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Body Scan Meditation for Cycling Recovery

A body scan meditation after long cycling group rides on the weekend and particularly intense indoor trainer sessions during the week is a fantastic way to let the body relax and recharge. You can feel the muscles relaxing and letting-go as you focus on and breathe into each part of the body.

If you’re already familiar with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), you’re probably also familiar with the body scan meditation. It’s one of the first three meditations that is recommended in the book Full Catastrophe Living, which is an in-depth guide to MBSR, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed MBSR.

If you’re not familiar with either MBSR or the body scan meditation, here’s a quick description of the body scan meditation, taken from an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn

“The traditional method (of the Body Scan) involves tuning in to sensation in a narrow horizontal band that is slowly brought down through the entire body…It is done lying down starting at the toes and moving up through different regions of the body…And all the while, you’re in contact with the breath… so that there’s a sort of dual awareness. As you move up the body, you’re learning how to focus on a particular region, then let go of it and move on. It’s like cultivating concentration and mindfulness simultaneously, because there is a continual flow…”

The two challenges I face when doing the body scan meditation and that you might too, if you decide to try this are –

1 – Finding the time to do the scan

The guided body scan meditation that comes with the companion CD to Full Catastrophe Living is approximately 45 minutes long. This may sound like a long time, especially if you’ve already disappeared from your loved ones for half a day on the weekend to do the ride 🙂

Fortunately, my wife is very supportive of my cycling training and meditation practice. So I end up doing the body scan as my usual daily meditation, which I’ve already set-aside time for each day.

Here’s a video of Jon Kabat-Zinn leading a 45 minute body scan –


There are other, shorter versions of guided body scan meditations available, if 45 minutes isn’t going to work for you. Just thinking aloud, a 15 minute version would also probably work pretty well.

Anything less than that would seem a little too rushed for me, however I do see this as a situation where “something is better than nothing”. So even if you can only manage 5 minutes, it’s probably worth giving the body scan a shot!

2 – Not falling asleep

This can be a common challenge, especially after trying to keep up with much faster and stronger riders on a long ride (or maybe that’s just me…)!

To help yourself stay awake during the body scan meditation, you could take your post-ride nap before you do the body scan (if you have the luxury of time to do this!) or have your post-ride coffee just before laying down to do the body scan meditation. The latter works really nicely for me.

So whether or not you’re a believer in meditation, you may want to give the body scan meditation a shot in your post-ride recovery routine. If you’ve been interested in meditation for a while, this might be a nice entry point into a meditation practice for you. If you’re skeptical of meditation, you may just find that the body scan is a nice way to recover, that provides you with benefits above and beyond a simple nap.

There’s nothing to say you can’t just call it a body scan after all 😉