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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 06-26-08, 07:41 PM   #1
Richard_Rides
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Does anybody here do leg stretches before riding?

Should I be doing them? What's the benefit? Inquiring minds....
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Old 06-26-08, 07:43 PM   #2
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You're better off warming up the muscles and then doing the stretches at the break points. NEVER stretch cold muscles, you're begging for an injury.
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Old 06-26-08, 07:53 PM   #3
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You should stretch after you go for a ride. You can do some warm up exercises before biking if you feel the need, but the stretching should be done after the work out.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:00 AM   #4
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I commute daily and don't stretch before the ride. I do start out a little slowly and build as I warm up, but other than the stretching I do as I lever myself out of the bed, I don't do anything special. Same for the ride home in the evening.

Now, if I'm doing a very long ride, like a century, I will do stretching at one or more of my rest stops. These usually consist of touching my toes and flexing my torso around.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:01 AM   #5
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After. I've found that my quads normally get a fair bit fo stretching simply by my sitting at my desk after my morning commute, but that I was neglecting my hamstrings for years, and they got very very tight. Now I stretch my hammies after my commute home at night, and before I hop in the shower. I lie on my back on the carpet, loop a bathrobe belt around the sole of one foot, and pull my leg up so that the heel points to the ceiling - but making sure that my other leg, and hips stay flat on the floor. Stop pulling when you feel the stretch.

You may not get to the 'straight up' position at first, and this is normal; keep working at it, holding the stretch for a slow count of 20 for each leg, each time.

The benefit is vastly improved flexibility. Also, fewer cramps and charley horses. Lying on your back with your legs in the air while stretching also can help flush lactic acid, improving muscle recovery. Cycling is great for building muscle endurance, but cycling for years without stretching meant that I wasn't taking advantage of all the hard work that I'd put into my legs.

Since I've started stretching (and it has only been a couple of months) I've noticed improvements in ther sports as well, particularly in golf, where the number of shots that I can maintain a consistent swing has increased dramatically.

Finally, another benefit of stretching has apparently been improved muscle definition - or at least this is what the missus is telling me. She reports that there have been notable improvements in the hamstring / glute area since I've started the stretching, (and using some to the core exercises I found through this site). THAT alone is good enough for me!
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Old 06-27-08, 10:07 AM   #6
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You're better off warming up the muscles and then doing the stretches at the break points. NEVER stretch cold muscles, you're begging for an injury.
I understand there's some debate on this point. In my own experience, I do both "cold" and "warm" stretches; I have tight hamstrings, and a left leg that doesn't extend fully. Riding is a lot easier for me if I stretch beforehand.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:27 AM   #7
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Easy riding for about 15-20min. for warm up, then some stretching, then some hard riding, 15-20min. cool down and stretching again.

If I don't warm up and start to hammer right away it will hurt.
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Old 06-27-08, 10:44 AM   #8
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I've heard all kinds of ideas about stretching, about how important (or unimportant) it is, and could never see a pressing reason to bother.
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Old 06-27-08, 11:37 AM   #9
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You don't really need to warm up before riding, either. Start out slow and easy, and warm up while riding.
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Old 06-30-08, 06:05 AM   #10
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As a dancer - yes for stretching! I'll stretch gently after a shower, after a ride, during if I stop, etc... Also any little thing - if I'm bending down at the grocery store or to pick something up I'll stretch instead of bending. When I picked up dancing again I couldn't reach past my knees but now can touch the floor. It's really important for everything to be as limber as possible to avoid ITBS, knee pain, carpal tunnel, or even stopping yourself from sprains if you take a wrong step and twist your ankle.
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Old 06-30-08, 08:25 AM   #11
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Three back surgeries, two knee surgeries, and a shoulder surgery. I stretch prior to, and after, any activity on my now very wealthy doctor's recommendations.
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Old 06-30-08, 09:11 AM   #12
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Three back surgeries, two knee surgeries, and a shoulder surgery. I stretch prior to, and after, any activity on my now very wealthy doctor's recommendations.
Your doctor may be humpty-dumptying the definition of "stretching", but stretching prior to activity is not helpful and may be harmful. Muscles need to be warmed up before stretching is both safe and helpful. OTOH, what many people call "stretching" isn't, but is instead a warmup (or incorporates both warm-up exercises and stretching exercises, which isn't helpful).
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Old 06-30-08, 09:23 AM   #13
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Warming up before stretching: you can gently jog in place until your heart rate goes up. It doesn't have to be a big process, as long as blood is flowing everywhere.

Most yoga classes (as far as I know anyway) don't have people run around first. They are usually warm (though Bikram is very warm) but start off gently and increase in difficulty in the stretches.
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Old 06-30-08, 10:54 AM   #14
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When I don't do 5-10 slow, deep knee bends before riding, I get knee pain every time I ride. Sometimes I stretch out my calves a little bit if I'm feeling particularly stiff there.

You could experiment, trying it both ways, and see what works best for you.
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Old 06-30-08, 11:03 AM   #15
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I don't stretch on a regular basis, so stretching before a ride only does harm. I've tried it and it only makes me cramp bigtime. I'm better off riding ten miles, then dismounting for a couple minutes of walking. Then I'm good!
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Old 06-30-08, 02:41 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Richard_Rides View Post
Should I be doing them? What's the benefit? Inquiring minds....
Well, you've heard several opinions already, so I'll chime in as well
The 3 or 4 injuries I have experience over the years, including achilles tendon rupture, achilles tendon slight tear (other leg), back muscles, rotator cuff tear,etc., all occurred when exercising fairly vigorously without warming up or stretching.

Therefore, during the last 6 or 7 years I kind of warm up for 6-10 minues, then stretch my usually tight calf and hamstring muscles. This has seemingly prevented any injuries and made for a better workouit, especially on the bike. I also do some upper back and shoulder stretches (learned during rehab of my injured shoulder) prior to working out with weights. So, I am a believer in stretching somewhat warmed up muscles,

Anyway, my 2 cents worth.

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Old 06-30-08, 06:08 PM   #17
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Stormcrows right on the money

Back when in the racing days doing pre race stretches was a big time no no.
Stretch the muscles after.
Do light spinning at higher rpms before hand.
If possible ride in to a club ride and ride home. Gives the muscles (and the cardio pulmonary)time to warm up and cool down.
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Old 06-30-08, 06:22 PM   #18
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When I don't do 5-10 slow, deep knee bends before riding, I get knee pain every time I ride. Sometimes I stretch out my calves a little bit if I'm feeling particularly stiff there.

You could experiment, trying it both ways, and see what works best for you.
And I've been told by orthopedic specialists that that's a way to damage the knees, and that I shouldn't do it...it's the "deep" part they warned against.
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Old 06-30-08, 06:54 PM   #19
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NEVER stretch cold muscles, you're begging for an injury.
1.0 x 10 ^ 9 martial artists disagree.
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Old 06-30-08, 07:40 PM   #20
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i usually stretch about 15 - 20 minutes into a ride, after slower start, while on the bike. this can be repeated as needed and helpfull to my personal spinning enjoyment!
find what works best for you!
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Old 06-30-08, 07:57 PM   #21
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I do warm up the muscles... It's typically done by me running down a few flights of steps carrying my rack-pack, backpack and helmet heading for the garage.

About the stretching. Speaking from a Kinesiology perspective, it's the tendons and ligaments that you stretch before a workout, allowing the muscles/joints to have the support they need for exercise. Physiologically speaking, allowing those mentioned above to be "stretched", the muscles don't have to work as hard for, therefore can absorb a better supply of oxygen through the blood. This allows for less cramping and less fatigue.

So yes, done properly, stretching is the best thing you can do for yourself. Done incorrectly, and you risk the chance of pulling or damaging something that shouldn't experience either of those.

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1.0 x 10 ^ 9 martial artists disagree.
Count me in as one of those.

Aikido, FTW
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Old 06-30-08, 09:27 PM   #22
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1.0 x 10 ^ 9 martial artists disagree.
1.0x10^9 martial artists may very well be wrong -- they are about a lot of other things. Or, like many people, they may be using the term "stretching" to mean "warm-up".
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Old 06-30-08, 09:33 PM   #23
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1.0x10^9 martial artists may very well be wrong -- they are about a lot of other things. Or, like many people, they may be using the term "stretching" to mean "warm-up".

Most people fail to realize that the two may not be mutually exclusive.
By stretching, you are actually priming the muscles if done properly. To say otherwise is simply dumbfounding.
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Old 07-01-08, 06:50 AM   #24
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Most people fail to realize that the two may not be mutually exclusive.
By stretching, you are actually priming the muscles if done properly. To say otherwise is simply dumbfounding.
Meh. The qualifier "if done properly" can be attached to any number of activities, when it would probably be more accurate to say, "should not be done unless you really know what you're about". I would say that stretching cold falls into this category. I can do it, because I've been stretching for years and I learned a thing or two about stretching safely, but I don't think it's a good idea for someone who's new to physical activity and doesn't really know anything about stretching.

(For anyone in the latter category, you may want to take a look at this.)
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Old 07-01-08, 06:57 AM   #25
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I understand there's some debate on this point. In my own experience, I do both "cold" and "warm" stretches; I have tight hamstrings, and a left leg that doesn't extend fully. Riding is a lot easier for me if I stretch beforehand.
I should add that some of my stretching isn't just preparation for cycling, but also some specifically to deal with scoliosis. However, that's often done 'cold' as well.
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