Stretching. Who needs it, right? Not exactly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching can help improve your joint range of motion, which may may help to increase your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury.
A League of American Bicyclists certified cycling instructor and a chiropractor, A. Dale Fernandez, D.C., has found that teaching people about the body's basic biomechanics is the best way to prevent injury, as well as an excellent way to increase their performance in any sport.
Dr. Fernandez, who has been in practice for 14 years and is part of a group wellness practice that includes chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and pilates, says a regular work day involves bike commuting to and from the clinic.
“If my schedule allows, I try to sneak a mid-day ride which clears my mind and gets me prepared for the second half of the day,” he reveals.
In conjunction with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Dr. Fernandez helps organize community bike rides, which can vary from families with children to 100- to 200-mile-per-week cyclists. Stretching, he says, is an integral part of these community rides.
He advises that pre-event stretches should not be done cold. “I suggest they be done only after a five minute warm-up ride on the bicycle at a super easy pace,” he says, noting that arriving 30 minutes early for group rides will ensure ample time to stretch and a offers great way to get to know fellow riders in the group.
Here are Dr. Fernandez’s top five areas cyclists should stretch.
The best types of stretches to do prior to a big ride are actually the exercises to do on a daily basis leading up to that big ride. An ever-increasing number of people in the work force are spending most of their day either sitting long periods in front of a computer and/or behind a steering wheel. These prolonged static sitting postures have an effect on our hamstrings that get them 'adaptively' short, explains Dr. Fernandez. This shortened state can lead to decreased performance not to mention a possible strain. Hamstrings are a key component to the biomechanical chain of joints and muscles that are used in cycling.
HOW TO STRETCH HAMSTRINGS DAILY: Standing with your feet hip-width apart, place your right foot in front of you. "Sit" back, keeping your leg out in front of you with a slight bend in the back knee. Gently rest your hands on the upper part of your left leg above the knee; keep a slight bend in this leg, too. You will be leaning slightly forward. Hold for a count of 30, and switch legs. Perform on both legs periodically throughout the day leading to your week's big ride. You can also do this sitting at the edge of your office chair instead of standing.
HOW TO STRETCH HAMSTRINGS PRE-RIDE: You can utilize your pedals to get a full hamstring and calf stretch. Straddle your bike but stay off the saddle. Put one foot on the pedal while the other foot is on the ground. Keeping that foot on the pedal, extend that leg straight while flexing your ankle up. You will feel a stretch on the posterior thigh and calf. To achieve a better stretch, you will then lean forward across the handlebars. Hold that stretch for 20 seconds, repeating on each side for at least five repetitions.
Find stretches 2-5 here.