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May 12, 2008 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I could use some help loosening up for my return to cycling.

After a very long interval away from bicycles, I am returning to two-wheeled transport for both fitness and commuting. I was hoping some veteran Mefite cyclists might recommend a few stretches for the hips, legs and lower back. I'm feeling a lot of tension through these areas, and am hoping to learn some stretches ideal for loosening these regions up.
posted by EatTheWeek to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I recommend Stretching by Bob Anderson. The diagrams will be easier to understand than text. You can search inside on Amazon for Cycling; see page 140.
posted by grouse at 6:55 AM on May 12, 2008

Not directly related to stretching, but you should make double and triple sure that your bike both fits you and that the seat height is adjusted properly. Handlebar adjustments can make a big difference too.

If I ride a bike that is even slightly off I'll feel it the next day.
posted by wfrgms at 7:10 AM on May 12, 2008

My suggestion is that your muscles are atrophied and underused more than tight. So stretching would not be the best solution, but instead using the muscles on the bike or elsewhere and then gently stretching them out. A warm muscle stretches better than one that hasn't been used for a long while.

Stretching should incorporate the glutes, deep hip flexors and quads.

Make sure, when you do start riding, that you slowly build your mileage and intensity. And working on your core (i.e., abdominals and lower back) will ease your transition back into riding.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2008

What everyone said, plus icing your knees, even when you're not hurting. If I'm just sitting around reading, xbox, etc, I'll always have ice packs on my knees.
posted by neilkod at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2008

If you belong to a gym or the Y, I recommend spending some short-to-moderate time on a stationary bike or elliptical machine in order to get those knees loosened up. Nothing strenuous. Just enough to get everything used to the rotary motion.

I made the big mistake of dusting-off my bike (after about a year off) and riding down to the polls, last Tuesday. My left knee has been yelling at me ever since.

Oh, and stretching.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:04 AM on May 12, 2008

The current thinking on stretching is that you should warm up for 5-10 minutes first. Stretching has not been shown to reduce injuries (warming up is more important), but does have other benefits. My usual practice when cycling is to ride to a nearby park at an easy pace, then do my stretches there before continuing with my bike ride. If that doesn't work well when commuting, you might just do the 10 minute slow pace warmup, finish your commute, and do the stretching at your work or home after the bike ride.
posted by teg at 9:40 AM on May 12, 2008

Squat squat squat to build up strength.

posted by tiburon at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2008

Let's assume that the problem is indeed limited flexibility, rather than lack of core / trunk strength. You do not want to be near the limit of your range of motion at any point of your pedal stroke. You'll pull or tear something. Most likely you will have to get another stem to raise the handlebar and/or shorten the reach until you develop more strength and flexibility.

Go into a high-end road-bike shop and schedule a proper fit session. If they're good, they will diagnose all your problems without much verbal input from you, and provide short- and long-term recommendations on how to achieve good cycling form. Expect to pay upwards of $50/hour for this kind of service. It shouldn't take you more than two hours -- more like one hour.

The most common flexibility issue in biking is hamstring shortness. Yes, do the static stretches others have mentioned, but you also need to do dynamic stretches. You can stretch a resting muscle all you want but you still have to train it to contract correctly while extended and moving, otherwise you'll still injure it. But don't jump into dynamic stretches right away and get a personal trainer or physiotherapist to spot you the first couple of times around, as they are tricky to do correctly and safely.

Yes, these recommendations involve spending a bit of money but it's worth it when you consider the health benefits and the net savings from not driving.
posted by randomstriker at 12:30 PM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

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