Stretching

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Most riders do not stretch. We’re not running around, changing direction, jarring our joints, jumping. Why stretch? Well, there are many reasons! As Lance used to say, a longer muscle is a stronger muscle. Help increase blood flow by stretching briefly before your ride and then 15-30m after your ride… You will help avoid injury and will feel much better on the bike.

When you ride, your muscles tighten, and after a long ride, if you have uneven pedal strokes, or if your bike is not fit correctly, you will most likely aggravate a muscle group or even injure it… The cycling season is a very long one, and if you have subtle problems going on, over time they can become major problems and de-rail your racing/training/cycling fun! Treat your body like a temple, taking great care to ensure it’s humming on all cylinders. None of us are getting any younger, so do everything in your control to ensure you can continue to push yourself and ride to your potential…

An athlete with whom I work, Robb Hampton, has IT band problems (I do too), and he recently sent me his stretching routine. He mentioned that stretching vastly aids in recovery and he knows it’s an important part of his routine… He says it’s like night and day when he misses a stretching routine, so now he’s trying to stay on track and stretch daily!

For hips, you can lay on your back and pull one knee to your chest. Hold for 20s, then repeat with other leg. For the IT band, you can sit on a Swiss ball, put one ankle on a knee, then lean forward, keeping your back straight. Continue to slowly lean in — you will really feel it in your IT band… Hold for 30s…

For your back, you can lay on a Swiss ball and slowly move back and forth, side to side, stabilizing yourself and stretching out. Torso twists are also good, sitting on ground, then putting one knee up and twist your body to the side… Then lay on back and swing one leg over, leg straight, keeping hips on the ground… These seem to work really well to keep the lower back loose…

The key is to stretch your body from top to bottom… Typically start with your back, then move down, focusing on lower back, hips, groin, IT bands, quads, hammies, calves… If you are completing core workouts (as you should!), these muscles will also become tight post-workout, so make sure you stay loose. As a time trialist, and a time trialist with IT band issues, I did a ton of core work, a ton of hip-flexor work, and I can tell you from just looking at my power numbers that stretching helped me get to a new level… From stretching alone, I was able to ride my PowerCrank bike longer without that usual late-ride discomfort. Stronger rides on the PC bike allows me to ultimately push harder on the TT bike, ultimately allowing me to move up that TT leaderboard…

Don’t shortchange yourself. Control what you can control and maximize your gains… Especially if you work at a desk, riding and then sitting in a stationary position is THE worst thing you could do. Make sure you spend those 15+m stretching and taking care of your body…

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 | | |