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Suuuuper tight hamstrings - a result of regular commuting?

Old 04-10-17, 10:02 AM
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suburbanbeat
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Suuuuper tight hamstrings - a result of regular commuting?

Hi all. My commute is 7.5 fairly leisurely miles. I never ride fast enough to huff and puff, and generally take my ride pretty easy. I've been doing this 5 days per week for about the past 2 years.

I've never been a very nimble or flexible person, always because of tight leg muscles and tendons. In recent weeks though, the stiffness I feel in my legs when stretching has become almost painful. I can't come close to touching my toes, and am lucky if I can reach the top of my shoes without groaning in pain. I feel almost all of this tightness in my hamstrings.

First of all, is this a pretty universal experience? Secondly, what can I do to address this tightness? I am totally open to yoga, so if anyone knows of any routines or stretches specifically targeting these areas, I'm all ears. Is there anything I can change in my diet, keeping in mind that I do not eat meat? Is this something that could arise from poor bike fit?

Any perspective here would be helpful. Thank you!
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Old 04-10-17, 10:12 AM
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I would suggest a visit to the doctor and then to a physical therapist. Where I am you do not even need a doctor referral to see a physical therapist so you can possibly bypass the doctor. I am sure your issue is minor and probably a matter of learning targeted stretching. Good luck
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Old 04-10-17, 10:31 AM
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I have weird muscle/ligament things and I use this specific stretching sequence for my lower back and legs from this excellent book when I need to (if I kept it up after I got better I would stay better but since I stop when I feel better, things immediately start decaying again until I find myself desperately needing it...
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Old 04-10-17, 10:43 AM
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I do not believe the commuting is causing your problem. Like noted above, you might want to visit you doc.
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Old 04-10-17, 10:45 AM
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Go see someone trained in health care, not sickness care. These problems are usually structural or nutritional and finding someone who can address both issues would be beneficial.
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Old 04-10-17, 11:05 AM
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I suffered hamstring problems for years. One thing my physical therapist really did to help me was point out that my hamstrings were just the symptom. My hips, groin, Periformis, were all problems.

A good physical therapist will stretch you out and give you exercises to do to limber up and teach you how to stretch. Made all the difference in the world.

Also, if you can afford it, go see a masseuse. I bet the PT can recommend a good one. 3 or 4 visits with some deep tissue massages in combo with stretching will do the job.
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Old 04-10-17, 12:37 PM
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I'm a commuter and have to stretch my hamstrings daily. It's much better to stretch them after getting off the bike while you're still warm.
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Old 04-10-17, 02:23 PM
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I will tell you that Yoga has been a game changer for me. I am more flexible now than in my 20's (late 40's now) and consider it an integral part of my health, as important as cardio and weight training. I can touch my toes jumping out of bed in the morning and never stretch before biking. I cannot remember the last time I pulled a muscle. I recommend attending a beginner class, you can get a Groupon for a few classes for maybe $25. Amazon also has an excellent series of videos.
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Old 04-10-17, 02:49 PM
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Yes, it's common for cyclists to have tight hamstrings. That's because we can get away with riding without stretching. That doesn't mean we shouldn't stretch.

The good news is that you can remedy this. This thread already has some good advice for you.
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Old 04-10-17, 04:18 PM
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Stretching isn't going to strengthen your hamstrings...I say forget stretching and start doing some strength training. Start doing exercises which target your hamstrings to make them stronger.
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Old 04-10-17, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
Hi all. My commute is 7.5 fairly leisurely miles. I never ride fast enough to huff and puff, and generally take my ride pretty easy. I've been doing this 5 days per week for about the past 2 years.

I've never been a very nimble or flexible person, always because of tight leg muscles and tendons. In recent weeks though, the stiffness I feel in my legs when stretching has become almost painful. I can't come close to touching my toes, and am lucky if I can reach the top of my shoes without groaning in pain. I feel almost all of this tightness in my hamstrings.

First of all, is this a pretty universal experience? Secondly, what can I do to address this tightness? I am totally open to yoga, so if anyone knows of any routines or stretches specifically targeting these areas, I'm all ears. Is there anything I can change in my diet, keeping in mind that I do not eat meat? Is this something that could arise from poor bike fit?

Any perspective here would be helpful. Thank you!
I have a similar commute, although only 5.5mi each way, I also ride pretty leisurely. Just can't get myself to actually exercise! But still it's gotta be better than sitting in a car!

You've been doing this for 2 years already, is the hamstring tightness a recent development? Did you used to be able to touch your toes at some point?

Stretching is something that I know I should do a lot more. I think HardyWeinberg's reference looks like a great place to start. But a physical therapist would not be out of the question either.

Also consider getting a foam roller, that could make a big difference too.
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Old 04-10-17, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
I have weird muscle/ligament things and I use this specific stretching sequence for my lower back and legs from this excellent book when I need to (if I kept it up after I got better I would stay better but since I stop when I feel better, things immediately start decaying again until I find myself desperately needing it...
My GP gave me something very similar. I followed her advice and things improved quickly.
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Old 04-10-17, 10:25 PM
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I've always had very tight hamstrings... even before bicycle commuting. Yes, I'm even tighter now... but I don't believe that has anything to do with cycling. Mostly age and sitting all day at work.

At my physical, the DR. asked me to touch my toes. I lifted my foot and touched my toes. He said, "No, feet on the ground and no bending of the knees"... I was a good 12-14 inches from being able to touch my toes. He asked me, "When does it start to hurt?" I responded, "As soon as I look at my shoelaces and realize I have to tie them." It's not the cycling for me.
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Old 04-11-17, 08:35 AM
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The sitting all day thing is a major factor. Just getting up every 30-45 minutes to stretch will make a difference. The foam roller to release trigger points is also effective but only if in conjunction with the stretching. One basic stretch to try- talking basic Yoga. Stand, breath, roll down and try to touch your toes. 3 breaths, come up halfway, palms just above your knees, body shaped like and L with your back straight shoulders back and staring straight ahead. 3 breaths, stand 3 breaths, repeat the cycle 3 times. Try that at least 3-4 times a work shift and see if that makes a difference.
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Old 04-11-17, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Stretching isn't going to strengthen your hamstrings...I say forget stretching and start doing some strength training. Start doing exercises which target your hamstrings to make them stronger.
Try reading the OP, if you haven't yet.
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Old 04-11-17, 12:46 PM
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yes tight hamstrings happen for me when i don't stretch. i second the yoga - i've also been doing yoga and it has worked wonders. there is even a "yoga for cyclists" in and around NYC. and one more rec: epsom salt baths.
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Old 04-11-17, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by snow_echo_NY View Post
yes tight hamstrings happen for me when i don't stretch. i second the yoga - i've also been doing yoga and it has worked wonders. there is even a "yoga for cyclists" in and around NYC. and one more rec: epsom salt baths.
Sign me up. Where is that?
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Old 04-11-17, 08:07 PM
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Muscle Activation Technique. Changed my life after years of unrelenting soreness and tightness.
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Old 04-15-17, 10:14 PM
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Walk!

I've developed progressively tighter hamstrings, hips, and back from years of commuting and sitting all day at the office.

Stretching never seemed to work by itself, but adding a mile a day of walking has helped reverse the issue.
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Old 04-15-17, 10:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Tombaatar View Post
I suffered hamstring problems for years. One thing my physical therapist really did to help me was point out that my hamstrings were just the symptom. My hips, groin, Periformis, were all problems.
^ Very important point.

It's appalling how alignment and posture and range-of-motion issues in the pelvic region can impact many of the other muscles in the area, along with knees, back. "Alignment" is a big issue, in a sense. Not the alignment per se, at least in my own experience, but what poor alignment suggests is going wrong in certain areas ... whether weak ab/oblique and/or low-back muscles, tight piriformis and general glutes, weak flexors and stabilizers around the legs. Hard, for the big leg muscles to do the job they're designed to do if the pelvis stability just isn't there due to some other muscle(s) being too darned tight. Longstanding leg injury, here, so I've been dealing with a wide-ranging strengthening and stretching regimen for decades. Works, when it's taken as a whole. Can often fail miserably, if only imagined it's a "stretching issue" that stretching of one muscle will cure.

In my own case, very tight flexors and stabilizers cause poor pelvic alignment, which impede the glutes and hams doing their job, which tightens up the piriformis and hams, which begins to ache in the low back from all the wonky stresses, ... But, fix the tight flexors, and two-thirds of that simply disappears; strengthening the abs/obliques/back and stretching the piriformis more deeply, fixes 98% of the rest. But, that's me.



Definitely take the time to see a knowledgeable physical therapist who's well aware of sports-related injuries and training, specifically competent in the pelvic/leg areas. You might be surprised what's involved to actually get to the root causes of your issue.

Ditto on the book that was mentioned. It's a reasonably good one, for including a wide range of illustrations on useful stretches all in one book: Stretching, by Bob Anderson. I keep the index to this book with me in my gym bag, in my car (for trips), in the luggage for traveling. Good basic reference.

Another pretty good one that'll help with understanding the muscles through visualizing which areas of which muscles get hit with which stretches: Stretching Anatomy, by Nelson & Kokkonen.

Paired with good info from a competent sports PT, you should have what's needed to correct the issue and keep ahead of it.
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Old 04-15-17, 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
It's appalling how alignment and posture and range-of-motion issues in the pelvic region can impact many of the other muscles in the area, along with knees, back. "Alignment" is a big issue, in a sense. Not the alignment per se, at least in my own experience, but what poor alignment suggests is going wrong in certain areas ... whether weak ab/oblique and/or low-back muscles, tight piriformis and general glutes, weak flexors and stabilizers around the legs. Hard, for the big leg muscles to do the job they're designed to do if the pelvis stability just isn't there due to some other muscle(s) being too darned tight. Longstanding leg injury, here, so I've been dealing with a wide-ranging strengthening and stretching regimen for decades. Works, when it's taken as a whole. Can often fail miserably, if only imagined it's a "stretching issue" that stretching of one muscle will cure.

In my own case, very tight flexors and stabilizers cause poor pelvic alignment, which impede the glutes and hams doing their job, which tightens up the piriformis and hams, which begins to ache in the low back from all the wonky stresses, ... But, fix the tight flexors, and two-thirds of that simply disappears; strengthening the abs/obliques/back and stretching the piriformis more deeply, fixes 98% of the rest. But, that's me.
I've had a similar experience. Who would think the feeling of tight hamstrings would be caused by an overly strong and tight lower back, overly tight thighs, and hip flexors that wouldn't release??

If you're spending decades stretching I suspect you're not hitting the root of the problem. Fixed half of it myself, and no longer have numbness "down there" when riding - it's great.
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Old 04-16-17, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
If you're spending decades stretching I suspect you're not hitting the root of the problem.
What I meant was: I've fixed it, with me, and I've been doing it for decades now. Just passing along a little personal experience, so the OP can appreciate it's not always the one thing a person thinks it is. (Like with tight hamstrings just needing hamstring stretching.)
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Old 08-10-17, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
Sign me up. Where is that?
man, very late to reply, so sorry!

i go to eventbrite.com and search events for "yoga for cyclists" or "yoga for cycling" in NYC - there are so many free and paid classes available - and sometimes you can find one that does free classes more than once.
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Old 08-10-17, 11:47 AM
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I did a a good bit of Yoga in my 20's and there are a lot of good reasons for it in my opinion. But I have to say, I've never stretched before or after a bike ride and it's not something I'd recommend.

For tight hamstrings try some runners stretches. I associate being loose with generally being in better shape, so some running maybe or time in the gym, or even better your preferred active sport if any.
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Old 08-10-17, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
If you're spending decades stretching I suspect you're not hitting the root of the problem.
Simply meant that the old injuries necessitated keeping up with a diligent stretching regimen, and that the stretching has helped to keep 98% of the old injury-related issues at bay. Definitely has cut to the root, and kept it reasonably gone. At least, in my case.
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