So, with the Tour de France in full flow and many more cyclists out and about making the most of the sun, it’s time to look at cycling. Whether you’re a MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) or someone starting to cycle again for the fresh air and fitness, there’s some important things to know.
Firstly, cycling is a fantastic activity for fitness (and yes, being a fully paid up MAMIL, I’m biased!). It’s great for toning certain muscle groups, fantastic for movement of certain joints and superb for giving the heart and lungs a good work out. It’s therapeutic as well. As with most exercises, you’ll finish a ride feeling less stressed and happier than when you started out. A lot of problem solving can take place on a bike!
Did you notice the use of the word ‘certain’ in the paragraph above? For all its attributes, cycling isn’t a whole body activity in the same way that swimming or running is. It’s very weighted towards certain areas of the body. It’s great for certain muscle groups and certain joints. The cycling posture is very pronounced. Arms stretched out, body bent forward over the bike, the lower body doing the bulk of the work.
None of this is a problem especially if cycling is supplemented with other forms of exercise or activities. What it does mean though is that stretching is even more important than it is with other exercise and sports.
The good news is that you only need a few stretches at the end of your ride to counter the imbalance that regular cycling might lead to. You don’t need to do anything specific before a ride. What you should do though is spend 5 -10 minutes cycling at an easy pace before building up to your normal pace. If you’re training and trying to build your speed or stamina then spend 5-10 minutes at your normal speed before building it up.
Stand in front of a wall or door with hands in front of you, feet a pace apart, pointing forward with heels down.
Take your centre of gravity from between your feet to over the front foot by lunging forward. Back to neutral and repeat so that you are dynamically stretching and relaxing the muscle.
Do both sides.
Standing with thighs parallel, bend one knee taking hold of the shin with your hand. Repeatedly bring your heel to your bottom so that the front of your thigh is stretched.
Kneel on the floor in as if you were going to propose to someone: front knee bent, back leg back, spine straight. Drop your body weight down and forward towards your front heel. Return to neutral and repeat a few times.
Low back twist
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat to the floor. Let your knees drop to the left and right. At first not all the way: just within the width of your body. Once you’ve done a few of them, then let the knees drop to the left and right as far as they go i.e. towards the floor.
Upper back extension and twist
Firstly stand, reach and stretch up and slightly backward up towards your ceiling. Really stretch! The spine is flexed forward over the bike, so this counters that nicely.
Next, still standing, let your body rotate to the left and then to the right with your arms joining in the movement. Again, at first, work within a limit: just swing so you don’t look past your shoulder. As you warm up, you can go further round so you’re virtually looking behind you as you swing around.
Standing, hands on hips, rotate your pelvis clockwise and anti-clockwise. Start with small circles then build to larger ones.
There we go, done. 5 minutes? Any questions about these stretches, feel free to contact us and we can help. Otherwise, enjoy the sun while out exploring the numerous beautiful routes we have around Haywards Heath.