there is this problem with the neck. Perhaps a periscope would help if it’s so important to have drop handle bars? Seriously though, look at the risk to that delicate part of the spine and think of all the precious blood vessels that are trying to transport your blood up into your grey matter. Gentlemen, the circulation to your scalp is likewise compromised.

Pic 6 head neck and heart

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We all know what happens when at last the card snaps. The intervertebral discs undergo similar stresses and strains when we misunderstand the blessings of our spines and insist that extra flexibility is somehow desirable.
Pic 7 bank card

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Dude or goof? I goofed my way around Europe on my bike ( and thought about all this very carefully) for nearly 10 months and the only time I ever suffered any kind of ache or pain was when I travelled by bus, train, or plane.

One of the most pertinent questions which was a great help in times of humungus effort is ‘can I do less?’ ‘how much less?’
Almost always, that old saying ‘less is more’ proved right time and time again.
I wasn’t winning any races or trying to get somewhere in a hurry, but my suspicion is that if I had been, I would have been be able to do so with less risk of mechanical damage and perhaps even, find a more fluid and efficient way to achieve my goals.
What I AM interested in is in preserving my wonderful body in it’s natural and great shape, long into my bold old age. . . . call it an insurance policy if you like. A worthwhile investment I would say.

Pic 7 goofing the alternative…

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(I haven’t even begun to talk about playing the piano or painting pictures or…..)

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2 Responses to Cycling and The Alexander Technique

  1. Susan Miller says:

    Perhaps a recumbent bike would be a possibility. Regular bikes are simply uncomfortable for me. I can’t find good use on a bike no matter how hard I try to convince myself. I agree with you on the suggestions, but still maintain that most bicycles are simply poorly ergonomically designed. If I flex at the hip, my pubis is driven into the seat painfully. The handlebars are simply too far forward and too low even not dropped. Ankle and foot release is possible, but it doesn’t relieve the strain on the head, neck and back. Hence I find that my old knee injury which was solved with 3 years of intense Alexander training allowing me not only to walk again, but also to dance again only crops up when I make any attempt to mount a bicycle. Between the bruising of the pubis and the sensation of subluxing of the patella on the old injured knee, it seems best for me to either walk or ride a horse. There are a lot of “greenies” who insist a bike is the sustainable way to go, but I think horses are probably better – for the rider and the planet. Can’t ride ’em in town though. 😦

    • jennyquick says:

      Hello Susan,
      Many thanks for your very interesting comment. Much food for thought. … one of them being perhaps the set up of your bike could be better… but of course that’s in the absence of being able to see it. I am sure a horse is the way to go though, but as you say, our streets are not horse-friendly.
      I did have my bike built to fit, which is such a luxury and helped me to ‘use’ as well as possible. Evidence being the remarkable (at the age of 55) lack of problems. Looking at people using recliners…. I thought they looked very ill-used!!
      All the best, warmly, Jenny

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