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Thursday, December 31, 2015

If you live in or around Memphis, your New Year's resolutions should include bicycling

If you live in or around Memphis, your New Year’s resolutions should include bicycling
By:  Michael Lander

Memphis area cyclists have plenty of cycling events to participate
in.  One of the most popular of these is the annual Meritan
Midnight Classic in August of each year, which draws thousands
of cyclists from Memphis and beyond.

Once a year, at the stroke of midnight, millions of people around the world welcome in the new year with fanfare and celebration, saying goodbye to the past year and looking forward, with great anticipation, to what they hope will be a happy, healthy, and successful year ahead.

As many lift up their glasses to make toasts and to wish others a Happy New Year, many see the occasion as a time to clean the slate and to make a brand new, fresh start and to observe the long-standing tradition of making one or more
New Year’s resolutions. 

Even though some resolutions that we make may seem like an inevitable and futile attempt to achieve something that may ultimately be unrealistic and unattainable, they almost always come with good intentions and center around improving one’s life, health, or their relationships with others.

Among the top ten New Year’s resolutions for the past year of 2015, the
Statistic Brain Research Institute found that dieting (losing weight) was number one and staying fit and healthy came in at number five.

Memphis is slowly becoming known as a bicycling
city and nothing better symbolizes this than the
Overton Park Bicycle Gate or Arch, which was
completed in February 2014.

For those Memphians who have made resolutions to lose weight and/or to improve their health and fitness, there may be no better time than at the beginning of 2016 for them to include
bicycling as one of their New Year’s resolutions. 

With an ever-increasing growing number of bike lanes and cycling amenities in and around
Memphis, and with the Harahan Bridge project and the Shelby Farms Park Greenline expansion and the renovation of the park, itself, expected to be completed in 2016, this will be the year to get out and ride like never before.

Click here for ten reasons why you should start riding in Memphis now.

Rather than wait for these projects to get finished, or to wait around until there is warmer weather, there really is no need to sit around until then. 

There are all kinds of
cold weather riding gear to make your cycling experience a lot more tolerable, but for those who just can’t bring themselves to ride in the cold, there are always other options like joining a spinning class or riding a stationary bike through the winter months.

The annual 5+ mile Tour de Grizz Bike Ride is one of many cycling
events that take place in Memphis.  Last year's ride in 2015 drew a
couple hundred cyclists who followed up the ride with watching the
Memphis Grizzlies play at the FedEx Forum.

Throughout the winter, and the rest of the year for that matter, cyclists can also spend a little time in the gym by doing some
muscle strengthening exercises and some aerobic workouts to enhance their performance while riding. 

They can also, additionally, benefit from some
cross-training activities such as running and try some alternative regimens such as yoga.  Dieting and weight loss can also improve your cycling experience, not to mention your overall health and fitness.

When your New Year’s resolution involves health and fitness and/or dieting, it is important to first set up a plan to establish realistic and attainable goals for yourself before you actually get started. 

After you do that, it is always a good idea to
learn all that you can on how to get started and to start slow and to not be overly ambitious.

Click here to read about how to get started in bicycling, to find motivation, and how to feel safe while doing it.

This is a photo of the 100-year-old Harahan Bridge over the
Mississippi River from Memphis to West Memphis, Ark.
At the end of 2016, this bridge will have a bicycle and
pedestrian walkway, which is expected to be extremely
popular with Memphians and visitors alike.

After you do that, you will probably want to get friends and family to join you, or you might want to consider joining a bicycle club.  You are always more likely to stick with something if you can enjoy the experience, especially if you can get the support and encouragement from others.

Whatever your New Year’s resolutions might be this year, if you live in Memphis, and you’re interested in improving your health and fitness, and losing weight, cycling is definitely an activity that you seriously want to consider doing in 2016 and beyond.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Southaven and other DeSoto County residents should begin to see bike lanes and trails in their future

Southaven and other DeSoto County residents should begin to see bike lanes and trails in their future
By:  Michael Lander

The Memphis Metropolitan area has hundreds of miles of bike lanes
and trails and more are expected in the years ahead.  Several
northern Mississippi cities in DeSoto County are in the
beginning stages of developing their own bike and
pedestrian facilities, themselves, eventually connecting to
existing and more established ones in other communities.

The Memphis Metropolitan area has seen a lot of positive developments and growth over the last decade, which to the excitement of cyclists, has also included hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails with even more planned in the years ahead.

Even though the growth of these have rapidly spread throughout most our area, our neighbors to the south of us in cities like Southaven, Olive Branch, and Horn Lake in DeSoto County have not quite yet benefited as much from this, but that may soon begin to change.

While it may be slow in coming, some DeSoto County residents should begin to see some of the bike lanes and trails that the Memphis Metropolitan area already has, and will soon have even more of, in the next few years. 

In the not-to-distant-future, there will be bike lanes and trails throughout many parts of the city of Memphis and into surrounding areas from downtown Memphis, east to Germantown, Collierville, and Cordova, north to Tipton County, and even over the Harahan Bridge to West Memphis, Ark.

For the time-being, DeSoto County residents may not have any bike lanes or trails that run through or directly connect with the network of these in the Memphis Metropolitan area, but they should not lose hope for this in the future.

“There aren’t any active projects connecting Memphis to DeSoto County.  The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) does have a number of corridors prioritized in their long-term plan, but no short-term implementation planned,” Kyle Wagenschutz said.

Wagenschutz is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager in Memphis.

This is not to say that DeSoto County is not beginning to see the first steps toward eventually having that or in establishing their own network of bike lanes and trails themselves.

“I am aware of three current projects, under construction now or within the next six months in DeSoto County involving bike lanes or greenways.  That’s not to say that there aren’t more, but I only track those that are receiving federal funds” Nick Oyler said.

Oyler is the Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Planner/Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator.

A network of bike lanes in urban areas, like those in the Cooper-
Young neighborhood in Memphis, provide a means for cyclists
to more safely navigate on city streets and it offers a more
healthy and fun alternative for getting around town.

These three projects, according to Oyler, include the Delta View Bike Trail and Park Overlook in Walls, the Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector, and the Church Road Bike Lanes.

The Overlook in Walls is a “design and construction of a new shared-use trail and bike lane along the existing Delta View Road/Nail Road/Old 61 right-of-way from Johnson Creek on the south to the town of Walls in the north.  The trail is included in the proposed DeSoto County greenway network.  The trail will connect to the Johnson Creek Greenway,” Oyler said.

“The Nesbit Fire Station Trail and Connector is also a portion of the proposed DeSoto County greenway network.  This project is the design and construction of a new shared-use trail along McIngvale/Swinnea Rd connecting Southaven to Hernando.  The project limits are from Green T Lake Rd to Bankston Rd,” he said.

“Church Rd Bike Lanes will be standard bike lanes to be installed on Church from Craft Rd in the west to Cockrum Rd/MS-305 in the east,” he added.

The Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan recommends 788 projects, totaling 1,500 miles of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the Southaven area alone.

In the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Jurisdiction Report, the MPO identified 33 bicycle corridor improvement priorities for Southaven.  Twenty-three of these are for on-street facilities (or bike lanes) and ten that have shared use path that are designed to accommodate both cyclists and motorists alike.

“I support having bike lanes and bike and pedestrian trails in Southaven,” Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said.

“I would like to see Southaven become a more connected city with pedestrian and bicycle routes.  It adds a quality of life for our citizens and promotes a healthier lifestyle for them,” he said.

“The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) Multi-use trails connecting Snowden and Central Park is in the process now and I hope to see construction begin in 2016.  With that, I hope to begin to see a more pedestrian-friendly community in general as we move forward,” he added.

Beyond that, Southaven residents should also expect to see other long-term plans to unify their city with other bike and pedestrian facilities in neighboring communities.

The Landers Center in Southaven is not only a place for shows and
entertainment, but it is also the starting and finishing line for
cycling events like the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 bike ride that
takes place every year in mid-September with proceeds
going to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“We have officially adopted the Greenprint 2040 for the Metro-Memphis area to connect any bike lanes or trails to Memphis and to adjacent municipalities.  We will also continue to seek federal and state funds or grants through the MPO as well,” Musselwhite said.

Long-time Southaven resident, John Tucker, spoke before the city’s Board of Alderman on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.  Tucker was originally from California, but has lived in Southaven since 1975.

At the Board of Alderman meeting he addressed concerns that he had about motorists driving too fast through Central Park and his desire to see bike lanes within the city park, itself, and beyond.

“The city touts itself as being a retirement community.  It’s on the signs so it needs to be more people-friendly for the walker, runner, and the cyclist,” Tucker said.

“I have been riding a bike, off-and-on for 66 years.  I mainly just do it for fun and for the pure joy of it.  I just love the feel of the wind on my face and I usually ride 10 miles a day.  If there’s a health benefit from doing it, that’s great, too,” he said.

“Being a bike rider, I would like to see dedicated bike paths and trails that connect to ones in Memphis and I hope for the day when Southaven will have what Memphis has now.  I’m afraid that I won’t live to see this and the greenspaces, but I still remain hopeful that I will,” he added.

Perhaps, with the support of DeSoto County residents, and the active involvement of elected officials and business leaders, a day will come, sooner than later, when Tucker, and others like him, will have bike lanes and trails, some of which will connect to others in the greater Memphis Metropolitan area.

One need only ask if there is any reason that our neighbors in our nearby northern Mississippi communities should not have the bicycle lanes and trails like what we already in the other Memphis area communities and the answer is simple……  they should.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memphis' 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride met or exceeded all expectations

Memphis’ 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride met or exceeded all expectations
By:  Michael Lander

The 2015 St. Jude 24-hour team relay bike ride began at 6 p.m.
on Friday, 23 October, and ran until 6 p.m. the following day.
Hundreds of cyclists either rode solo or on teams for this
annual fundraising event for St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital.  (Photo:  Courtesy of St. Jude)

Once a year, Memphis’
Riverside Drive is shut down to traffic for one 24 hour period and it’s opened up to hundreds of cyclists who come together to participate in something that isn’t quite like any other bike ride in the world.

This bike ride is a 24-hour team relay cycling event is hosted by
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which is known around the world for their life-saving research, treatment, and care of children whose families can receive it without ever having to pay.

Those who do this annual ride for St. Jude can either ride as soloists or with a team and each one competes in fundraising and in the number of laps that they can do on a 2.83 mile loop of Riverside Drive.

Adam Cruthirds was the team captain for Adam's
Army.  He spoke to participants before the start
of the St. Jude Bike Ride about his battle with
cancer and the life-saving treatment and
support that he, and others like him, have
received at St. Jude.

This ride can be a real of test of endurance, perseverance, and it often requires a great deal of stamina, however, it is really nothing compared to what the children and their doctors at St. Jude must face every day as they fight for these children's lives.

Even though the ride is a competitive cycling event, it is also about having fun, and it is made all the more special and meaningful when you know who and why you are doing the ride.

The 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride took place on 23-24 October and for the second year in a row the Gray Falcons team was a part of it.

Billy Privette, the team captain for the Gray Falcons, (in a red jacket),
listened to some announcements and instructions before the
ceremonial lap commenced and the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride
officially began.

Billy Privette was the team captain for the Gray Falcons in both 2014 and 2015.  He is a retired Air Force and FedEx pilot and he got the idea for the name of his team because it happened to be the same name of a retired FedEx pilot association, of which he, himself, belongs.

In addition to Privette, his four-man team also included a retired U.S. Marine named Gary Weber, a St. Jude employee named Chris Sheffield, and me.

Weber, whose daughter and son-in-law both work at St. Jude, was looking to join a team and through their help, he was able to find his way on to the Gray Falcons team.

There was a little less sunlight for the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride
than in previous ones.  This year's ride took place about a
month later than it had before.  The sun set at 6:15 p.m.
on 23 October and sunrise came about 13 hours later
at 7:13 a.m. on the 24th.  (Photo:  Courtesy of St. Jude)

With his military and flying experience, Weber fit in perfectly with a team in which three of the four who had also served in the military.  At 69 years of age, he is also close in age to Privette who is 70 years old.

Weber served 30 years in the Marine Corps and when they said that he was too old to go beyond that, he retired, joined the Army, and served another seven years with them.

Weber had been a runner for over half of his life and had done countless marathons over the years, but this had taken a toll on his body and that is when he turned to cycling.

Many cyclists, like these who were out at 2 a.m., rode throughout
the night and were not deterred by the occasional rainfall.

Chris Sheffield, who has a journalism degree at University of Memphis, and who works for St. Jude, was also looking to join a team and so with a little help from his co-worker and the event manager, Lee Bobo, he too found his way on to the Gray Falcons team.

Sheffield has had experience with running and participating in mini-triathlons and he first turned to cycling for cross-training purposes and just for the fun of it.  He has ridden a bike, on-and-off again, at different times of his life and he decided that after having just turned 50 this year, he is resolved to get even more serious again with his cycling.

Many participants of the St. Jude Bike Ride opted to spend the
night in a tent in Tom Lee Park and they were treated to a
nice view of the Memphis skyline and the Mississippi River.

I had joined Privette’s Gray Falcons team for the 2014 and 2015 St. Jude rides and was proud to be a member of his team since I knew and respected him and I wanted to do what I could to help the children and support the mission of St. Jude.  I first met and served with retired Lt. Col. Privette in the
Tennessee Air National Guard in January 1987.  He was my commander when I was first assigned to the 164th Combat Support Flight.

I have been a long-time supporter of St. Jude because of a little girl named
Alexandria Whittington, who was a flower girl in my wedding in 1991 and who was a patient at St. Jude.  Even though she fought the good fight, she ultimately lost her battle on March 4, 1993 and so, more than anything, I rode for children like her and for the hope that, someday, no child will have to go through what she did.

This is a daytime view of tent city for the St. Jude Bike Ride with
the Memphis skyline in the background.

This year’s ride had intermittent rain, and the roads were a little wet from the sporadic rain in the afternoon and they remained so throughout the night and into the next morning.  This was not enough to dampen the spirits of the participants and it did not interfere with the ride going on as planned. 

After a ceremonial first lap, I was the first one out and I was pumped up about the ride and I was riding just about as fast as I could go. 

I was on my second lap when I came up to some cobblestones.  Before I knew what was happening, I started to hydroplane and I fell and skidded across the road much like a baseball player does when sliding into first base or home plate.  I probably slid at least five feet or more.

The St. Jude Bike Ride is a fun-filled, family-friendly event and
many who do the ride bring their families along with them.
The rain did little to dampen the spirits or interfere with the
ride or stop any children from playing.

Apparently, there were a handful of others who also fell and one ended up with a dislocated shoulder.

After this happened to me, I quickly jumped up.  My left elbow and hip were sore from road rash.  My elbow concerned me the most, however, since I had a
severe cycling-related accident about two years ago and my surgeon told me that I could never afford to seriously injure it ever again.

After jumping up, I first moved my arm around, looked over my bike, and when I didn’t see any significant damage, I immediately jumped back up on it and finished my three remaining laps for my first set.

For the most part, my bike looked fine.  The left peddle was scraped up pretty good and the tip of my left aerobar was shaved down by one quarter of an inch, but nothing else appeared to have been affected.

No one hosts an event better than St. Jude.  Cyclists and volunteers
for the St. Jude Bike Ride were treated to live performances, food,
and drink throughout most of the event with the music
beginning Friday evening and picking back up late Saturday

I was pretty sure that I had not seriously injured myself, but I had myself checked out by some medics and I had them treat and bandage me up since I did not want to risk another incident with
MRSA that I had had in August 2009.

In spite of a little discomfort and a lack of sleep during this 24-hour bike ride, it did not stop me from pulling my share of riding for our four-man team.  I did a total of 42 laps, in addition to a ceremonial lap, and I rode a total of 121.10 miles over 7 hours and 26 minutes with an average speed of 16.28 mph.

Our team collectively rode 348.09 miles with a
total of 123 laps.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a big challenge for
some unless you are like Chris Sheffield who was able to
catch a little shut-eye in between one of his turns to ride
for the Gray Falcons.

Even though we were a team comprised of older guys on older model road bikes, our team took third place in the male team category.  I was very proud of this because of what our team was able to accomplish and the amount of money that we had raised in both of our St. Jude rides. 

Those who donated to our St. Jude Ride helped to support the life-saving mission of St. Jude and their efforts to find cures and to save children by giving $4,625 to our team in 2014 and $2,760 in 2015. 

Altogether, all of the participants in this year’s ride helped St. Jude to meet its goal by raising a grand total of $134,831.

Members of the Gray Falcons posed for pictures after the ride.  Gary
Weber is on the left, then Chris Sheffield, me, and our team captain,
Billy Privette, who is holding our team mascot - a gray falcon.
The team finished in third place in the male team division.

Ultimately, when it really comes down to it, the St. Jude 24-hour team relay bike ride is really more than just a bike ride.  It is an odyssey in which cyclists are not only able to challenge themselves, but they can do it while helping the children of St. Jude and their families by raising money, awareness, and hope.

St. Jude is known around the world for what it does and it is unlike any other pediatric treatment and research facility.  Discoveries made there have completely revolutionized how the world treats children with cancer and other deadly diseases.

Some local TV news stations, like WREG Channel 3, covered the
St. Jude Bike Ride and they happened to have caught me as I
was completing one of my 42 laps.  (Image:  Courtesy of
WREG News)

With research and patient care under one roof, St. Jude is where some of today's most gifted researchers are able to take their findings and then speed their discoveries to doctors around the world.

The St. Jude Bike Ride can be an unforgettable and rewarding experience to those who do it that will extend far beyond the 24 hours in which it takes place.

In this way, it always meets or exceeds any and all expectations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 reasons why you should start riding a bicycle in Memphis

10 reasons why you should start riding a bicycle in Memphis
By:  Michael Lander

Memphians have plenty of reasons why they should start riding
bikes.  In less than a decade, city leaders have provided cycling-
related amenities and facilities and bicycling has grown in
popularity by leaps and bounds since then.  With even more of
these on the horizon, cycling is only expected to grow even
more in the years ahead.  Memphis, for cycling enthusiasts,
has finally arrived.

When it comes to cycling,
Memphis has come a really long way over the last ten years and you would have to be Rip Van Winkle not to have noticed it.  The city has gone from being considered one of the worst in the country for cycling to being one of the most improved cities throughout the entire U.S.   With this radical transformation taking place in our city, there are at least ten reasons why you should now think about riding a bicycle, if you haven’t already.

# 1 – It’s fun and it’s good for you
It’s hard to beat a combination of something that is both fun and is good for you at the same time and bicycling fits that bill.  It is a
healthy and aerobic activity that can be enjoyed by everyone, young and old alike, and it can help with the prevention of diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight.   

# 2 – There are more places to ride a bike than ever before
In less than a decade, the Memphis area has gone from virtually no
bike lanes and trails to what seems like an explosion of them, and more are coming in the near future.  Currently, there are 200+ miles of bike lanes in the city and the Shelby Farms Greenline and the Wolf River Greenway are both in the process of expanding each of their trails.  If that were not enough, a bike and pedestrian pathway over the Mississippi River is being constructed on the Harahan Bridge in what is being called the “The Big River Crossing.”  Even West Memphis, Ark. is getting in on the action with plans for a park and a 6.7-mile trail loop with what should be a spectacular view of the Memphis skyline.

# 3 – The Memphis area has some really great bike shops to keep you going
When it comes to
bike shops, the Memphis area could not have asked for better.  Many of the bike shops offer excellent service, tire-changing and simple repair classes, group rides, and more.  For those who are looking for convenience, Jim Steffen’s Bikesmith business will even come by, pick up your bike, and repair it either on the spot or bring it back to you afterward.

# 4 – Bicycling is a great way to meet people and gives you a chance to spend quality time with your friends, family, and neighbors
One of the best things about bicycling is that you can either go out and ride alone or you can enjoy a nice
ride with your family or friends.  Riding with a big group or with a bicycle club can also be a great way to meet others, especially those who share a common interest in riding.  Cycling can also unify neighborhoods and communities through a shared network of bike lanes and trails thereby helping to make us feel less insulated and isolated from one another.     

# 5 – Riding bikes is a cheaper way to get around town than anything else
For those who are seeking an inexpensive way to get around Memphis, bicycling may be the best way to do that.  Commuting on a bike is a lot cheaper than driving, and you can also go places on a bike that you can’t get to in a car.  A bicycle is also better on the environment and it cost less when it comes to maintenance and repairs bills.

# 6 – The weather in Memphis is good for riding throughout most of the year

The weather in Memphis may seem like it can change at the drop of a hat, but it is better and more tolerable than in many other U.S. cities, particularly those in the north, and you can ride a bike throughout most of the year.  It is especially nice in the
spring and in the fall.  For those who don’t like the summer heat, you can always try riding in the mornings and evenings, and with very few days of snow and ice throughout the winter months, you can typically ride during that time of year so long as you dress appropriately.

# 7 – Bicycling is safer and easier on your body than many other sports or other physical activities

If you were looking to get into a low-impact sport or other physical activity, cycling is probably your best bet.  You are far less likely to experience an injury while riding than with many other physical activities and it’s a lot easier on your knees and joints than running.  In addition to that, it also takes a lot less time to ride 10 or more miles on a bike than it takes you to run it.

# 8 – Riding a bike is a  great way for getting in shape, to help cross-train, and more
There may be no better or more enjoyable way to get into shape and get in a workout in than to ride a bike.  It is also an excellent way to cross-train for other physical activities like running, and it can help prepare you should you ever consider doing triathlons.  If you get really good at it, you could also find yourself moving up to a competitive level and maybe even becoming a nationally ranked cyclist like Memphis native, and Olympic gold medalist,
Kristin Armstrong.

 # 9 – Bicycling is beneficial to you and it can help you to support a lot of great charitable causes
There are many health benefits for those who ride a bike, and it can be good for your
emotional and physical well-being.  There is an added plus when you can also ride for a charitable cause at the same time.  Memphis has plenty of these charity rides that you can participate in throughout the year and it can make your bike ride an even more meaningful experience to you and others.  

# 10 -  More Memphians are riding a bike and you don’t want to miss out on all the fun
More people are out riding a bike around Memphis than ever before and the number is only expected to increase dramatically, possibly even doubling, in the next five to ten years.  You don’t want to be one of the only ones sitting on the sidelines missing out on the fun.  Get up and get out and try to it for yourself.  You won’t regret it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Yoga offers cyclists with a way to become even better in how they live and ride

Yoga offers cyclists with a way to become even better in how they live and ride
By:  Michael Lander

Yoga is a philosophy with mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions
that often relies on regulating one's breath as well as assuming
postures or poses (known as asanas).  The asanas may be seen by
some as having an almost artistic, dance-like quality and beauty
to them.

Cycling is part mental and part physical and, like any sport, it is not only impacted by what you do on the bike, itself, but what you do before you ever even get out on your bike and ride.

At the very least, this can and should involve proper nutrition, hydration, and maybe even some off-the-bike physical conditioning. 

Being able to ride is one thing, but to become even better at it, it is important to develop the mental and physical acuity, which for those who are open to the idea, could come through the discipline and practices of yoga.

Yoga originated in India and has become popular around the world for all that it can offer to those who practice it. 

“The word ‘yoga’ comes from the
Sanskrit word ‘yoke’ or ‘union and it is a philosophy of physical and mental techniques, along with spiritual disciplines, which, when practiced correctly, will unite the mind, body, and spirit.” Pat Fielder said.

Yoga classes typically include the yoga student (or yogi) assuming
various poses and stretches.  Each posture, according to Amy
Lenkszus of Sumits Yoga, is designed and sequenced to build
strength, flexibility, and balance as well as providing improved
posture, focus, and a reduction of stress.

Fielder began her yoga practice in 1966 and she has a Master of Education degree and has taught for many years with the
University of Memphis Physical Health and Education Department.

Even though there is a wide spectrum of schools, practices, and goals by practitioners around the world, according to Fielder, the most widely known of these is Hatha and Rāja yoga.

“Hatha yoga is the practice of using physical postures or
asanas to discipline the body while regulating the breath,” Fielder said.

Learning how to breathe, alone, is something that many cyclists might find especially useful while riding.

“Hatha yoga is also a prelude to Rāja yoga, which includes mental concentration and meditation.  It is the beginning path to prepare the aspirant for other forms of yoga,” Fielder said.

“The sheer physical well-being that is naturally achieved by proceeding very gradually into each position up to the point of feeling the body doing what it can do without pain, is the object of Hatha yoga.  I always like to say that yoga meets you where you are and there is no comparison of yourself with any other body,” she said.

In the western world, yoga may only be viewed as the physical
practice of asanas (or poses), but it is actually a state of being
involving both the mind and body.  The asanas, Lenkszus asserts,
are defined by yoga sutras as only one of eight limbs on the path
 to where the mind is fully expanded to a state of pure awareness
known as Samadhi.

Fielder believes that there are many reasons why cyclists, or anyone else for that matter, should consider practicing yoga.

“Practicing yoga can give a person relief from tension while improving blood circulation, energizing and revitalizing the body, doing away with fatigue, and calming the nerves.  Increased emotional control, improved sleep, and the ability to be relaxed also comes from the calm and equanimity produced by the general effects that a moderate daily practice of yoga has upon a person,” Fielder said.

Amy Lenkszus is the owner and manager of
Sumits Yoga Memphis studio and she founded her business with a commitment to teach and foster the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of yoga in a loving and community-based setting.  She started her yoga practice in 2007 and she believes that yoga techniques can be particularly useful in helping cyclists.

“In many ways, it’s good from a cross-training standpoint, but also for injury prevention and recovery as well as for the training on focus, concentration, and learning how to control your breathing and dealing with distractions,” Lenkszus said.

Yoga can be seen as being therapeutic and could be especially
beneficial to athletes and cyclists for conditioning, injury
prevention, and recovery, and helping to enhance focus,
concentration, and controlling one's breathing.

While cyclists can benefit from all types of yoga, Lenkszus thinks that they would get the most out of styles that focus on continuous movement.

“Styles such as Sumits yoga and other
Ashtanga and power flow classes are steady flowing, work through a full range of movements and build great muscle endurance,” Lenkszus said.

“Cyclists need to focus on leg strength, flexibility, and lower back strength since cyclists typically experience tight hip flexors and strain on their backs.  Many yoga poses target the hip flexors and lower back, helping to balance muscle strength and prevent injury,” she added.

“Yoga also keeps students focused on a deep and steady breath, forcing their muscles to work aerobically.  Training their muscles in this manner and learning how to control their breathing are two very important aspects of training and racing for endurance athletes such as cyclists,” Lenkszus further added.

According to Lenkszus, it shouldn’t take cyclists long before they start seeing some possible improvement in their cycling.

For some, yoga may be perceived as a practice that promotes mind
over matter, but it may be more accurately described by those who
ascribe to it as being mind and matter in harmony and in unison
with one another.

“Cyclists should almost immediately see an improvement with regular practice.  If cyclists can practice three times a week, they should start to experience an improvement by the end of two weeks,” Lenkszus said.

All students, whether they are cyclists or not, will learn more than they might imagine from doing yoga.

“Yoga students learn to practice a sequence of yoga positions smoothly and slowly, using proper breathing while recognizing the different muscles that are either stretched, contracted, or relaxed.  Concentration and the integrity of mind, body, and spirit is acquired or increased during these exercises,” Fielder said.

“Students also find out how to use breathing techniques to cleanse the respiratory system, improve oxygenation, and they learn ways to help manage stress and quiet the mind.  They also acquire the use of a relaxation process to detach from all activity,” she added.

Yoga also has a way to bring the mind and body together in unison in a way that many people have never experienced before.

Yoga has been described as a process that allows for a greater and
more enhanced awareness, focus, and a deeper connection between
the mind and body, which can lead to spiritual development,
enlightenment, and a full realization of oneness.

“The unison of mind and body is attained by correctly practicing each asana during the yoga session.  The practitioner keeps the mind centered on every breath, as well as the feel and utilization of every muscle in the body, being aware of the physical effects during the asana, as well as controlling the breathing, and the length of time spent before coming out of the position,” Fielder said.

“I like to tell my students that we practice ‘kindergarten yoga’ because real yoga doctrine is spiritual disciplines and techniques of meditation, which enable the practitioner to achieve unity with the Divine,” Fielder added.

“After the position is over, it is important to become cognizant of the body by noticing the effects from the asana, then consciously relaxing before going on to the next movement.  During this mental and physical discipline of concentration and realization there is established a harmony with the source of one’s being that leads toward the ability to meditate,” she further added.

Sumits Yoga is unique in that the yoga sessions are held in a heated
room, which is thought to allow the muscles to stretch more easily
and it opens the body to experience a detoxification affect.

Transcendental Meditation, Fielder said, is the trademark name for the yoga meditation founded and taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

“When persons become adept at the unifying action of doing Hatha Yoga, it begins to influence their philosophy of daily living.  These yoga practices can help a person become more mindful of everyday activities,” Fielder said.

“A person’s life can be enhanced by living life the way we practice yoga, paying attention to the ‘now moment, and, afterward, feeling the effects of the mental state caused by it; then actually learning to ‘let it go’ both mentally and physically.  In this way, we follow the
rule of Dharma, which is for each of us to live up to the best in us,” Fielder said.

Whether it is for cyclists, or for anyone else, living up to our best and seeking to reach our full potential is something that we should all aspire to and yoga may be the key for helping to take us there.