Immediate Effects of Stretching for Cyclists
Accelerate recovery – Stretching reduces muscle soreness and stiffness by increasing blood flow, delivering more nutrients to your muscles and removing lactic acid and metabolites.
Stretching also promotes whole body relaxation; boosting recovery, rejuvenation and adaptation by increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system after exercise.
Increased Oxygen Flow – Stretching increases blood (and oxygen) flow to the muscles, reducing post-ride soreness with the added bonus of promoting cell growth and organ function.
Relaxation – Stretching before and after a workout can give both you and your muscles time to relax. With stress or exhaustion, the muscles will begin to tighten. Stretching can encourage a release of endorphins and leave you feeling energized rather than depleted.
Cumulative Effects of Stretching for Cyclists
Prevent Tissue Degradation – Generally speaking, our day-to-day lives are restricted to certain movements and physical exertion. Over time and with age, the body starts dehydrating and stiffening. On a cellular level, muscle fibers start developing cross-links with parallel fibers making them stick together. Stretching slows this process by stimulating the production of tissue lubricants and pulling the interwoven cellular cross links back into an ordered state.
Flexibility – Your range of motion is the distance parts of your body can move and rotate before causing damage to muscles and tendons. Everyone naturally has a different range of motion, but stretching can help you improve your range of motion. As cyclists, we need to have the freedom and flexibility to move without resistance or pain.
Injury Prevention – Everything in the body is connected, and as cyclists we demand a lot from our muscles, joints and ligaments. Stretching keeps the connections strong, treating and preventing injury, and improving functionality and longevity. We also can’t forget about the muscles and joints that are not used in cycling. On the bike, all movements are in a straight line, with no other plane of movement. So, it’s important to keep this in mind while stretching. Not only do you want to focus on the muscles used, but those that aren’t, as a means of reversing and preventing muscle imbalance.
Better Posture and Aerodynamics – Stretching the right muscles can help correct poor posture both on and off the bike. By lengthening tight muscles that pull areas of the body away from their natural position you can maintain proper posture and avoid rounding the back or slouching.